VOICES: Appreciating the “kindness heroes” in my community

Sean Mitchell
Sean Mitchell

I love this community! Growing up in a small town not far from the city, I never would have expected to exclaim such a phrase, but here we are.

In the past few years there has been a resurgence of “kindness heroes” in movies, television and social media. It is hard to scroll through our media feeds without seeing a reference to Mr. Rogers or Bob Ross and their wisdom on a lifestyle of simply being nice. I can’t tell you the number of times I find myself talking jubilantly with someone about Ted Lasso or The Great British Bakeoff, two shows that are lauded for how sweet they are and the joy that they bring to others.

While this would seem encouraging, I also hear the misconceptions and misinformation about of Mr. Rogers being a military sniper with a sleeve of tattoos (I am not sure what is wrong with tattoos, I like them, personally) or that Ted Lasso is talking too much about grief and feelings of sadness. I firmly believe that, as a society, we can’t imagine a person — real or fictional — who can be that honest and true. I, however, have faith in people and believe that, not only can these people exist, I know for a fact they do exist.

I’ve been lucky enough in my career in local non-profits to be on the front lines and see the true magic of this city. Magic that is demonstrated in the people of our community who come together to give, to help and to build something that is meaningful. I have watched businesses and faith leaders come together to publicly denounce hate on our streets. I have watched more than a thousand volunteers in one week work to rebuild a community broken by nature. And I’ve watched countless locals and strangers alike give time and money — things they had little enough of as it was — to causes that help reduce the struggles that we all see regularly.

My favorite stories are always those of a young child having a birthday party to collect donations rather than presents, or an elderly individual increasing their monthly donation by five dollars even though they are on a fixed income and strict budget. I have spent time with vice presidents of large companies sorting canned goods and watched as the experience changed their views on treatment options for individuals living with addiction, or how they treat and view formerly incarcerated individuals. I once even saw a manager of a business hire a court-ordered volunteer on the spot because of their conversation about problems with our legal system while volunteering. These are all situations in which those who are giving are doing so not for recognition, but for that rewarding feeling that one gets when they give.

The empathy and compassion involved in these decisions and having the opportunity to see the smiles and sense of relief coming from those receiving the benefits of giving — that is a sight that would fuel positivity even in Ebenezer Scrooge himself. While I am thrilled I can turn on my television to get a boost of serotonin from “kindness heroes,” I am far more grateful for my constant adoration of this community that comes from just being able to have dinner or drinks, or volunteer and advocate next to a neighbor who leads with love.

To you, my neighbor, I am thankful for and love you!

Sean Mitchell has worked for various downtown nonprofits and human service organizations over the last decade. He has a passion for all things Dayton and — most importantly — its people.

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