It's a big world out there, and people need help

Sunday , March 11, 2018 - 4:00 AM

E. KENT WINWARD, special to the Standard-Examiner

Elizabeth Mcintyre sustained a traumatic brain injury, leaving her unable to function as an employee for the Second District Court, a job she'd held for years. Becoming disabled was a tragedy, but Elizabeth’s body has also turned against her. She's had to have vital organs removed, and the remaining ones are failing. Elizabeth is living on borrowed time.

I knew Elizabeth from my legal practice, but hadn't had contact with her since late last summer. While attending an Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce meeting last week, I ran into Elizabeth and found out a friend of hers had started a new business, based on Elizabeth’s idea, called Deliberate Kindness. Deliberate Kindness is a gift service, delivering customized or ready-made "care packages" to surprise someone or let them know they are in your thoughts.

As Elizabeth faces a very real sense of mortality, she's chosen to focus on spreading kindness, and in the process, creating a viable business for her friend that will continue to allow people to keep spreading good feelings long after she is gone. The fervor with which Elizabeth aids this business is one that only comes with an individual's keen awareness of how precious, yet limited, our time is on this earth.

I ended up at the Ogden-Weber Chamber meetings because I am now part owner of Ogden’s newest bookstore, Booked on 25th. In the age of Amazon and instant digital communication, books seem a little nostalgic and quaint, and certainly not a path to riches. Simply getting people to read books feels like Elizabeth’s quest to spread kindness in the age of social-media partisanship and division, a seemingly quixotic dream to make the world a better place.

I’d never really tried to be involved in the Ogden-Weber Chamber as a consumer bankruptcy attorney, because I’ve long felt that no one really wants to talk to me in that capacity (unless, of course, they absolutely have to.) The last thing people want while they promote their business efforts at Chamber meetings is a bankruptcy attorney showing up, trailing a black cloud of doom behind him.

I became a member of the Ogden-Weber Chamber to represent the bookstore, and pretty soon, I found myself immersed in an entirely different world. I anticipated an onslaught of people promoting their own businesses and interests, which is fine. I appreciate commerce as much as the next business owner, even if self-promotion has never fit my temperament very well.

Yet as I immersed myself into this culture of business, something surprising struck me. I realized that many of the people around me were much like Elizabeth, wanting to do something that will make our community better. Sure, everyone wants to make a living, but the Chamber is filled with people and groups who are all about lifting up the community as a whole.

Janet Teuller shows up to meetings as volunteer coordinator for Encompass Home Health and Hospice, seeking volunteers to visit and help with the homebound and ill.

At the last function I went to, I ended up sitting next to the representatives of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Weber-Davis. The Boys and Girls Clubs give over 1,000 children in our community a place to go after school with multiple locations throughout the county.

Next I spoke with the representatives from the YCC Family Crisis Center. The YCC has been around for over 70 years, providing a safe haven for families in crisis from domestic violence and sexual assault. Its goal? To make Utah the best and safest place to raise a family. YCC staffers were at the Chamber to find people to help amplify their efforts (and raise funds).

Of course, I also ran into people selling copy machines, real estate, insurance and cars, and they too seemed driven by a desire to make the community a better place — even if that involves a windshield repair or seeking better online reviews. It seems there might even be a place for a consumer bankruptcy attorney, who wants to give a fresh start to those struggling financially. So my law firm joined, too.

We get closeted in our daily routines and forget there is a much bigger world out there, even within our small community. People need help. People want to help. Get out of your house. Join the Chamber. Volunteer for Boys and Girls Clubs or the YCC. Visit our older citizens. Get out of your comfort zone.

Figure out, like Elizabeth has, what you want your legacy to be, then go out and make it happen. If we all did just one thing differently, if we all reached out to others, the world would be a better, and kinder place.

E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. Twitter: @KentWinward.

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