A Time for Charity and a Time for Michelle (Shelly) Skow

Have you ever had one of those epiphanies or sudden feelings that the world is a wonderful place to be?  A time when you felt guilty for all of the pessimism, cynicism or negative thoughts that you had about humanity.   One of those days when you know that Sartre (“Hell is other people”) was terribly wrong.  At this moment, you know people are special and you would not want to be in any other possible world.  Well, yesterday Karen and I had one of those days.  Saturday the 29th of June. 

The day started out more or less inauspiciously.  I had received bad news from my biopsy the day before that my Gleason Score (A measure of the virility of cancer in the prostate) had gone from 6 to 7 or from mildly aggressive to moderately aggressive.  My doctor wants me to move out of “wait and see” to some other treatment mode “to be determined.”   I was not in the best of moods as the day begun. 

A few weeks before, I had noticed a flyer in one of the town store windows for a benefit or fund raiser for some local resident who had some problems.  Apparently the fund raiser was to help defray medical costs.  I see many more of these type efforts today that I have seen in the past.  Fundraisers for veterans, for animals, for sick people, for sick children.  They all tug at you heart but there are so many needy people today and one has only so much money to go around.  You give to any charity and your mail box is deluged with requests from other charities everywhere from Venus to Neptune.  I supported Obama during the last campaign and now I am get campaign fund requests from every Democrat in Congress, the Senate, the House and the Moon who is running, planning to run or has run for office.  It’s enough to make you switch parties except the Republicans would probably be no better.  Everyone asking for money, more money and even more money!

Nevertheless, my thoughts about Michele (Shelly) Skow the subject of the fundraiser here in Frederic were sympathetic and I thought “Heck, let’s go to the fundraiser and help out with whatever we can.”  I mentioned it to Karen and she was receptive.  I should add that I had no idea who this woman was nor I have ever met anyone who was related to her or who even knew her.  I put a note on my calendar to remember the date.  Saturday afternoon (The fundraiser started at 3PM) I reminded Karen we had planned to go to this fundraiser.  She asked me what it was for.  The paper that I had given her with information was nowhere to be found and I had to admit I did not remember.  I only knew it was a good cause.  I told Karen we could find out when we got there.  We briefly discussed how much we could afford to donate and off we went.  To Hackers Bowling Alley and Restaurant for a fundraiser for a woman I had never heard of before three weeks ago. 

When we got to the parking lot, we were quite surprised.  It was packed with cars and people were parking across the street.  I noted “Wow, she must really know a lot of people.”  We walked in and looked in the hall.  There were a number of tables set up for wristband donations, food with a donation box, raffle tickets for a large number of prizes and a silent auction.  We looked for a box to put a check in and decided to put it in the box with the wristbands.  We passed on the bands but left our check in the box.  We then headed to the food area. It looked like most potlucks one encounters in our area.  Rolls, Sloppy Joes, beans, and lots of the usual deserts, brownies, cookies and coffee were in abundance.  We picked up plates and each grabbed an assortment of edibles.  I had to remind myself that this was not about food but about helping Shelly.  

We took our plates to some tables which were occupied but not as full as some others and found a couple of seats across from an elderly looking couple.  I think everyone looks older than me.  Somehow I never grew up mentally.  I asked Karen what she wanted to drink and I headed to the bar.  The selections were to be expected.  I ordered a light beer for Karen and a regular Bud for myself.  Now if you know me, there is almost nothing I loathe more than the standard domestic Bud except a Bud light.  I am a fine connoisseur of small batch beers hand made with love and thought.  Of course, knowing that such beers did not exist at Hackers, I was okay with swilling down a Bud.  I just hoped none of my legions of fans would see me drinking a Bud.  The bartender (I noticed a sign next to their tip jars that all tips would go to the fundraiser), passed me two cans and popped the tops for me.  I handed him my credit card which he handed back. “We don’t do plastic he said. There is an ATM across the street.”  With some mild irritation (Who doesn’t take credit cards these days?), I headed to the Holiday Station.  I was suddenly conscious of how kind and thoughtful the bartenders were that they would give up their tips to help add to the fundraiser.  Probably someone they did not know either.

When I entered the Holiday, I said “Hi,” to the young woman who was at the cash register. I see her a lot there and she is always friendly.  She said “What are you up to today?” I replied “I am at this fundraiser for Shelly Skow, do you know her?”  She said “Nope.”  Then a very funny thing happened, she said, “If I give you some money would you put it in the donation box for me?”  I said of course and I took some cash from her hands.  I finished getting my money from the ATM and headed back to the bar at Hackers. I paid the bartender for the two “beers” and left a dollar tip.  I then took the Holiday Station clerks’ money and put it in one of the donation boxes. I must admit I peeked to see how much she had given me.  I was quite surprised at the amount.  She had given me 8 dollars. Now eight dollars might not seem like much to you but I know that this woman is a single mom raising a child on a Holiday Station clerks’ pay.  Eight dollars is not a small amount to donate to someone you do not even know.  And she was not even getting any Sloppy Joes.

Back at the table, I found Karen talking to the two people we knew from town (the only two people we had seen that we knew at this point) and she had asked if they knew Shelly.  Another surprise, they did not.  They simply saw the notice and wanted to help out.  Shortly after, another friend from town came over to our table and upon asking the same question, we received the same reply “Nope, never met her and do not know her.”  I started a conversation with the “elderly couple” across from us, thinking they might know of Shelly.  I thought perhaps they were grandparents or even great grandparents.  But no!  They did not know Shelly either.  They came for the simple reason of helping someone out who needed help. 

