Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 23, 2014

GARY'S WORLD: Acts of kindness make a big impression

By Gary Nelson
Senior staffwriter

CROSSVILLE — I have written about this before, but it’s often the little things in life that make the biggest impressions and commentary about our society.

A simple act of kindness can go a long way these days, and to witness such an act often leaves me speechless.

One recent news story I saw this week was priceless.

Rosenberg, TX, Police Sgt. Ariel Soltura had just finished a routine traffic stop this past Saturday. His police cruiser’s dashboard camera was still recording as he began to drive away. Soltura saw a group of kids playing football, but noticed one kid who was not part of the group, tossing a football up in the air and catching it by himself.

So, Soltura pulled into the apartment complex and stopped his car.

He got out and held up his hands for the kid, 10-year-old Jermaine Ford, to throw him the football.

The kid throws him the ball and then you see Soltura step into the frame of the camera and he and Ford start throwing the football back and forth in a classic game of catch.

After Soltura got back to the station, he realized his dashboard video camera had recorded the game of catch and posted it on the police station’s Facebook page.

The video is silent and not even two minutes long, but it captures the hearts of millions seeing such a simple act of kindness and an officer reaching out to a child.

The video went viral on the Internet and national news stories popped up everywhere.

In an interview with ABC news, the child said at first, when the police car pulled up he thought he had done something wrong and that he was in trouble. Then he realized the officer just was going to play catch with him.

That simple act of kindness and reaching out made a huge impression on the kid and now he doesn’t associate trouble with police officers.

Soltura said he tries to reach out to kids before the bad influences or “wolves” get to them.

I know there are several officers and people like that right here in our community.

The most recent example I can think of that I personally witnessed was on Christmas Eve. I was driving home in the afternoon and it was getting cold and windy. I stopped at the gas station and noticed an elderly woman driving a small, beat up, old Toyota pickup truck. She pulled up at the pump on the other side of the station as I was pumping my gas. She was wearing a tattered, old, fleece coat and her clothing looked ragged. I noticed the woman was struggling, trying to figure out what to do to pump the gas.

I was getting ready to go and help her when I noticed another woman and man approach her. She already paid for her gas, $3.81 worth.

The woman helping her went up to the attendant and said, “We want to pay for her gas, so just let her fill it.”

Of course it wasn’t that simple. The woman first had to put the $3.81 in the tank. When it shut off, the elderly woman hung the hose up on the pump. The woman paying for her gas went back over to the elderly woman and said, “Wait, we’re going to pay for your gas.”

“That’s OK, I’ve already paid,” she replied.

The woman then picked the hose up and hooked it back up to the little pickup truck and her husband stepped up and began pumping the gas for the woman.

The elderly woman stood there shocked and confused.

“You don’t have to do that,” she said as she looked around in disbelief.

“Oh, yes we do.” The woman said and reached into her purse and handed the elderly woman a $20 bill.

She said, “Here, I want you to take this, too.”

The elderly woman began to cry and held her head down.

“Oh, please don’t cry. We want you to be happy. It’s Christmas. Merry Christmas!” The woman said. The older woman hugged her and thanked her.

Still crying, the elderly woman got into her old pickup truck, started it and chugged away from the gas station.

The woman and her husband got into their car.

I tried to make it over to the couple and tell them how kind and moving I thought their gesture was, but they were pulling away as I crossed the lot.

I didn’t get to talk to them and tell them, but it was the sweetest act of kindness I have seen in a long time.

Unconditional care and concern for someone else.

We all have the power to help others and reach them through kindness. It doesn’t have to be a major project. It can be something as simple as throwing a football for a kid or paying for someone’s meal, or gas.

These simple acts of kindness are refreshing to see and bring brightness to a world that sometimes seems so dark.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.