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Steve Hansen: The power of kindness

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Posted: Tuesday, January 9, 2018 4:11 pm

Viewing images from one event can often lead to unrelated memories from another.

While watching college marching bands in the Rose Parade last week, I suddenly remembered a story that I hadnÕt thought about in decades. I was 8 years old at the time and living in Ann Arbor Ñ home of the University of Michigan and their famous Wolverines football team.

We only lived a few blocks from the stadium. When a game was over, traffic near my home was always non-stop and bumper-to-bumper.

On one particular day, I had forgotten that a game had been scheduled. A friend lived nearby, and I walked to his house for an afternoon of fun and games. A busy street needed to be crossed to reach my destination, as well as return home.

It was a late sunny and cold fall afternoon when I left DavidÕs place and turned toward my house located on Olivia Avenue. There were no stop signs to slow the aforementioned traffic leaving the stadium.

Nobody driving on Wells Street would give the right-of-way to an 8-year-old boy. The cars continued like a never-ending freight train with no end in sight. I stood on the corner waiting to cross for what seemed to a young person like endless hours.

But suddenly, all traffic stopped. Everything went strangely quiet except for the soft purr of idling engines. I looked up and noticed a black 1950 Ford had blocked the intersection. A uniformed police officer had stopped traffic in all directions. He motioned with his left hand to come his way.

I pointed to myself and said Òme?Ó I couldnÕt believe all adult traffic had been halted to let a little boy cross the street. He motioned again.

With head held high, I marched across the intersection, as if the world had stopped for a limousine belonging to the president of the United States.

I remember feeling shock that such an act of kindness had happened Ñ especially in a sea of football fans, who seemed to care about nothing other than returning home for another round of pretzels and beer.

I thanked the officer, but he just gave a small wave and returned to his squad car. It was as if he didnÕt want to be seen as a hero. My guess was the cop simply saw himself as a person doing the right thing, and all within the duties of his daily routine.

After his departure, cars immediately returned to a never-ending flow, as if nothing had happened.

What makes this story amazing to me is that I recall it so well after more than a half century later. IÕm certain the officer forgot about it within a week. As for the football fans? This experience probably made no impressions, and IÕm sure none still living would remember it today.

But as for me, it demonstrated the overwhelming power of a simple act of kindness.

Perhaps some might argue the officer was simply doing his duty, and it was no big deal.

But other cops might have passed by the situation or perhaps not even noticed. From the perspective of a second-grader who did not expect anything like this, it had a completely different meaning. I learned early in life the following lesson:

We have opportunities to go out of our way and be kind to others on a daily basis. What can seem like something that is no big deal to us may be remembered by a grateful recipient for many years to come.

One good deed can lead to another- and well, I think you get the big picture.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.