The human heart can bridge any distance and heal any wound
"A good deed produces another good deed."
In the spirit of gratitude for acts of spontaneous kindness, I brought to you recently the story of the man who tore open his package of toilet paper in the checkout line of a store in order to give half of it to a woman in front of him who had missed out on buying toilet paper for her family because the horde had already cleaned out the shelves before she got there.
This week, the winner of my spontaneous kindness award goes to the people of Ireland. The story about their kindness appeared in the New York Times on May 5 written by Ed O'Loughlin and Mihir Zaveri and titled, "Irish Return an Old Favor, Helping Native Americans Battling the Virus." This is the story:
In 1847 members of the Choctaw tribe of Native Americans sent $170 ($5,000 in today's money) to the people of Ireland who were suffering terribly in the Irish potato famine where it was estimated that over one million people, mostly subsistence farmers, died of disease and hunger between 1845 and 1849.
"Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter, a historian at University College Dublin and co-author, with the writer Colm Toibin, of the book 'The Irish Famine,' said that awareness of the Choctaw donation to Irish famine relief had increased sharply since the commemoration of the famine's 150th anniversary in 1995. The president of Ireland at the time, Mary Robinson, had visited the Choctaws in Oklahoma to thank them. Two years ago, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also paid them a visit.
"It showed how far the famine resonated that it reached people 4,000 miles away who had themselves recently suffered terrible deprivation and clearance from their land," Professor Ferriter said.
There is even a memorial garden and sculpture in Midelton, Ireland, commemorating the Choctaw's gift.
In thankful remembrance for their compassionate gift, a charity was recently established in Ireland to send relief money to the Hopi and Navajo nations who are suffering high rates of death and infection in the COVID pandemic with the Navajo Nation reporting more than 2,700 cases and 70 deaths thus far. As with all economically stressed communities, these high rates of infection and death are the result of high rates of diabetes, scarcity of running water and homes with several generations living under the same roof. The Hopi reservation is surrounded by the Navajo Nation.
As of Tuesday, the Irish fundraiser has raised almost $2 million dollars.
The greatness of the Choctaw gift to the Irish people was not merely that they were living so far away from Ireland but also that it came just a few years after their own tragedy. The United States government forcibly relocated the tribe and several other Native American tribes from the southwest of the United States. The relocation took the form of a brutal march across thousands of miles of wasteland, a march known as the "Trail of Tears." It left thousands of people dead along the way. The Choctaws were one of the first tribes relocated in 1831.