Peace on Earth, acts of kindness and Chicago

On this Christmas Day, we thought we would revisit stories of people who went out of their way for others this year, as told by Sun-Times reporters.

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George Zaremba, who took up art late in life in part to better cope with having Parkinson’s disease, stands in front of a mural he created to honor soldiers who served in Vietnam. The mural is on the corner of North Sacramento Boulevard and West Carroll Avenue.

George Zaremba, who took up art late in life in part to better cope with having Parkinson’s disease, stands in front of a mural he created to honor soldiers who served in Vietnam. The mural is on the corner of North Sacramento Boulevard and West Carroll Avenue.

Santiago Covarrubias

Merry Christmas to you, Betsy Buckley.

A little girl, just 4 years old, is alive today because you were brave and kind. She was trapped in a car that was seconds from being hit by a freight train in La Grange when you rushed forward and freed her.

Happy holidays, Candice Payne.

On the coldest days of last winter, when the temperature plunged to 20 degrees below zero, you rented rooms in a hotel on the South Side for 122 homeless people.

Thank you, Phil Fensel.

You took your guitar to local hospitals all year round and, as part of a nonprofit group called Musicians On Call, sang songs to sick children. Was it you who sang a song from “The Lion King” to a little boy who was feeling sad because he could not go on a field trip with his classmates?

Yes, it was.

Peace on earth begins with kindness. The rest, as all the great religions know, is commentary.

Editorials bug

Editorials

On this Christmas Day, we thought we would revisit some of those acts of kindness, as reported by the Sun-Times throughout the year.

We wrote this past summer about a nest of Great Lakes piping plovers, an endangered species, found on Montrose Beach. Even in the best of cases, the survival rate for the birds is poor. But this was a nest on the ground in a city full of cats, rats, coyotes and endless other predators. Worse, a music fest was coming.

A small army of bird lovers took up the plovers’ cause. They convinced the festival’s organizers to cancel the event. They roped off the nesting area and stood guard night and day. Two chicks survived, fledged and flew away.

Thank you, birders.

We wrote about a band of doctors and fellow volunteers who ride around town in a van for the Night Ministry, a local nonprofit, bringing medical care to the men and women who sleep in tents beneath viaducts.

“Night Ministry!” Dr. Ralph Ryan would call out. “How are you doing in there? Do you need anything? Any help? I’m a doctor.”

Dr. Ryan would not leave until he had done all he could.

We told you about Shante Elliott, a former foster care child who created a program, TassellTurn, to help tutor other foster care children and get them through high school.

We told you about Jamyle Cannon, a former boxer who set up The Bloc, a nonprofit boxing gym on the West Side for kids who need a purpose and a home. The gym offers school tutoring, too.

Cannon was once lost himself, arrested at age 13 for something or other.

“They can come and have a sense of belonging here,” he told the Sun-Times.

We told you about The People’s Music School in Bronzeville, where music lessons — from hip hop to Beethoven — are free. We are reminded of how Benny Goodman learned to play the clarinet at Jane Addams’ Hull House.

There was the Sun-Times story of 200 volunteers who worked in freezing rain to decorate Martin Luther King Drive for Christmas.

There was the story of volunteers who gave tours of North Lawndale, organized by the nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City, just to make the point that the neighborhood has a rich history and vital present. The West Side is not all about poverty and crime.

There was the story of the Chicago’s White Sox oldest fan, CP Crawford. The Sox treated him like a rock star in September when he attended his very first game. They walked him onto the field, introduced him to Hall of Famer Harold Baines and put his face up on the Jumbotron. And when Mr. Crawford died last month, the Sox picked up the unpaid balance on the bill for his funeral.

There was the story of George Zaremba, a real estate broker who took up painting to cope with his Parkinson’s disease and created a mural on the West Side to honor American soldiers who served in Vietnam. It features the faces of two soldiers bookending a scene of three soldiers’ silhouettes. There is a rifle propping up a helmet and the words “WE REMEMBER.”

Soldiers who serve in wars today are “coming back as heroes,” Zaremba said, and he wishes soldiers coming back from Vietnam had been treated the same.

Acts of kindness, big and small.

In a city said to be a tough guy.

Not exactly peace on Earth, but a lot of good people are trying.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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