The answer is always yes

Kindness Corner

By Randall D. McNeely

Welcome to the Kindness Corner.

Why this column? We don’t often hear about are the hundreds of stories of unsung heroes, Kindness Givers, who touch hearts and change lives daily, even hourly, through simple acts of kindness.

I am cognizant of the fact that hate and violence seem to be on the rise and I have no desire to gloss over that fact. The truth is, however, all we get through much of the media is steady diet of “downer fodder.” Through this column I aim to change that.

The goal is to serve up a weekly spot of light, love, and hope by giving a voice to Kindness Giver efforts with the desire to inspire you, the readers, to emulate their examples and invite and encourage others to do the same. By doing so your hearts will be lifted, lives will be changed, and our community, nation, and the world will be a better place to live.

Some say that I’m a mixed bag when it comes to kindness. I thoroughly enjoy being on the giving end. For some silly reason, however, I have a hard time being on the receiving end. I’ve always been that way. Maybe it’s pride. I don’t know. Do you ever feel that way?

I had to swallow my pride earlier this summer and ask for help rebuilding our deck. Money was tight and, frankly, I stink at building. I’m great at destroying things (just ask my wife) but building things – not so much.

Fortunately for me, I have an amazing friend (all names changed), Rick, who is a fantastic carpenter and who has built a few decks. He was willing to help me.

Things went great the first day. Rick and his son John put their skills to work building a new set of stairs. I put my destroying skills to work and tore down all the old railings. The stage was set for me to start early the next morning tearing up the floor boards.

Well, I got up early the next day with the desire to beat the heat. Because the screws were so rusted, I had to use a skill saw to cut the boards out. With a new blade in place I got to work. Just as I reached the end of the first board, the blade came loose. Frustrated, I got up to get my allen wrench to tighten it without paying attention to where I was walking. I stepped on a loose board and went down hard between the joists. I fell four feet, slammed into a joist with my left side, broke three ribs and tore a bunch of cartilage in the process.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed when I called Rick later to tell him that he and John didn’t need to come over that day to continue working on the deck with me. Rick, however, being the good man he is, just asked how I was doing and what he could do to help. I told him just to keep me in his prayers and left it at that.

After the call, I was so drugged up that I fell asleep. Two hours later I awoke to the sound of sawing, and screw driving. I got up and painfully shuffled out to our kitchen to look out the glass doors that open to our deck. There, working with practiced precision were Rick and John. Even Mary, Rick’s wife, was there helping, along with my wife and children. They kept working that day and came back two more times until the job was finished. I was at a loss for words with feelings of overflowing gratitude then, and I still am even as I’m writing this. What makes it even more powerful for me is the fact that Rick has his own business which he set aside to come and help a friend. When asked if I could offer him anything as compensation the answer was an emphatic “no.”

I thank God for people like Rick, John, and Mary that epitomize what it means to be a Kindness Giver. Simple, humble, no fanfare service given in a way that grabbed my heart and left an indelible imprint that I will never forget.

Looking back, how grateful I am that I was willing to swallow my pride and ask for Rick’s assistance. When I asked him why he is always so ready to help, Rick’s answer was simple. “I decided as a young man that whenever anyone asked for my help, my answer would always be yes. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

How thankful I am for that young man’s decision. Rick has won my heart. I would move mountains for him and do anything I can to help him and his family. He is my friend, for life. I only hope I can follow his example and be willing to answer the same call.

Do you know someone who could use a little kindness in their lives today? What are you going to do about it?

There are good people like Rick and his family all over Muscatine County who go about being kind. Maybe you know some of them and have a story to share. If so, I’d love to hear it. You can reach me at