What makes people care?

Perhaps not any one trait determines it, but one thing that defines it is whether it comes naturally or if it’s forced or done because others are watching (a PR moment).

Two instances of intentional goodness were inspiring recently.

In this hostile climate, where Facebook trolls feel free to follow the lead of our president and name-call, and have a different definition of “rude" than what has been the norm for the last six-plus decades I’ve observed, it has been too commonplace to look at what was once considered “boorish” behavior and now put a stamp of approval on it, calling it “telling it like it is.”

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

At Hyde School in Bath, one of the principles that guide character development is the notion that what you do when nobody is looking is important. When “good” happens, your “best” shines. It can be big or little things. Yesterday it played small; picking up McDonald’s trash strewn along the sidewalk during the solo walk between the Free Press and Courier offices, with nobody watching.

Since there are stories in the world that inspire, let’s play in that field this week; the trolls can leave now and look for something spicier.


The first story caught my eye because of how it transpired; a foul ball at a baseball game, with several kids taking chase, is the premise. One boy gets the prize and when he turns around he sees the disappointment of another boy, and instinctively and immediately hands the ball to the kid, then bounces down the steps back to his seat.

The recipient follows the bounding boy and, as the giver is about to return to his seat, the recipient taps his shoulder, thanking him. Then, a short embrace before returning to their respective rows in left field. The fact they are different shades of color is meaningful to me because it’s obvious it wasn’t meaningful to them; being city boys (Philadelphia), both probably are growing up with diversity, making this gesture purely about “goodness.”

Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/ESPN/videos/891163934580675/UzpfSTEyNjc2MDUwNTA6MTAyMTk0OTcwMzE0Mzc1ODA/

This is kindness and humanity rolled up in a moment. Both boys get kudos; one for giving with grace (you notice he doesn’t even think about it, he just does it). The other says thank you while sharing his gratitude.


The second story gives pause because it is beyond the realm of “kind” or “caring.” It’s a story that, for most, is unfathomable.

James Neal, who's worked 27 years at Walmart and never met Margaret Boden, was inspired to donate a part of his liver after attending a donor-recipient brunch. This wasn’t the first rodeo for Neal; in 2016 he gave away one of his kidneys. As he explained to a reporter, he was inspired again after the brunch because, “I thought, ‘Why not?’ It is ingrained in my being — if you’re able to help somebody, do it.”

While Margaret now gets to be with her daughter next month when she walks down the aisle on her wedding day, James nonchalantly philosophizes, “Someone once told me ‘one person cannot change the world. But one person can change the world of one person.'”

While his liver has regenerated, his extra kidney is gone. When asked whether he planned to give away more organs, he laughed and said, “Not sure,” adding, “I cannot grow another kidney and my liver could only be divided in half once.” So perhaps his organ giveaway days are over, at least while he’s alive. His generous spirit, however, will live on.

One can assume that working at Walmart for 27 years puts James Neal in a workingman’s pair of shoes, and the three-month recovery must not have been easy on his body or his pocketbook.

Margaret was apprehensive about meeting James after the life-changing transplant, acquiescing after reading a letter he sent. That note inspired Margaret to create a quilt of white lilies; white lilies symbolize “new life” and she says that’s exactly what this guardian angel gave her.

Boden had a severe liver disease when she went on the transplant list and doctors told her they didn’t think she would live to see her daughter’s upcoming wedding without a transplant.

After her daughter wasn’t a match, it became a waiting game, one that ended in Dr. Abhi Humar of Pittsburgh performing the procedure he described as an “advanced process.”

Neal did not hesitate to tell the reporter he had no regrets and was “completely satisfied I made the choice to donate.”

Both Neal and Boden plan to continue their relationship; what a way to make a new friend!


“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have been long extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.” — Hannah Senesh, poet, playwright, paratrooper (1921-1944)