I brought Bill his TV this morning, he was so shocked and bewildered I worried about him for a minute.
Then I saw he was tearing up. For these past few weeks, since he came to the Mansion, he was the only resident without a TV. The aides often found him sitting by himself in the Great Room, he seemed alone.
He looked at the TV and just kept shaking his head.
“Why are you so nice to me?” he asked. “Who are these people who send you money to help us?”
Bill is all set for the moment.
He has his razor, plenty of blades, deodorant, body wash, shampoo, some books, and now, every single person at the Mansion can watch TV in their own rooms.
It was my turn to be thrown off a bit by Bill’s question.
Most of the Mansion residents know me well by now and are familiar with the mysterious – to them – workings of the Army of Good.
Many of the residents know more about the people in the Army of Good than I do; they are penpals and send clothing, games, crafts, and clothes, often without my knowing.
The Army of Food has funded their boat rides, gardens, arts and crafts, air conditioners, books, movies and games, clothes, and blankets.
It’s been a long time that anyone asked me so directly about the Army of Good. I guess I take it for granted at times.
It’s a good story, the Army Of Good, I can tell by how riveted people are when they hear it. It chokes me up when I tell it, all these people out there who want to do good, almost all of whom I have never met and perhaps never will. I am grateful for their trust, faith, and goodness of heart.
I told Bill what I could about the Army of Good. I don’t know where they are, how many there are, how wealthy or poor they are. I know that wanting to do good was the only core requirement for membership, which is informal and unofficial: no membership lists, e-mail lists, cards, or requirements.
I told him it began in 2016 when I made the choice to do good rather than to argue about what good was.
I didn’t realize how many people felt the same way. I went to work finding a way into the refugee company – Bishop Maginn High School was that – and getting to know the residents in The Mansion Assisted Care Facility.
I thought we should focus on the people in those institutions rather than try to deal with the whole world. I think that has worked beautifully.
The thing that binds us is the idea of small acts of great kindness. We don’t save lives on a small scale; we help people find their dreams, be more comfortable, get the shoes or shampoo and socks they want and need.
We provide brain food in the name of puzzles, books, and films. We sponsor art shows and painting exercises.
We keep them warm in winter and cool in summer; we have a network of thrift and confinements stores to call on when things get out of hand.
I’m not sure I have the words to describe it, other than that it is a beautiful army and a peaceful and loving one.
Bill looked at me curiously, still puzzled. “Well, whoever you all are,” he said, “I really want to thank you. This is the nicest anyone has been to me in my whole life, and I want to thank you, whoever you are.
I think I left him puzzled but grateful. I can tell he is not used to people being nice.
So I want to thank you. This has been one of the most intense weeks in my Mansion experience – it seems everyone inside was waiting for the pandemic to end before asking for what they need. There are also a lot of new people there and some familiar faces gone.
I’m catching up.
The Mansion Fund is close to empty, but everyone who asked for help got it. One man’s sneakers are on the way, two orders of sports bras, a Koala bear is all that remains on the list.
We could sure use some Wal-Mart Gift Cards. They need to be activated by e-mail (watch for it) if they are more than $300 total and sent to me, Jon Katz, 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.
You can purchase them in any amount.
If you’d prefer for me to buy them, you can send donations via Paypal or Venmo, [email protected], or check to Jon Katz, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.
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