Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

If you follow the news enough, you start to feel that you’re swimming in a sea of selfish. Story after story follows the machinations of politicians who want to harm the most vulnerable of us and leave them on their own. Headlines of local papers cover the most violent or horrific acts that have occurred in the last 24 hours, following the old maxim: If it bleeds it leads. We begin to wonder if we’re living on islands and no one else gives a damn.

I admit I hunt for good stories. I crave them. I need reassurance that we haven’t tipped over into a brutal society. Well, we haven’t. Yesterday one news story and one TV program reminded me that all of us have the capacity to be quiet heroes.

Occupy Atlanta sent a handful of protesters to a neighboring town. Their purpose? To try to prevent the foreclosure of a policeman’s home. It probably won’t work, the details are messy, a lawyer is now involved, but it remains that a bunch of people from Occupy Atlanta cared enough to camp out on someone’s lawn to try to prevent service of the eviction notice. And the neighborhood applauded them, despite the crowding, tents and streets filled with cars and TV trucks. As one neighbor said, “If we don’t do something, who will?”

Exactly.

Then last night the Weather Channel gave me a warm glow. A man in Northern Wyoming had been waiting for a liver transplant for two years, hoping his cancer wouldn’t spread before he got one. At 7:30 in the morning he received the call to come to Denver, with a warning that they must arrive within 12 hours. He and his wife set out under blue skies for a five-hour drive that turned into a fifteen-hour nightmare. They didn’t know that south of them one of the worst snowstorms of the year had already closed I-25.

When they got to the barricades, they panicked. They called the transplant coordinator who told them that if they didn’t get there by a certain time, they would have to give the liver to someone else. They called 911, who seemed flummoxed about what they could do. The storm was so bad even helicopters were grounded. So the dispatcher sent a nearby highway patrolman.

He kicked into high gear, knowing he himself couldn’t do a thing. As he said, if he had tried to lead them down that highway in those conditions, they’d all have been lost. So he called the state highway department and asked for volunteers to get these people through.

A plow driver arrived. In conditions so bad he often couldn’t see the road, he led them the first 25 miles to the next town. There five other snowplows awaited them, and guided them along a road often blocked by jackknifed trailer rigs and abandoned cars.

The man got his transplant.

There was another story only a few months later where organs for transplant were in Vail, needed in Denver, and time was at a premium. All flights were grounded. A blizzard had closed the road between the outskirts of Denver and all the through the mountains to Vail. A man with a heavy duty truck volunteered to make the trip, and the surgeon went with him. The roads were dangerous with more than snow: ice and rock was falling off the mountains to either side. Because of the low visibility, he drove over a lot of them. They went off the road and had to get themselves out because the highway patrol had told them there would be no help, no rescue. Coming back, the driver described the trip down the mountains from Vail as a “controlled skid” because the roads had iced over. The truck was heavily damaged, flashing engine and oil warning lights long before they reached Denver, but the driver kept on. They made it.

So when I start to wonder about people, I’m going to remember these quiet heroes. They lead me to believe that if you just show us what needs doing, we’ll do it. Even if we don’t know who we’re helping. We just need to know that we can help.

Good people are everywhere. I just wish we heard more about them.

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