One Hundred Kindnesses by Angela Rieck

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After enduring almost 40 years of New Jersey winters, I find myself hiding from the cold in Key West, Florida.  Surprisingly, there are a number of St Michaels and Oxford residents doing the same thing, more than 2 dozen who winter here or have moved here permanently.  I wonder what it is about this small island that attracts them? Perhaps it is the mornings.

This morning was a typical morning for me.  I awoke at 5 a.m. Always an early riser, sleep is a persistent foe so any time after 4 a.m. is a win.  I left my house around 6 a.m. and headed toward the White Street Pier for the sunrise. I would not be alone. Tourists and residents alike congregate along the long concrete pier to watch the sunrise, nature’s kaleidoscope of pinks, yellows, aquamarine, power blue, teal and azure as the sky and sea exchange colors in the delicate dance of dawn.

I walked past a homeless man scrubbing the granite tiles of the Aids Memorial, I stopped to thank him.  He showed me names of his friends etched on the shiny black granite, his conversation meandered and eventually I thanked him again and continued down the pier.  

A tanned, bright yellow shirted city worker who cleans the beach called out hello, “It is going to be a beautiful day”.  We smiled and returned greetings. I lost count of the number of people who wished me a good morning, it was at least 20.  I removed my dogs’ leashes and watched them scamper along the pier in the predawn light using their noses to pick up familiar scents while running for the sheer delight of exercise. Along the pier were a group of sunrise watchers with their dogs, chatting while staring at the ocean.  A woman called my name and came over. She hadn’t seen me in a while and wanted to make sure I was okay. My dog jumped up on a tourist, he smiled and pet him.

My destination is always the end of the pier, where my husband’s ashes have now settled into the sediment.  Other onlookers seemed to sense my need for space and respectfully moved away.

A dog ran up to play with my dog Gus, they were fellow inmates at the SPCA while awaiting adoption.  They remembered each other and celebrated their new lives.

As I walked down, I saw someone cleaning up some other dog’s poop.  She smiled and I handed her a bag, in case she needed another.

As I left the pier, more “good mornings.” Another homeless man waved to me, my dog ran to his familiar friend and they exchanged happy greetings.

A couple of tourists looked lost, someone saw them studying a map and asked them if they needed directions.  They were looking for a good place for breakfast, a crowd of helpful residents descended around the map offering suggestions.

Returning home, I crossed the street at a crosswalk, an angry driver in a large pickup almost ran me over, while shouting out an obscenity.

I stop. How will I describe this morning?  Will it be the hundreds of kindnesses I experienced or this moment of anger?

I get to choose.

Angela Rieck was born and raised on a farm in Caroline County. After receiving her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland, she worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Throughout her career, she held management jobs at AT&T, HP and Medco, finally retiring as a corporate executive for a large financial services company. Angela is also a wife, mother and an active volunteer serving on the Morris County School Board for 13 years and fostering and rehabilitating over 200 dogs. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rieck returned to the Eastern Shore to be with her siblings. With a daughter living and working in New York City, she and her dogs now split their time between Talbot County and Key West, FL.  

 

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