After finishing our gourmet dinner of chips, beans and Sloppy Joes, (Did I not mention the Buds?) we decided to go over to the silent auction table.  There were a surprisingly large number of items and Karen decided to bid on a potting chair.  She put a bid in slightly above the last bid.  She remarked on how nice the chair was and how nice she thought it would look in our garden.  I thought, “She will never win with a bid only five dollars above the last bid”, so I upped the bid when she was not looking by about 10 dollars. This meant that anyone wanting this item would have to go up 20 dollars more than the bid before Karen.  I thought this was good strategy.  I did not tell Karen at the time that I had “outbid” her. 

We left the fundraiser and headed home.  We both took a short break at home and then we headed up to a place called “Log Cabin Hollows.”  It was too nice an evening to say inside and we wanted to see if they were going to have a Saturday night music jam.  About 15 years ago, a brother of a man I know in town started these music jams out at this resort and campgrounds.  We attended one about two years ago and it was fun.  Not quite like the music jams at the Minnesota Bluegrass Festival or the ones in Mountain View, Arkansas, but still some good music you could listen and dance to without your eardrums breaking.  As we drove up to Log Cabin Resorts, Karen and I discussed the fundraiser. 

I was already quite surprised at the number of people we met who did not know the recipient.  I was also very surprised to find so many nice objects that were donated by the local merchants and townspeople.  These merchants are not Wal-Marts or Costcos.  They are small town local stores who have been suffering from a poor economy and the competition coming from “Big Box” retailers within a few miles. There is a joke that every store in town is for sale and has been for several years.  This is not just a joke but reflects the hard economic conditions up here and how difficult it is for local merchants to make a living.  Many of our local stores are for sale.  Nevertheless, places like Daeffler’s (our local meat market) who donated all of the meat for the Sloppy Joes and a “basket” of food as well for the auction gave more than generously.  Karen and I were touched by the compassion and kindness exhibited by people for someone many of them did not know and had never even met.  And when I think of the Holiday Clerk who also wanted to help out and would give a good portion of her income to do so, I can only be grateful to live in a world full of such kind and generous people.  

The newspapers give us a daily diet of evil and mayhem.  The Tele adds to the store of menace and murder that we are endlessly confronted with.  Serial killers threaten us from the pages of most novels that litter the NY Times best seller list only to be replaced by an even more twisted and malevolent killer.  A new trial replaces the last gory trial that dominated the news for six months or so.  Everywhere we turn, we see evidence of the depravity and inhumanity that the media must want us to believe is the world we live it.  However, it is all a mirage.  We are living in a fantasy world of carnival mirrors that reflects a reality that does not exist.  The illusion we see shows us a depraved, destructive, disastrous, execrable, foul, harmful, hateful, heinous, hideous, iniquitous, injurious and loathsome world that no one in their right mind would want to live in. 

I have never been nor probably ever will be accused of being a Pollyanna.  I have no rose collared glasses and I grew up in Brooklyn NY.  I am Italian and Irish and my father was a Post-Man back before we had Post-People.  Nevertheless, I believe that 99.9 percent of the world is good.  I might even be low in my estimates.   If you think of a world with this much good and this little evil, then what would this world really look like?  I think this poem by Aileen Karg sums it up:

A World of Wonderful People

We live in a world of wonderful people
throughout the universe.
We live in a world of wonderful people
where friends are friends with us.
With “hellos” here and “hellos” there
and “How are you today?”
“I hear the stock market’s down,
but there’s plenty to go around
and there’s health and happiness we see,
in the likes of you and me.”
We live in a world of wonderful people,
who love and work and care,
for beauty, strength and honor,
we find it everywhere.
We find just what we look for,
we find it every day,
in this world of wonderful people
God gives to us along life’s way. 

By Aileen Karg

Well, this morning I got a call.  I won the potting chair at the silent auction.  I told Karen and she was excited.  I said she can place it in the garden but I get to pick the flowers.

Time for Questions:

How can we see the real world when we are bombarded daily with images of evil and depravity?  What can we do to help others see the real world?  How can we fight the cynicism that surrounds us?  How can we make a difference in the world?  What if we rejected all of the pessimism and turned off the TV and News and never bought another serial killer novel or movie?  What does it do to our children?  What will they believe about the world when they grow up?  Is it what you would want them to believe? 

Life is just beginning:

PS:   If you would like to send funds or donations to help Michelle (Shelly) Skow, send a check in her name to me and I will make sure it finds its way to her.  She has a Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prayer-Chain-for-Shelly-Skow/115295908661959

My address is:  John Persico, 202 Peake Avenue South, Frederic, WI:  54837

 

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. QMM
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 01:49:26

    Hello John and Karen, I so enjoyed your post. Having a positive attitude is one of the most important gifts a person can give themselves and all those around them. I have not watched TV for months just for that reason. All the shows are either reality which is not real at all or just put downs to try for the biggest laugh. Our country will recover from this and move into the other extreme just like it always does. The situation you described in your post gives us hope and enlightens us about real people and how we are all willing to help out. I wanted to tell you I just finished watching Quartet and absolutely loved it. The music was wonderful and the actors were all perfect in their roles. Wanted to say thank you for mentioning it to me. Loved the poem and stay among The Wonderful People.

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Jul 03, 2013 @ 02:47:40

      What wonderful comments Peggy. You are such an inspiring person. I hope we can get to know each other better over the next few years. I treasure our day together when I met you at the monastery. John

      Reply

    • johnpersico
      Jul 05, 2013 @ 13:20:13

      Thanks Peggy, its always fun to find a good movie that is not one of the “hyped” ones that most often grace our movie and TV screens. Those little gems with good acting, good characterizations, good story and interesting plot. Not just a bunch of shoot-outs and chase scenes. I wonder how much time and money goes into shoot outs and chase scenes each year? I bet it would be billions. Have a great summer. John

      Reply

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    Mar 07, 2014 @ 17:20:16

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    Reply

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