For World Kindness Day, What’s Your Good Deed?

Several months ago my parents and I had breakfast at a neighborhood restaurant in Cleveland. After finishing our meal I asked the server for the check. “It’s already been taken care of,” she said. “What?” I asked, thinking I had misunderstood her. She explained that another patron paid our bill and left. “He does stuff like that all the time,” she said. My parents and I received a random act of kindness. And it made our day. Donate to help …

What They Saw in Me

When I was 8 years old, my teacher told my parents that I was failing third grade, that I was mentally retarded (a label used frequently in those days) and that I was essentially unteachable. Thankfully, she didn’t have the last word. Three adults in my neighborhood – a barber, a Methodist minister and a friend’s mother – saw something in me that neither my teacher nor my parents could see. With their strong encouragement and even stronger discipline, I …

Why We Should Rise to the Pope’s Challenge

En español | Today I was honored to attend the White House arrival ceremony for Pope Francis. Along with the president and the first lady, my husband and other invited guests, I witnessed firsthand the pope’s energy and style, as he dove into his much-anticipated visit to the United States. Pope Francis engenders incredible enthusiasm wherever he goes. So whether it’s social media (#followfrancis), politics (meeting with President Obama and addressing Congress) or the cities he visits (closed streets and …

A Recipe for Success: Cookies and Second Chances

Mary Jane Ward is receiving a very special present on her 55th birthday — a graduation certificate from Together We Bake (TWB), a nonprofit that teaches life and culinary skills to women who need a second chance. Once homeless and despondent over her future, Ward is excited to see where her new skills in baking, food safety and customer service, along with her ServSafe certification, will take her. All 12 women who started  the eight-week course completed it, and about 75 …

A Warm Atmosphere at a Hypothermia Shelter

Soft, melodic piano chords fill the sanctuary of the Church of St. Clement in Alexandria, Va., early one morning. I get up from my cot to investigate. A man is thoughtfully creating music on the church piano. He pauses between chords, listening, thinking. “That’s beautiful,” I tell him. “You must be a professional.” Yes, he was, the former hip-hop musician tells me. He continues, speaking softly, gesturing with his hands. “Creating music is like building with Legos. It’s all about building …

For Many Veterans, the Battles Don’t End With the War

It seems so easy. We pass a veteran in uniform in an airport or on the street and we nod and say, “Thank you for your service.” It is a gracious greeting that is much appreciated by these men and women who have fought or stood bravely for the ideals of freedom for which America stands. But the fact is that, though veterans respond in kind to appreciation, many have brought the battlefield home with them in various ways. >> …