Paying It Forward - The Missourian: Opinion

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Paying It Forward

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 6:32 pm

One of the pleasures of working in community journalism is being able to share the stories that inspire and uplift.

Missourian Features Editor Karen Cernich told one of those stories in the Weekend Missourian when she wrote about how a group of local students were profoundly impacted by a chance encounter with a stranger.

The incident occurred last month after a group of seventh-grade students from St. Gertrude School in Krakow stopped at a restaurant in Pacific after returning from a field trip to the Holocaust Museum in St. Louis.

When one of the teachers attempted to pay the $500-plus bill she was told it was already taken care of by another patron in the restaurant.

Turns out that patron was a retired teacher from St. Charles. She had a chance to observe and interact with the students and was so impressed with how well-behaved the students were that she picked up the lunch tab for the whole group.

That random act of kindness resonated with the students who were feeling somber and depressed after experiencing the atrocities relayed at the Holocaust Museum. They were stunned by the former teacher’s generosity.

After witnessing the lessons of hate, discrimination and genocide, they witnessed an act of selfless kindness just a few hours later.

That lesson left an impression.

Inspired by what had happened, the students returned to school and began discussing ways they could repay this act of kindness in their community. They decided to volunteer at local free community meal events. They also made cash donations using the money they would have used to pay at the restaurant.

We have a feeling the students from St. Gertrude will continue to “pay it forward” as the saying goes.

It’s a great story. We can all use a little unexpected act of kindness once in a while.

The events in Boston Monday are painful reminders of the hate and evil that still exist in this world.

The Holocaust Museum has an exhibit that features a 65-inch touch screen that chronicles the hate-fueled violence from Nazi Germany to genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

Visitors can touch the screen to see a global map with examples of where hate-filled crimes have occurred. The exhibit is updated as new examples of hate and discrimination arise. It is probably only a matter of time when Boston is added to the exhibit.

So when someone does something like the teacher did for the St. Gertrude students, it restores our faith in humanity and also reminds us that there are still good people in the world.

It also reminds us that a little kindness can go a long way.

/opinion