The Daily Gazette
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A new decade: Let's build compassion

I met a homeless man last week who wanted to tell me about his experiences.

I’m not proud to say I had no time for him and put him off for a later date.

I worried about him all weekend, especially every time I ventured outside into the biting cold.

Is he warm? Has he eaten? Is he okay?

He was a not a young man, and he did not look like our stereotypical image of a homeless person.

He was well dressed, but he wore rubber gloves beneath his winter gloves because his hands had been frostbitten. He told me he was living in his car.

I will reach out to him through his family this week, and I will make time for him.

But, that doesn’t make me feel better about my unwillingness to give him a few minutes of my precious time last week.

It’s a new year, a time when we resolve to be better people. My goal will be to try to do more, at least on a small scale, for people in need. I’m hopeful you will think that’s a good idea, one worth embracing as your own.

An online poll the Gazette conducted recently keeps coming back to me.

The question was, “Has your charitable giving increased this year?” More than two-thirds of those who responded said no.

The results were hardly unexpected. But the poll points up the need for those who are able to do so to dig a little deeper. And those of us unable to increase our giving can still do something, however modest.

If everyone gave a little, the overall effect would be remarkable, as simplistic as that sounds. Think how much good would result, for example, if everyone reading today’s column gave $1 to a favorite charity — the City Mission, a soup kitchen or food pantry, the Red Cross.

You can also give something that many of us value even more than cash. You can give your time to a good cause. Work one day a week in a soup kitchen, in a nonprofit thrift shop, at a bloodmobile, on a charity fundraiser, with neighborhood kids who need a positive adult role model.

You can also do good deeds anonymously. I’m a strong believer in random acts of kindness.

Clear the sidewalk of an elderly or infirm neighbor after it snows. Bake a plate of cookies or cook a pot of chicken soup and leave it outside the door of someone you know who is homebound or simply would appreciate an indication that someone cares.

I said my resolution is to do more for people in need.

Not all our needs are material.

A smile and a kind word, a door that is held open, an offer to help carry a shopper’s packages to the car, yielding to a driver who wants to turn even when you have the right of way — these are all acts of charity that will cost you little but will go a long way toward restoring civility to our society.

I say “restoring civility” because clearly it’s lacking in many aspects of our daily life.

If you braved the mobs during holiday shopping last month, you know what I’m talking about.

The thing about random acts of kindness is that they’re contagious. The more people who practice such charity, the more who are inspired to do so.

Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by e-mail at

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January 4, 2010
11:19 p.m.

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Warm thoughts for a cold season.

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