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These acts of kindness will cheer you up and cheer you on

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(Laurène Boglio / For the Times)

We asked readers to tell us about the ways in which their neighbors, family and even (and especially) strangers have lifted their spirits during this time of confinement and confusion and helped them keep moving forward. Here are some of the letters we received.

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My niece, a newly ordained Episcopal priest, went to a park near her church in Santa Barbara to minister to those needing comfort. She made sure she and her “flock” were six feet apart. She exuded kindness toward her small audience, who realized spirituality could be found within church walls or, today, in a small park.

Ruth Sowby

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I recently lost my grandmother, who was like a second mother to me. I traveled to San Jose, alone and distraught. I found the most caring strangers who helped heal a bit of the pain: a Marriott hotel worker who didn’t charge me for parking, a Costco car rental that reduced my price and even a sweet waitress who wrote on my receipt, “Keep smiling.” It’s the little things that matter.

Joy L. Cartwright

Readers, show us what you’ve brought home from the world and share the back story of that weird but wonderful souvenir. And thanks for your memories.

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Neighbors saved Nathan's birthday.
(Anna Kurtz)

My son, Nathan, came home from a bike ride with his dad on Saturday with exciting news: “A neighbor is going to make a parade for my birthday! People are going to make signs for me!” He (with some help from Dad) explained that some neighbors were planning to celebrate kids who were missing their birthday celebrations due to the lockdown. They wanted to be sure the kids still had their special day.

This act of kindness, initiated by Barb, a wonderful neighbor and a stranger to me until recently, created so much excitement in the days preceding Nathan’s seventh birthday that it nearly obliterated the sadness he felt at canceling his birthday plans.

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In our wildest imaginations, we couldn’t have conjured up what we found today: Neighbor after neighbor, most of whom we’d never met, posted creatively decorated signs in their windows or on their lawn or wrapped around their parked cars, wishing Nathan a happy birthday. Some even gave him small gifts (left on lawns or hanging from trees, one with a pair of gloves for Nathan to use to pick up the gift).

We rode our bikes for hours finding dozens and dozens of homes wishing Nathan a happy day, all the while practicing physical distancing.

To our wonderful neighbors, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you, thank you. You came together to help a boy you don’t know have the most memorable birthday he’s had yet, and I’d venture to guess the most memorable one he may ever have! We will be retelling the story of Nathan’s seventh birthday for weeks, months and years to come.

We are so uplifted by your generosity, dedication and creativity. You are an embodiment of the power of community, and a thick, ginormous, bold silver lining in these challenging times. We will never forget your kindness, and please know that we will be paying it forward; kindness is contagious too.

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Anna Kurtz

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You’d never think we were in hustling, impersonal Los Angeles. Everyone is out planting flowers or vegetables, painting window frames, pushing a stroller, but always staying 20 feet apart.
When my doorbell rang, I saw my next-door neighbor hustling away and a bag of groceries on the doormat. He’d waited for 40 minutes just to get inside the store and figured he’d save me the trouble (he texted me).
I was ready to spend these weeks in solitude. But coming together is what it’s all about.
Anne Cooke

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It wasn't easy to do, but there were flowers for Mom.
(Teresa Kosinski)

Twenty-four days after she died, my mom was laid to rest. What was supposed to be a funeral mass and graveside service were narrowed down in the last week to just a graveside service. “Oh, but we won’t be able to do the flowers,” I was told. Eventually, we weren’t even allowed the graveside service, but my mom did get flowers for her grave site. One friend hunted down flowers and found some at Trader Joe’s in Brea, where the manager refused payment because of the circumstances. One of her friends helped with additional flora and another hired a florist to put it all together. No one would allow me to reimburse them.

Teresa Kosinski

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I went to Trader Joe’s recently. The store was empty of food, but that is not the topic of this story.

As I entered, an employee at the entrance greeted me and said: “Hi! Would you like some hand sanitizer?”

Me: “Um, yes. Go for it!”

Lovely Dude sprayed my hands from a safe distance and said: “Awesome! There you go!”

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Me: “OMG. Thank you! I have not seen hand sanitizer in days.”

Lovely Dude: “We sold out a long time ago, but we have the ones at the entrance for people to use.”

Me: “Thank God.”

Lovely Dude: “Yeah! But do you know how many people yelled at me today?”

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Me: “For offering them hand sanitizer? What is wrong with people?”

Lovely Dude: “I don’t know. They were really mad! And I wasn’t even standing close to them.”

