From an early Star Wars screener to a much overdue diploma to a pay-it-forward coming back around, here are a few good things that happened this week:
In September, doctors diagnosed Daniel Fleetwood with spindle cell sarcoma—a rare tissue cancer, giving him two months to live. A life-long Star Wars fan, Fleetwood’s dying wish was to see the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, knowing he probably wouldn’t make it to the Dec. 18 release date. His wife, Ashley, launched an online campaign to get him an early screener. Eventually, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and other actors in the upcoming film tweeted supported for Fleetwood’s wish. This week, J.J. Abrams called Fleetwood and told him that Lucasfilm wanted show him an early, unedited version of the upcoming Star Wars film. The next day, the couple were given a screening of the movie.
Back in the 1930s, Margaret Bekema was forced to drop out of high school in order to take care of her three younger siblings after her mom died. Even though Bekema went on to work for the armed forces and teach preschool, she always wished she could have gotten her diploma. Now, nearly 80 years after she was originally supposed to graduate, Bekema finally got her wish. Her school, Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, presented her with an honorary diploma in a small ceremony at the senior community where Bekema now lives. Now 97 years old, Bekema couldn’t quite hold back tears of joy as she donned a graduation cap and finally got her diploma.
Julian Hernandez went missing in the fall of 2002 when he was only 5 years old. He had been living with his mother in Alabama, and authorities suspected his father had taken him in what’s called a “noncustodial parental abduction.” There was no sign of him for the next 13 years. As it turned out, Hernandez was living with his father in Ohio, unaware that he was listed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database. He only found out when he went to apply for college and had problems with his Social Security number, which led to the FBI identifying him and notifying his mother and his family that he was safe and sound.
Almost 50 years ago, Cedric Steele picked up a hitchhiker during a trip to the Bahamas. When he dropped the hitchhiker off, Steele gave him $50, telling the man to pay it forward when he got a chance. That hitchhiker, Iain Reddish, took the idea to heart. According to the Times Colonist:
He became an international environmental lobbyist, rattling political cages around the world. Everywhere he went—five continents, 50 or 60 countries—he picked up hitchhikers, sometimes buying them a coffee or a muffin, sometimes giving them a bit of money. “Then I’d tell them the story of how Cedric stopped for me all those years ago.” Pay it forward.
Last week, Reddish once again helped out a down-on-his-luck stranger on the street. But when he launched into the story of Steele’s original good deed, the man cut him off, saying he had heard the story before. It turned out one of the man’s relatives had heard the story from someone who offered him a ride in Namibia, and Reddish had no idea how it had traveled so far. From just one simple act of kindness 47 years before, Steele had become somewhat of an urban legend that had traveled around the globe in pay-it-forward events.
Reddish decided to look up Steele and called to tell him about the ripple effect his generosity had. He and Steele plan to meet up in Europe next year.
When University of Iowa police officer Don Strong stopped a car for a broken brake light last weekend, he noticed that none of the six children in the back were secured in car seats. Citations for the incident would have cost the family around $1,200, but Strong decided to take a different approach. “Giving them $1,200 in citations is not going to get them any closer to getting new car seats or getting them properly put in,” he told a local paper. “If we educate them and get them on the right path, that’s what we’re here for. We’re not here to write everyone a ticket. We’re here to educate and keep everyone safe, especially kids.” When he couldn’t round up car seats that are available to police officers from the city’s fire station, Strong escorted the family to Walmart, bought them car seats and booster seats for the kids and showed them how to install the seats.
J.K. Rowling has said she won’t write another Harry Potter novel, but in an interview on BBC Radio this week, she revealed that she is working on another children’s book. She didn’t give an expected release date, but another kids’ book from the imaginative author can only be good news.
Dargan is a former RELEVANT editor turned freelancer. Find her online at darganthompson.com or follow her extremely random train of thought on Twitter @darganthompson.