Each year, American Profile collects heart-warming stories, many of them submitted by readers, about people doing kind and generous things for others in their families and communities. Here are a few 2014 favorites—both big and small—providing plenty of inspiration to keep up the good works.
Pie it Forward
Beginning in April 2011, every day for a year, caterer Karen Amarotico, 57, gave away a home- baked pie—apple, blueberry and strawberry rhubarb—to friends, acquaintances and strangers. Afterwards, she kept on giving now and again. Her give-away total: More than 450 hot, succulent pies.
“Sometimes you’d think I’d given people Corvettes,” she says of her recipients’ reactions. “I learned it takes so little to make a difference.” Follow the Pie Lady at pieadaygiveaway.com.
After spotting our Act of Kindness submission call, Jefferson Area High School English teacher Karen Klein knew she’d found a compelling topic for a class essay assignment. One standout among the many well-written essays was Honors English 10 student Heather Wickert’s tale of shopping with her father at a farmer’s market, where they met an elderly man buying supplies for a cake. “What’s the occasion?” Heather’s father asked. “My wife’s birthday,” the man replied.
Heather told the man to please wish his wife a happy birthday. “I would if I could,” he said, with a tear in his eye. “I lost my wife 8 years ago to cancer.”
Heather’s dad paid the cashier for the man’s items, then, along with his daughter, offered to help bake the cake, and a pie as well. The man accepted. Now, every year, Heather and her dad remember the man and his wife on her birthday of Feb. 26.
What a Find
When Cristhian Reyes, then a senior at Miami Senior High School, lost his wallet during the Miami Marlins opening day baseball game in April, he figured it was long gone. But a few days later, he not only got
his wallet back—turned in anonymously at his school—but he got a little something extra: $20 and a note. “Do me a favor and when you get the chance,” the note read, “Do something nice for someone else.”
“It’s on me.”
There’s just something about dollar stores, restaurants and local groceries in some towns that seem to bring out the best in people. Several readers, including Lillian Davis of Keene, Texas, Marion DeFazio of Scott Township, Pa., and Ursula Schlichting of Willits, Calif., reported kind strangers picking up their tabs when they forgot their wallet, were short of cash, or perhaps the best reason of all—just because.
The Last Turkey
New Derry, Pa.
Several years ago, Marge Bolish, 82, along with her late husband, Andrew, and good friend, Ann Prah, bought 10 Thanksgiving turkeys, and a few days before the holiday distributed them to needy families in their economically hard-hit town. Bolish even cooked one for a family whose mother was dying of cancer.
Then the night before Thanksgiving, Bolish looked in her freezer and realized she’d given away all the turkeys. Even her own!
“Well, it’s stuffed peppers for us!” she laughed. Then, at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, another friend knocked on Bolish’s door and presented her with a 20-pound, fully defrosted and ready to cook turkey.
“That was an act of kindness I’ll never forget,” she says.
Give It Away
“In the end, it’s not really what you have or had, it’s more about what you gave away,” says Wava Adams, who along with friends and family, honored her grandmother, Wava Ruckel, by performing 81 acts of kindness after the woman who spent her life giving to others passed away at age 81 in March.
Saints Among Us
In 2012, Devon Walker was a star safety for Tulane University, but his dreams of playing pro football were shattered when he collided with a teammate on the field and was paralyzed from the neck down. After two years of grueling rehab, Walker, a native of Destrehan, La., who is bound to a wheelchair and breathes through a ventilator, realized his dream when the New Orleans Saints put him on their roster this past May.
“Just to be part of this team, just to be around the players is more than I could have hoped,” says Walker, who graduated from college that same day.
According to Alex Radelich, the 21-year-old founder of A.R.K. Project Now, a blossoming nonprofit, kindness- promoting group he founded in his Purdue University dorm room in 2012, “Every act of random kindness has the capacity to change someone’s life.”