This I Believe

Curtis - Montrose, Colorado
Entered on March 12, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This I Believe

I believe in random acts of kindness.

Not necessarily in those exact words although those are the more recent version of what I am intending to write about. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the Good Samaritan, be kind to strangers, and many other phrases apply to the same concept The same idea is found in all of the major religions and nations of the world. It is central to the foundations of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, and so on. It can be found in every country and every continent on our planet. I think it holds the only promise of hope for mankind.

In my own family many of the stories passed down have had to do what was done for others in need. These are the kinds of things in my family that we remember as most the important things to remember about our ancestors. My father’s step father and mother had a funeral home in Excelsior Springs, MO during the Great Depression and often offered their services to those who could not afford to bury their loved ones as they wanted to but strongly desired to be able to. This help was offered irregardless of race or religion. My Grandmother would even sew new clothing from what material she could find for the deceased whose families had no money or suitable clothes to bury their deceased in.

My mother’s father had a grocery/general store when the depression hit and continued to ‘sell’ food and other necessities to his old customers in Beloit, Kansas even when they could not pay and had no hope of ever being able to. He continued to hand out goods until he had no more to give because he no longer had any money to restock his store with. Also in my mother’s family in and around Chester, Oklahoma at the same time it was just common practice to help each other, relative to relative, neighbor to neighbor, whenever someone else was in need, building a barn, planting or harvesting a crop or whatever was needed.

My father, Robert L Ray, served in World War II in a Medical Evacuation Unit (the forerunner to the MASH units of Korea) landing on Utah Beach within hours of D-Day. He did not like talking much about that experience for a long time, and then only many years after the fact. However one event that took place is especially remembered from his time in the war. This in part is thanks to the continued correspondence from a woman who was a young girl (about 10 years old) in the Czech Republic at that time. At the end of World War II my father’s unit was stationed in a city park in Plizen, Czechoslovakia treating American Soldiers, German Soldiers (my father was proud that they also took care of injured Germans) and some local patients. Townspeople would come by their camp out of curiosity and two children caught my father’s attention one day and he gave them his chocolate rations thinking they would enjoy them more than he as all food was hard to come by then in Pilzen let alone treats like chocolate. They returned almost daily then for more chocolate bars and that was fine with my Dad. But eventually he found out that they never ate the chocolate. They were actually trading it on the Black Market for milk and other staple foods for their families. So he then started giving them his cigarette rations (he never did smoke) and getting a few of his fellow soldiers to help so they could trade for more food.

One of those little girl’s names is Zdena (Dulinova now) and she wrote to my father and our family over the years since. I’m not certain but that may well have been the only way we found out about this thing that he did. The correspondence went on for years but gradually, as my father got older and poor at correspondence, we lost contact. Just as a side note, a few years ago I was able to locate Zdena again and now correspond with her myself regularly. For years that was about all I knew of my father’s World War II experiences, with the exception that he did say how much he enjoyed visiting The Louvre, in Paris when he had the opportunity.

One other incident he did tell me about regarding a kindness given to him was when he was about a time he was wandering around Pilzen when he had some free time, he found an out of the way restaurant which he entered hoping to get some lunch. The proprietors apologized for not having much food to offer him but offered to fix him whatever they had for themselves to eat. They also offered him a beer which they also apologized for as it was not up to their usual standards (they did make their own) because they had not been able to acquire their usual quality of ingredients. They would not let him pay although he definitely tried to several times. He said the food was wonderful and the beer the best he has ever had.

I don’t think that my family is particularly special. These are all just examples of why I personally believe that doing for others indiscriminately is the most important thing I believe in. I believe that it is the last and most important key to the survival of humanity. I believe it is part of what makes us human and establishes our humanity. I believe that I am not the only one that thinks this. I see acts of kindness all around me and try to do the same myself every time the opportunity arises. I am sorry to see people who go through their days disregarding others needs and feelings because I believe they are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to support humanity and the very survival of the human race as well as the privilege we have to do something good we can feel good about. Kindness to strangers is its own reward. It really is all about love and love is all that it is really about.