Tag Archives: generosity

Let’s make 2019 the Year of Kindness

sunrise, sea oats

A new year, like a new day, has dawned.

A New Year has begun. 2019 is underway.

In many ways for many peoples, 2018 was an unpleasant year, a year not worth repeating. Both natural and human-induced catastrophes dominated the mainstream media. Tsunamis, wildfires, mass shootings, political turmoil, earthquakes, horrific hurricanes, snowstorms, and devastating wars filled every media source imaginable.

Among folks I know, 2018 brought too many illnesses, deaths, personal tragedies, and heartbreaks. Scores of others experienced the same devastating human ramifications with equally dire consequences. Human suffering seemed to know no end.

Regardless of the origin of the hurt, we can do something to help. Acts of kindness, random or intentional, help overcome the most feared, painful physical, mental, or climatological injuries we encounter as individuals or as members of the corporate global human race.

Psychological studies have long proven that being kind to another person helped the giver as much as the receiver. I am not talking NFL football here either. Besides providing for the other person, being kind or generous rewards you with a positive feeling.

I’m no psychologist, but it only makes sense to have a positive outlook on life to be observant and responsive to others in need, whether it’s a relatively minor deed or a significant commitment. So be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others.

The studies show that generosity is contagious. We are all touched when we see someone help another person. It encourages us also to do something altruistic.

That fact should energize us to be generous to others in any situation. And by others, I mean anyone, any race, nationality, or religion. After all, a founding principle of our country is that all people are created equal. Though injustices dot our history into the present, that entreaty has nevertheless stood the test of time. We, too, must make it last. We do so by being kind.

Our neighbors shoveled our driveway just because it needed to be cleared. They did other drives in the neighborhood as well.

Your generosity doesn’t have to be opulent either. Bigheartedness can take only a second, or you can spend quality time with others. You choose.

How can you help? If you encounter someone with a homemade sign asking for any assistance, please don’t ignore the individual. At the very least, offer the person a bottle of water. Know someone who has experienced trauma? Send them a card or a text message. Offer to sit with them. Hold their hand. Listen to their needs.

We all know someone who has suffered from depression, anxiety, loss of a loved one, or a terminal illness. The list could go on and on. Just knowing that you care can mean the world to that person or family.

I know personally that in such situations it’s no time to hesitate. As an example, I so appreciated unexpected visits from friends while in the hospital years ago.

In this fast-paced world of instant messaging, smartphones, social media apps, we become vulnerable. If someone hurts you, instead of revenge or avoidance, try a different approach, keeping your own personal safety paramount.

Ask questions. Listen thoughtfully. Be present in each moment. Keep your mind in the here and now instead of anticipating the absolute worst. Breathe deeply. Step back. Wait before responding angrily.

I don’t mean to trivialize deep physical or mental distress. Always keep yourself safe. But in a secure environment, perhaps with neutral, trusting people, reconciliation can reign.

If we all work together, our controllable behaviors can be transformed into tolerable and acceptable acts of kindness. It’s a New Year. Let us together make it a better, kinder one than 2018.

Let 2019 be the Year of Kindness.

rural scene, kindness

May your life’s path in 2019 be one that brings and receives kindness.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Holiday lights illuminate seasonal darkness

holiday lights

Our modest Christmas display under a waxing crescent moon.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I always found it ironic that we celebrate the season of light and hope at the very darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Over the years, however, I’ve come to understand why.

We are in the midst of the season of hope and light. The eight-day Jewish celebration of Hanukkah has just concluded. Advent, the Christian pronouncement of the coming Messiah, ends on Christmas Day.

Menorah candles (Getty Image).

It is no coincidence that holiday lights shine the brightest during the season’s darkest hours. Isn’t that the purpose of Hanukkah and Christmas? The Menorah has nine candles while the Advent arrangement has five.

Aligned by tradition and calendar, the two holidays usher in the season of hope and peace through miracles and light. They are intricately and purposefully interwoven.

The darkness challenges us to survive and thrive. To that aim, we ponder, wonder, and imagine all that is both good and wrong with our immediate world as well as the world beyond our personal life space.

During the darkest time of year, the seasonal contrasts are stark. Too many earthly citizens are in despair. They search for the basics of life: food, shelter, water, and safety. Many face loneliness, financial hardships, family disputes, or significant health issues. These are indeed dark times for them.

Dissimilarly, flashy TV and online commercials urge us to delight others via elaborate gift giving. They tout that the holidays aren’t complete without a new car or pickup sitting in the driveway or a glittery diamond necklace dangling around your sweetheart’s neck.

Wouldn’t it be more fitting in this season of hope to bestow blessings on those in need of life’s essentials? Such generous acts would undoubtedly help brighten the dark season of life if only for a few.