Me: “It’s fine. I’ll take theirs. You can shower me with it if you want.”

I laughed. Dude laughed. I walked away and did my shopping (I found two items. Super exciting stuff, you guys).

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I paid. I headed to the exit, where Lovely Dude was standing and talking to an older couple who were also attempting to shop during the apocalypse.

Lovely Dude stopped me with this: “Hey, so kindness goes a really long way, and you made me smile, so can I give you these flowers?”

Dude pulled out a bouquet of flowers, Houdini-style.

Me: “What? Really?!!” (I get excited very easily. You all should know this by now.)

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Dude: “Yeah, you made a few of us smile actually.” (Pointed at older couple; couple grinned and waved at me.)

Me: “OMG, you guys. I wish I could hug you ALL!”

Cue expressions of horror from all three.

Me: “Don’t worry! I know the rules. But know that I want to.”

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Expressions calmed. Love returned. We all laughed again and I walked out, clutching flowers.

Moral of the story: The world is crazy, yes, but people are still really awesome.

Stay safe, go out only for essentials, but smile at people because apparently 1. No one is, and 2. That’s how you get flowers.
Tova Litvin

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The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air donated 400 salads to first responders and medical personnel.
Check out their recent Instagram post at instagram.com/bevhillshotel/?hl=en
Margaret Purvis

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My neighbor knew my teenage daughter would struggle with not seeing her friends, so she painted a beautiful picture of a sunflower to cheer her up and placed it on our front porch as a surprise.

Rebecca F.

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The elderly residents at my mom’s assisted living facility were placed on lockdown. They became even more isolated than usual.

My brother, David DeLoach, didn’t want her to feel alone during this trying time, so he got creative about how to see her. He stood under her balcony and started serenading her with his guitar.

As he played, other elderly residents joined from their balconies. He decided to play his guitar in front of the three other wings of the senior center. Each time the residents came out on their balconies. Some sang along.

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“I can’t underestimate the power of music in a time like this,” David said. “There’s a lot of stress and fear right now, and there’s something God put into music that when you sing it changes things. It does.”

He says he will go back as much as he can to play, because he believes music can get us through anything.

Daniel DeLoach

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Holland America said it with flowers.
(Diane G.)

Holland America Flowers in Arroyo Grande, Calif., gave 4,000 flowers to local restaurants to hand out with their takeout food, along with a note that they want to bring a smile to diners’ faces.

Diane G.

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I’m a physician in Saugus. At the end of a stress-filled week, we found someone had posted a sign on our door thanking us. It was a moment of joy for me and my staff.

I later found out that a small printing company, Creative Graphic Services, has been putting these random signs around town.

Daisy Markley

A sign for the times
(Daisy Markley)

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I saw this posted on the door of O Sole Mio, an Italian restaurant in Millbrae, Calif.: “To the elderly customers of O Sole Mio: My name is Kelly and if you need provisions from the grocery store/pharmacy, I am happy to shop for you free of charge.“ Then it lists her phone numbers and adds, “Call me if you want any assistance. Thank you!”

Wendy

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Saw this sign while walking in our Diamond Bar neighborhood.

Karin Lunsford

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I went to the supermarket twice in one day. On my first supermarket visit, the shelves that hold cans, crackers and toilet paper looked like this:

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That empty feeling? A smile took care of that.
(Dushka Zapata)

I wanted to buy dishwasher detergent and there was one left, but I couldn’t reach it. I felt powerless.

That’s when I saw that the box I had been reaching for was right in front of my eyes. I took it, then realized a very tall person was handing it to me.

“It looks like you wanted this, yes?” he said gently.

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I turned and we just stood there looking at each other, a pause in the middle of a frenzy spinning around us. He smiled at me. His smile felt as if someone had just dropped a sturdy anchor in the middle of a turbulent ocean.

We are living in surreal times. Please, stop and be nice to someone.

Dushka Zapata

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While in line outside Trader Joe’s, a woman whose turn it was to go in motioned for the person behind her to go first.

Bob B.

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People were as nice as pie to help.
(Lee Bridges)

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Heritage Meat Pies sells homemade British-style meat pies at outdoor fairs. The fairs were canceled, and it was stuck with 23,000 pies. Liz Martin of Martinez, Calif., organized an online drive to purchase them. Within three days, 200 people stepped up and bought more than a quarter of the pies, which were delivered in a refrigerated truck using physical distancing and hygiene techniques.

