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Thursday, June 24, 2021

    A Reciprocal Act of Kindness

    Mike Ruby
    A Muscatine resident for over forty years, Mike Ruby had careers both as a teacher at Muscatine High school and as a writer for nonprofit companies. Now retired, Ruby continues to cultivate his love for writing by contributing monthly Ruby's Reflections to Discover Muscatine newspaper.

    Muscatine Living

    I well remember the unusually brutal winter of 1979, with record amounts of snowfall and endless weeks of bitterly cold temperatures. The snow was piled so high on both sides of our driveway that I could barely throw it high enough so it wouldn’t slide back down.

    Going for a walk when it’s snowing and the temperatures are cold is something I enjoy doing, as long as I’m bundled up, dressed for the adventure. While out for a walk during that winter, I spotted a lady on Mulberry Avenue with a shovel digging out her car that was deeply entrenched in the snow-packed driveway. It was about 5 p.m. and getting dark quickly. It was evident she had been spinning the wheels and getting nowhere, and she wasn’t making much progress with her shovel. No doubt she was exhausted, frustrated, and cold.

    Not wanting to startle her, I slowly approached with my offer to help. Relieved that a stranger had come to her rescue, she took my suggestion to get in her car to warm up and I’d do the shoveling. After several minutes of hard work, I asked her to put the car in reverse and, “gun it”. It worked! With a broad smile on her face, she not only thanked me profusely, but she wanted to pay me. Realizing I would not accept money, she asked for my name and address. I gave her the information and proceeded on my walk.

    To my surprise, just a few days later, this dear lady showed up on our doorstep with a large package of chicken drumsticks from Hy-Vee and again thanked me profusely. We had a short chat and I asked her name, Catherine Miller. A few years later, I learned that Catherine was a highly regarded educator who taught Spanish and French at Muscatine Community College and Muscatine High School from 1942 – 1974. She was a world-wide traveler, giving her students once-in-a-lifetime experiences. She died in Feb. 2008 at age 99, and when I read her obituary I realized what a Muscatine treasure she was. I regret not taking the initiative during the years following the “snowbound car incident” to get better acquainted with this delightful lady.

    Every winter, I recall that reciprocal act of kindness that occurred 42 years ago. Helping Catherine Miller out of a jam was my pleasure, and then to receive a totally unexpected gift for my kindness was a special time for both of us.

    What unexpected acts of kindness have you received?

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