RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Free Fun for Freedom
Almost five o’clock on the Fourth of July and what the town called “a patriotic stroll” is about to begin on South Street, to spill cheerfully onto South Main. A 15-minute shower has come and gone, dampening only the grass and giving way to a hot summer sun. Tents and lawn chairs line shady spots on the Davidson Village Green, mostly empty now as people turn toward Main Street to watch the show.
The fire engine leads the way, Old Glory waving from its crane, a patriotic greeting to folks who cheer and happily wave back. Then the red, white, and blue strollers walk and dance, hop and pedal by, their streamers, balloons, goofy hats, and T-shirts saluting America’s 242nd birthday, oh-so-young as countries go.
The parade breaks up on the Village Green, bikes, trikes, and wagons parked or cast aside. A volunteer offers popsicles to all the strollers, but in the end, there is plenty to share with anyone who wants a taste of childhood.
Members of Davidson’s police and fire departments form an honor guard in front of the Davidson Branch Library, where roadies for tonight’s band have worked for an hour to set up sound equipment on the “stage.” Next, those speakers send out the recorded voice of Natalie Grant, singing our national anthem for the assembled families and friends, babies in their arms and hands on their hearts.
It is Fourth of July in Davidson, this small town’s tradition that goes back forever and changes little. Time was, it all took place in the heat of the day, but cooler heads prevailed and moved the event into the easier evening air.
Six energetic and talented RadioJacks — a top-40 cover band based in Charlotte — now take the stage, and the kids begin to test out the hot concrete dance floor in front of the library. Little bare feet move with the beat for the next two hours, joined by friends and parents and grannies, bopping to the music of Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and Pharrell Williams. We are talking about tykes, toddlers, and teens, jumping and twirling for hours, sticky foreheads and red cheeks, tireless and giddy as the sun lowers over the lake to the west. Smartphones snap pictures and spin them into cyberspace, magically sharing the fun with distant friends.
Then it is eight o’clock. The band gets a rousing round of applause, and families collect their baskets and babies and head on home.
And that’s really all it is. Just fun. Free fun for freedom on the Fourth of July, a gift from the town.
A professional communicator with a long career in higher education, Meg now consults and volunteers in areas where words and images work together to tell a story. She's a proud member of Davidson's Class of 1977 and lives nearby with her husband, Don, Davidson professor emeritus of biology, with whom she shares a family grown by kinship and choice.
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RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Random Act of Kindness – As I Saw It
(The author of this article wished to remain anonymous. We hope others in our community will write pieces about their own experiences with Random Acts of Kindness, which may be printed without attribution, or with your byline.)
So, there I was sitting in my car – waiting to turn left onto Concord Road. Admittedly, I was thinking about a lot of things at that moment. I was talking with someone on the phone – handsfree. We were even talking about the light and the intersection where I was stopped. Left turn lane, no left turn lane, keep parking spaces, lose parking spaces, and what about the jaywalker up at the Soda Shop – would a change in the traffic pattern be more dangerous for pedestrians?
And then it happened…I saw a young man run up behind an older woman on the sidewalk to my right. And in a simple gesture, he handed her a wallet. That’s it. That is what I saw, and that could be the whole story.
But it was more than that. I stopped the conversation I was having. And relayed what I had just seen, and said that it was a Davidson story – and that it warmed my heart to see it.
The more I thought of that simple gesture, the more I thought of other unseen aspects of the story. You see – the rest of the story, is the story that I have imagined or even the counter story that might have happened in an alternative (non-Davidson) universe.
Maybe the woman had been a customer at a store or restaurant on Main Street. And maybe she left her wallet behind. Maybe the young man worked at one of those establishments and ran to catch her before she remembered that she had left it behind. Maybe the wallet had fallen out of a purse as she walked toward Spirited Cyclist and Kindred. Perhaps he had seen it fall and picked it up as it fell onto the brick sidewalk of our Main Street.
I imagined, someone finding a wallet or seeing someone drop a wallet – and choosing to walk the other way. Walk, maybe even run in the opposite direction. But, that’s not the story.
Thankfully, a young man ran up to a woman and handed her a wallet. Yep, that’s the story.
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1050 – But What’s in a Number?
Roughly 35 years ago I visited Davidson and Davidson College for the first time. And truth be told, while I was impressed with the academic reputation of Davidson – Lula Bell Houston and the staff of the laundry influenced my decision of where to go to college.
Yes – in addition to a 13: 1 faculty to student ratio – I decided to apply early decision to Davidson based on the fact I could drop off a bag of dirty clothes at the laundry and pick up clean, folded or pressed clothes several days later. And when I arrived on campus, I quickly made sure that all my clothing bore the digits 1-0-5-0 to ensure that all the items in my bag would be in the pile of folded clothes wrapped in brown paper.
This summer, I attended my 30th reunion and proudly added a ribbon to my nametag that said: “I Remember My Laundry Number.” While I remember “1050,” I also remember the women & men who labored among the huge washing machines, dryers, and clothes presses. They did not have easy jobs.
On winter mornings, I typically managed to spend a little more time inside the warm laundry – talking with the people who worked there – all while avoiding the chilly gusts that seemed to funnel into a vortex between the laundry and Belk Dorm. As temperatures rose, I admit to wanting to sneak out more quickly – because of the heat that all those machines generated.
Nearly two dozen people made those machines hum. People like Lula Bell Houston, Harry Lee and Walter Johnson, Denise Sloan, Cecilia and Diane Forney, and Alice Brandon worked for manager – Mrs. Frances Beaver.
Early this afternoon, I stood at the intersection of Main Street and Griffith. A small crowd of Davidson staff, faculty, and friends stood beside the college sign. With the assistance of Davidson Police officers – the traffic at this main intersection in our town came to a halt. In the distance, the flashing lights of a police cruiser led a silent procession. Then the unmistakable sound of horse’s hooves on pavement broke the silence. Following the cruiser and a limo, a horse drawn funeral carriage carried the casket of Mrs. Lula Bell Houston. Those who gathered wanted to pay last respects to woman who dedicated more than 60 years of her life to the college.
The legacy of Mrs. Lula Bell Houston will live on at Davidson with the creation of Lula Bell’s – a resource center for students. A story written about the opening of Lula Bell’s described it in the following way, “Lula Bell’s provides students with professional and winter clothing, textbooks, food, and kitchen supplies. Along with resources for all students, the space will host innovative and informative programming around systemic social issues and life skills, such as financial literacy.”
I smiled the other day when I saw a response to a student’s plea for an “emergency dress belt” for an interview – the response simple said “Lula Bell’s!!!!!”
In 1987, as the editor of the Davidson College yearbook “Quips & Cranks” I wrote the following dedication:
“The 1986-87 – Davidson’s Sesquicentennial Year – edition of the Quips & Cranks is dedicated to all the men and women who work for Davidson College. Their loyalty and dedication make Davidson a truly special place.”
Rest in Peace Mrs. Houston, and thank you for all that you did for me and for thousands of other Davidson students over the years – and for what Lula Bell’s will do for students in the years to come.