Living Columns & Blogs

Packet Sea Foam: Anonymous gift inspires further generosity

Thanks to Jim Webb of Palmetto Hall for sharing a story about an act of kindness mushrooming.


By Jim Webb

A group of approximately 30 Palmetto Hall residents have been having dinner together each Tuesday for more than eight years. Our fun includes adult beverages, and I admit we can be a little noisy.

During one of our noisy dinners at Main Street Cafè & Pub, an anonymous lady at the bar informed bartender Joseph "Murph" Murphy she wanted to donate $100 toward our bill.

Murph told us he asked if he should tell us why she did it and she responded, "Because they look like they're having so much fun, and because I can."

Nobody knew her and we still don't know who the generous lady was. Murph didn't know her before, and as far as he knows she has not returned.

She did, however, put into our minds that we as a group should pass along her generosity.

Coincidently, in November my wife and I hosted for two nights two students from Montreat College near Asheville, N.C. They were on Hilton Head Island for the 33rd annual Symposium on Ethical Decision Making and Moral Values sponsored for regional college students by the local Presbyterian Men of the Church organization.

Through our door walked Wilbourn Koesgei. "Willie," as he is called, is from western Kenya and is on scholarship at Montreat as a long-distance runner.

During the course of the two days, Willie showed us pictures of Kenya that included the village where he was raised and his family lives. We talked about everyday living in a village that has no running water or electricity. They do have plenty to eat, and, overall, are happy and healthy.

We noticed, however, that some children had shoes and others didn't. Willie just said if you have shoes you wear them; if not, you go barefoot. This included running to and from their nearest school, which is four miles away.

"Everybody runs in Kenya," was Willie's observation.

The nearest road that could handle a four-wheel-drive truck is also the same distance from the village. The nearest town is Kabiyet, and that is 40 miles away.

I presented an idea to our Palmetto Hall dinner group that would have us all shopping for running shoes suitable for the students in Willie's home village.

Beyond the shoes, Willie suggested that the children love American T-shirts, storybooks to help with their English and balls of any variety.

The group responded with 35 pairs of shoes and a huge supply of other goodies that could be stuffed into boxes.

I had thought shipping would be reasonably easy. I was wrong. Getting more than 100 pounds to a remote village in Kenya via the unreliable and untrustworthy mail service there was a long shot.

I approached UPS in hopes it might help defer shipping costs that were now estimated to be around $1,000. Unfortunately, they were full of "good" projects.

We had to rely on our United States Postal Service to get it to Kenya and then hand it over to Kenya's postal system. We gave up on the gifts arriving anytime close to Christmas, if at all.

But miracles do happen.

On Christmas Eve, Willie e-mailed me that the packages had arrived in his father's care and the running shoes were being distributed.

Little did that anonymous lady know what a chain reaction she created.

Being nice can be contagious. Thank you, kind lady.

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