DEAR READERS: I learn so much from readers who respond to questions they see in my column. I often run corrections and admonitions — because I genuinely believe they are helpful.
I've chosen this day, however, to share some of the positive and inspiring responses I've received recently.
DEAR AMY: I read your lovely advice to the letter signed "Wayward Dad," who related his distant relationship with his son to Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in the Cradle." I managed Harry Chapin from the mid-'70s until his untimely death on the Long Island Expressway, July 16, 1981. He was an incredible poet, songwriter and performer. He was also the most active entertainer in those days to work on humanitarian causes, especially hunger and homelessness and the basic issue of poverty. Harry Chapin totally inspired my later work organizing "We Are the World," Hands Across America, NetAid and parts of Live Aid. With "Cat's in the Cradle" and so many other memorable songs, Harry captured the lives of many Americans and others around the world. His songs are as relevant today as they were in those days. I especially recommend, "There Only Was One Choice," which has some of the same dynamics as Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and was recorded around the same time. Of the many inspirational things Harry left me with, two stand out. First, he said, "When in doubt, do something!" And then there's the Chapin lyric on his tombstone: "Oh if a man tried to take his time on earth, And proved before he died, What one man's life could be worth, I wonder what would happen in this world." Those are important words for this time or any time.
Ken Kragen, Los Angeles, CA
DEAR KEN: Thank you so much for getting in touch to remind some of us (and educate others), about the beauty Harry Chapin gave to the world during his too-short life. He really was a troubadour and a poet, and his work lives on in the many fans and musicians who were inspired by him.
Harry Chapin was also an altruist and an activist, and his legacy of philanthropy has inspired countless artists to find unique ways to benefit humankind.
DEAR AMY: Your letter from "Wondering Senior," the person who was insulted by a "random act of kindness" inspired me to tell my story. Back in the day, I would load up my bike with camping gear and tour the country. It's a challenge being exposed to the weather and the unexpected. I met so many kind people out there who offered to make my travels more comfortable. Today, when I come across anybody touring on a bike with camping gear at a restaurant, breakfast, lunch or dinner is on me. A surprise that is well deserved.
DEAR BIKER: Beautiful.
DEAR AMY: Accepting a random act of kindness requires a gracious attitude. I have had some mobility challenges lately and people sometimes offer help. It is not always needed, sometimes not even wanted, but I've been training myself to accept offers of assistance (or refuse them) with a smile and a sincere thanks. It is not always easy. I am annoyingly independent, but I'm always happy that others pay attention, and I hope they can go away glad and proud, rather than rebuffed and embarrassed.
DEAR GRACED: Accepting help — or refusing it with grace — is an act of generosity on your part.
DEAR AMY: My father died suddenly in Canada, and I flew in to deal with everything. His car needed gas, and a wash and after visiting the mortuary, I headed to a gas station. I started to pump the gas and realized I didn't have any Canadian money. Amy, I stood there, frozen in place. A limousine driver ahead of me at the pump approached and asked what was wrong. I burst into tears and explained the situation. He immediately hugged me, and I cried even harder. He then went inside and paid for the gas and the car wash. I offered him American money, but he said I had enough on my plate, and he was grateful he was able to help in some small way. Amy, to this day, I smile when I see a limousine and think of this stranger's kindness.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Wait. I've got something in my eye.
I'm happy to say that this column is published throughout Canada. Maybe that long-ago limo driver will see this story and know what his act of kindness meant to you.
Merry Christmas, everyone!