By Becky Pazkowski, Vice President of Philanthropy
Last weekend, I was walking across the John Ringling Bridge on my morning walk when I noticed a women – of more years than I – walking along slowly, holding on to the railing. She wore a cotton house dress and carried a water bottle around her waist and a tote over her shoulder. Lots of people walk and run that bridge, as you are aware, but, this was the first time I had seen a women of this many years taking the journey.
When I reached her I said hello and asked how she was doing. She was fine, she said. I asked if she made this walk often. No, this was the first time. I commented that it was a tough walk. She said it wasn’t tough, just long. She assured me that she was going to go slow, and was hoping there would be a bench at the other end where she could sit and rest while waiting for the #4 bus. Satisfied that she was safe, I moved on.
What happened next was wonderful. A young man (when I say young I mean in his 40s) was jogging behind me. When he reached me, he asked me if the woman was okay. I told him what she told me. He said his car was on the other side, and if she needed a ride he would be happy to give it to her. Why was this wonderful? This young man saw something out of the ordinary, and he stopped to see if there was anything he could do. He was probably busy, deep in thought, and could have passed by without another thought. But he didn’t.
After a few more steps, I stopped and looked back. The young man had waited for the woman and was talking with her. I waited a little longer until she caught up with me again, and asked if she was sure I couldn’t walk with her. She said she was a nurse, 90 years old, going to be fine, and very grateful for our concern. Then she said, “I am going to write to my daughters and let them know I found a couple more.” I didn’t ask what she’d found, but I assume she meant friends.
When I reached Bird Key Park, I looked back until I saw her making her way down to the Park. She had indeed made the journey, and I was glad to see that she had done it without our help, but certainly with a few caring hearts embracing her journey. It made my heart a little lighter that day, just letting her know that I cared.
That is what life is like here at Plymouth Harbor….caring hearts embracing each others’ journey. Many gentle acts of kindness happen every day at Plymouth Harbor, and we don’t always hear about them. We wouldn’t be surprised to know they happen, but it warms our hearts to know when it does.
Just last week, I learned of an employee who was on a family medical leave, and had reached the end of her own “paid time off” and would not be paid for the rest of her leave time. As is the case with most of us, that would have been devastating financially. Quietly, other staff member and management rallied around her and donated their own “paid off time” so that she would continue to receive a paycheck. She was touched and very grateful. But those who were able to help her felt even better than she did!
Another employee’s child was in need of a surgery, which would be covered through health insurance. However, the surgery had to take place across the state, entailing travel and lodging costs, something they were not planning on or prepared to pay for. The Plymouth Harbor Employee Assistance Fund, funded through donations, was able to cover those costs for the family.
Employees at Plymouth Harbor, organized under the caring leadership of Bert Adams (who you all know, I’m sure) have formed a group called Plymouth Harbor Volunteers Who Care. This group regularly gathers together to help All Faiths Food Bank distribute donated food to the needy. The group also has adopted John Ringling Boulevard in an effort to Keep Sarasota Beautiful, helped build Habitat for Humanity homes for our Sarasota neighbors, and came to the aid of those in Arcadia who needed relief during hurricane Charlie. When I spoke with Bert, her face lit up when she started talking about everything the PH Volunteers Who Care had done.
Together, we are a community of caring hearts, embracing the journey of others, performing gentle acts of kindness along the way. Stay alert, observe, and let me know of other gentle acts that you encounter. They are happening all around us, because it is how we behave here at Plymouth Harbor. I am proud to be among you.