Lee Bridges

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One bride helped another bride. Neither one knew each other before this kind gesture. Here’s the story:

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On Friday March 13, Megan met her guardian angel, Rachel. Megan who is getting married on May 1 will walk down the aisle in her dream dress thanks to Rachel. Once Rachel found out that Megan was in need of a gown Rachel decided to donate her gown to Megan. Same dress, same color, and same size. As you can imagine Megan was excited and speechless. One girl helping another and not even knowing each other.

David Gaffke

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My sister saw an elderly woman in Walmart looking at the empty shelves. She said she hadn’t been to the store yet because she had just received her Social Security check and was on a limited income. My sister kept talking to her, and at the end of the conversation she gave her some money to help with the purchases. The woman didn’t want to take it, but my sister insisted. We have parents in their 80s who have our whole family helping out. How many people don’t have that blessing? I’m proud of my sister for stepping up and being a good person.

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Lorraine Smith

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During our afternoon walk, my wife and I came across a caravan of cars with kids popping out of the sunroofs. It turned out one of their classmates was celebrating a birthday. Because they could not celebrate in the classroom, their parents organized a “parade” down the street in front of the birthday person’s house. Social distancing paired with an act of kindness!

Gary Benson

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It’s surprisingly easy to learn the best techniques that help you get the most out of the simple act of breathing.

I want to help some of the most vulnerable, so I am donating a breakfast for 45 people who receive supportive services at Ascencia in Glendale.

Angela Miller

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I have been isolating and avoiding everyone, including at the grocery store. I made a list (seldom do) and went to Trader Joe’s. I was first in line after the seniors. I waited an hour. Initially, I thought I’m not doing this. I took a breath, looked at the beautiful mountains, listened to the birds, and a man, safely six feet behind me, reassured me as if I were a frightened passenger on an airplane.

We started chatting and before I knew it, it was my turn. TJ’s had upbeat music playing as they sprayed and wiped carts to pass to those entering. No more than 20 people at a time. Trader Joe’s is certainly doing its part.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had so much positive, direct eye contact with people. No one had a phone in hand. Those of us waiting our turn resembled a receiving line for those exiting. Lots of “stay healthy” and “enjoy your day” were shared.

Everyone was thanking the crew members for being there. The store was fully stocked. At one point, a neighborhood homeless man, barely able to move his wheelchair, was assisted to the front of the store. A crew member asked what he wanted. She came back with a bag of items. He looked in and said, “Wow.” She had obviously included some extras. He tried to give her $20 in payment, and she insisted he didn’t need to pay today.

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He repeated, “Thank you so much” over and over. If you’re dreading the market like I was, go early (and on a day when you can comfortably wait outside). Wear gloves, sanitize, keep distance, and the only thing you’ll bring home is a smile and yummy food

Gayle Cousineau

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My partner bought and gave 10 rolls of toilet paper each to several of his co-workers; they are all essential workers in a hospital.

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Cecilia Akuffo

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I clean houses for a living. I have been doing it for 10 years. Most of my clients canceled when the stay-at-home order came. I don’t qualify for unemployment, so I have no income. As it is, I live day to day. Clients who knew I was struggling showed me kindness by giving me extra work. Some offered food, and three are paying me by email. One family got to me because it is paying all its staff.

Erika Lorca

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I left my debit card at home accidentally early on in the panic shopping. I was scrambling through my purse for my credit card. The person behind me offered to pay for my groceries. I did find my credit card, but I will not forget that gracious offer.

Sally H.

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An essential worker had a dozen reasons to be happy.
(Celestine HIll)

I am an “essential business” worker, and my 30 hours a week have gone to 40. I don’t have time to shop at the grocery store. I usually shop at work, but we haven’t been getting eggs for a while. I went to the grocery store once, and no eggs. I told a customer my story. She told me Aldi had eggs, so I was going to go after work, but she ran to her car and gave me hers. Aldi limits one to a customer, so I was amazed how unselfish she was. It made my day.

Celestine Hill

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I use a cane and have difficulty walking. When I went to check out at the grocery store, the line was more than 15 people long. I began to make my way to the end, when two different women offered their places at the beginning of the line. I was overwhelmed, yet felt terribly guilty for getting ahead of everyone else. When I look back, I realize I would have done the same. But how very kind. It would have been very hard to stand in that line for so long, so thank you!

Sarah Mahany

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We have put out an old kitchen cabinet with DVDs that people can take or swap, kind of like those curbside mini-lending libraries. Other mini-libraries in our neighborhood have swapped books for canned food and dried beans and rice.

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Steve Grayson


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