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Caught in the act

Good deeds and kindness in Juneau

Posted: June 9, 2013 - 12:00am

I recently observed my six-year “Juneau-versary” — the six-year mark of my move to Juneau — and got to thinking again about why that “summer in Alaska” turned into six years. Whether a person has called Juneau home for six years, six months or one’s whole life, there’s something about the community that makes this place feel like home.

One nice thing about the Neighbors beat is that I almost exclusively write the good news. There may be stories about crime and taxes in the A-section, but in Neighbors, it’s overwhelmingly positive news. I have gotten to interview local celebrities like the late Bill Overstreet, the most adorable award-winning baker Denali Schijvens, inspirationally hard-working and positive youth like Taylee Escalante, passionate educators like Bob Veith and so many more.

Neighbors is also home to the community’s thank you notes, often highlighting community support of fundraisers, events and organizations.

But I think we’re missing something. There ought to be recognition of the smallest things that make this community great. It was Wally Olson who ultimately inspired me to pursue this recognition of such small things.

I had been pondering the concept for some time, but it wasn’t until Wally accidentally sent me an email meant for an old friend of his (we share the first three letters of our first names) and I wrote back that he had reached the wrong ‘Mel’ as a courtesy. That little interaction spurred a conversation about what Wally referred to as acts of respect, and what I had been thinking of as acts of kindness.

Wally wrote in an email that these acts are “preserving something very important in American life — that other people are people too, just like you and I.”

In a later email, he wrote, “I don’t think things like this are “acts of kindness” as much as they are acts of respect for others when we know and understand the situation. If I were to live in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or other urban areas I am sure that I would be much more “cautious.” But Juneau is Juneau and respect for others makes it a different kind of place to live.”

I can think of tons of examples of these acts of kindness or respect, including numerous occasions when people have helped me to extricate my car from a snowy prison, a time when my coat was mistakenly removed from a Halloween party and returned the next day in-tact and with my phone, money and cards still there, or when a stranger stopped to ask if I was ok after I had thrown myself to the ground to keep my dog from running into the (car-less) street.

Wally shared a few occasions of someone stopping to help him change a tire or helping to carry recycling.

So, the next time you catch someone in the act — of kindness or respect — submit a sentence or two or a photo with caption of the do-gooder by emailing neighbors@juneauempire.com, and let’s recognize these little things that make Juneau so great.

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