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Good news abounds even in bad economic times

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POSTED December 29, 2008 1:02 a.m.
When times are tough, like they are right now with the economy in a condition worse than a beggar’s tattered clothes, all you hear are gloom-and-doom stories about businesses in financial ruin, families losing their homes to foreclosures and people losing their jobs.
But it’s also times like these that bring out the best in people, and whose stories truly stand out like a silver lining being thrown into sharp relief against dark stormy skies. It’s times like these that heroes and saints are made.
Here are some of those heart-warming stories I’ve come across this year. They may have been told and retold a dozen times, but for me they are always worth repeating for the priceless lessons they embody.
There was the story from The Associated Press about the Spungen family in Chicago who gifted their 230 employees with $6.6 million in year-end bonuses even after the Peer Bearing Co. has been sold by the family to a Swedish company.
“My grandfather was always charitable,” was the simple explanation given by the grandson of Peer founder Nathan Spungen to the family’s extreme generosity which, based on the formula (each worker’s years of service) used to determine how much each employee should receive, made Valentin Dima $33,000 richer.
“They treated us like extended family. We won the lottery,” his wife, Maria, was quoted as saying in the story.
The Spungen family members even sent two thank-you cards to each of their employees, one in Spanish and the other in English, along with the checks with a message of gratitude to the workers for their “loyalty and hard work... over the years.”
Then there’s the businessman who played Secret Santa for many years and gave $100 to total strangers at Christmas time. Even in these tough economic times, he continued the tradition — with a difference. No, he did not cut down his charitable giving by cutting the usual amount in half. In fact, he nearly doubled it. Asked why he did that, he simply answered that it’s when people are down that they need even more help.
The heart-warming story from Blairsville, Pennsylvania, was about a farmer who lived such a quiet and unpretentious life that when it was announced after he died that he left his $2 million estate to a small church, the pastor and his 80-member congregation were stunned.
The farmer, John F. Ferguson, who lived in a mobile home, worshipped at the Hopewell United Methodist Church until his death in January 2007.
Another miracle of a story that involved another small church came from Longview, Texas. According to The Associated Press story online, The Rev. Thomas McDaniels of LifeBridge Christian Center made out a deposit slip of $1 million in January 2007 for a new church and then prayed over it in the hope that “one day someone would give us a million dollar gift.” His congregation had been meeting at a local hotel.
On Dec. 2, a business owner the pastor was talking to asked how much they would need to build the church. McDaniels said $1.4 million. The anonymous benefactor did even better than that and wrote the pastor a check for $1.5 million. The church will open in a few weeks, according to the story that ran on Dec. 9.
Closer to home was the uplifting story that came from Linda Tilley of Manteca. A few days before Christmas, a disappointed Tilley contacted the Bulletin asking for help in getting back her family’s inflatable Christmas decorations displayed outside “so that our garden does not look so bare.” Some Grinch came in the dead of night and stole the colorful decorations that brightened up not just the Tilleys’ yard but their neighborhood as well.
A few days after the Bulletin ran the story, Tilley, who is the president of the Manteca Junior Women’s Club, sent another e-mail saying “a man who wanted to remain anonymous came to my house and put up a display” to replace the ones that were stolen.
The man’s generosity did not “diminish the callousness of the original crime, but it sure is wonderful to know that the spirit of giving is alive and well in Manteca,” said a grateful Tilley.
Yes, we hear a lot of bad news especially in these trying times but there are also big and small miracles around us happening around us all the time. 

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