Advent candles.

Advent candles on Christmas Day.

The festive seasonal lights shine far beyond the reach of the Menorah and Advent candles. Hope means more than the sparkling, flashing, flickering lights of Christmas, more than the glittery cards and lavishly wrapped gifts beneath a festive tree.

The music of the season should spark a spirit within us to reach far beyond our circle of family and friends with whom we gather to celebrate. Perhaps like me, multiple year-end appeals for funds from bona fide charities that help the poor, the orphaned, the hungry, and the homeless have besieged you.

It is easy to be numbed by the sheer volume of needs. It doesn’t have to be. It would be both prudent and appropriate for those of us who share the Judeo/Christian experience and heritage to shine that warming light to others in whatever way we can. That would both help brighten their potentially dim holidays and create a real sense of personal satisfaction.

Christmas tree

Christmas tree.

As people of faith, shouldn’t we be the light that those in need seek? In the spirit of the season, that is something to ponder and do.

The luminaries of Hanukkah and Christmas remind and challenge those of each faith to reflect on the past and the foundations of their shared customs. The lights also illuminate those in our midst who are hurting and downtrodden.

If each one of us would reach out to help at least one person, one family, or donate to one charity, the holidays would be a little brighter for them and us. Doing so would be reason enough to light yet one more holiday candle.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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Remembering a friend who loved and lived to teach

grandcanyonbybrucestambaugh

The Grand Canyon was just one of many places Paul Sauerbrey introduced me to on our trip “out west” in 1970.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My old friend, Paul Sauerbrey, introduced me to four of our most notable presidents. I met the much larger than life-size George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

That was July 1970. I was 22 years old and still wet behind the ears. I went with Sauerbrey, which is what he preferred to be called, and three students on what he termed his annual trip “out west.”

paulsauerbreybybrucestambaugh

Paul Sauerbrey

Prior to this, I hadn’t been west of Toledo, Ohio. Sauerbrey’s introductions on that journey certainly didn’t stop with presidential memorials. He opened my world to travel, whetted my appetite for geography, and showed me first hand just how big and marvelous this great country is.

I was one of the fortunate ones. For many years, Sauerbrey used to take summer excursions from Killbuck, Ohio to the West Coast. He would go with families, students, and other teachers like myself. Having already been to the same places, his main purpose was to teach us first hand about America’s extensive topography and the country’s many cultures.

Sauerbrey got as much pleasure out of observing our initial reactions to encountering the numerous noted locales as he did visiting the places himself. In the space of three weeks, we experienced a diversity of venues, from South Dakota’s Badlands to Southern California’s Disneyland, from Yellowstone National Park to the Grand Canyon.

The trip changed my life. It gave me a perspective on the vastness and beauty of our country that I may never have had if Sauerbrey hadn’t asked me to go along. I’ve been traveling ever since.

There was nothing pretentious or shallow about Paul Sauerbrey. He either liked you or he didn’t, and you definitely knew where he stood, too.

bighornsheepbybrucestambaugh

Paul Sauerbrey got as much excitement out of watching his travel companions making new discoveries, like these Big Horn Sheep, as he did seeing the scenery and wildlife himself.


Sauerbrey was a dedicated and respected teacher. He taught elementary school for 43 years without ever missing a full day of school.

Sauerbrey was an exacting teacher. He was especially particular when it came to English and math, two of his favorite subjects to teach. He could diagram a sentence with the best of them, and expected his students to do the same.

Some thought him a bit too strict of a teacher. As a friend and peer, he simply and rightfully had high standards. Students who could not meet those lofty requirements sometimes found themselves in the doghouse with Sauerbrey.

sauerbreyandkidsbybrucestambaugh

Paul Sauerbrey with our son, Nathan, and daughter, Carrie, when they were youngsters.

To be sure, Sauerbrey had his faults. Don’t we all? He loved to teach and lived to teach. That’s what really matters. In a way, he still is teaching.

Each year several high school graduates benefit from Sauerbrey’s generosity, foresight and commitment to education. He donated a majority of his estate to the Holmes County Education Foundation.

In the 20 years since his death on Feb. 13, 1993, scores of students have been awarded scholarships to assist in the cost of their college education. Sauerbrey saw the importance of having a college degree, especially for students from a rural area. Many students who have received a Sauerbrey Memorial Scholarship have been the first in their family to attend college. They have become doctors, directors, lawyers, educators and first-rate mechanics.

Knowing that fact alone would have made Paul Sauerbrey extremely happy. I can imagine the smile on his face. It’s just like the one he had while watching me recklessly scramble to the top of a rock formation to get a better view of four great stone-faced presidents.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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