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For those of you old enough to remember, Elvis’ death in 1977 was an emotional disaster for many people. I wasn’t one of them. Embarrassingly, I was late to Elvis, late to the Beatles and late to the Beach Boys. But I came around quickly. What a treasure trove of music for music lovers! I’m still reveling in all of it.
But I was a bit melancholy in the late 50’s when Elvis went to Germany to serve his country. It seemed like his absence was America’s loss. A young neighbor of mine at the time, named “Holly,” pretended to go around the corner at the end of our street to “visit Elvis.” She came back quickly. But time moved on and Elvis came back. We were there waiting for him.
Yet, when Elvis lost his life to substance abuse, it was hard for me to cry. I would come to realize that we want people to safeguard their lives and not fall victim to their own poor decisions. Still, we miss him and his music.
While I may not completely remember my reaction to Elvis’ death, I do recall the Woolworth’s Department Store in Pawtucket, RI in the 1950’s. A big draw was the lunch counter. I still remember the distinctly appealing scent of food cooking and popcorn. The lunch counter was on the left, beckoning us, no matter what our purpose for visiting. I would go there with my mother. We would ride the elevator to the upper floors where the “good stuff” was. Just to look, of course.
It seemed inevitable that we would sit at the lunch counter eating hot dogs with mustard. The “Lunch Counter Lady,” who we’ll call “Rita”, called out to the grill cook “two pigs in a yellow blanket.” My mother and I laughed so hard!
She never said it, but the hot dogs might have been all my mother could afford in the post-War period. Even so, those were great times for a young boy from a brick mill town. I never knew we were struggling to get by. I felt loved, cared for and yes, even rich.
Rita kept the lunch counter clean and shining. In the background, in the center of the floor, the whirring elevator “pinged” when it reached the destination levels. The floors of the departments were kept shiny clean by a young man who loved dancing. We’ll call him “Eddie.”
Eddie fancied Rita. They danced the Waltz together late at night in the aisles of the Woolworth store. They eventually married. They lost a child. They eventually separated. They eventually reunited. Making love stay is difficult when it starts at the Five and Dime. It seems more difficult today. Yet, we all keep on trying. Like Rita and Eddie.
When they danced late at night they would sing...
“Dance a little closer to me
Hey, dance a little closer now
Dance a little closer tonight
‘Cause it’s closing time
And love’s on sale, here at this Five and Dime”¹
“Ping" “Going up!”
To whatever life holds in store for us…
The Make Life Good! Team
¹ R.I.P. Nanci Griffith, Purveyor of Music, Love and “Folkabilly”, 7/6/53 - 8/13/21
Dover Road meanders its way from Millis Massachusetts through the beautiful countryside towns of Dover and Needham to Newton, connecting with Route 9 at a convenient junction that greatly eases a trip to Brookline, just five miles to the East. Along the way, horse pastures, small ponds, lakes, and patches of yellow flowers punctuate the adjacent landscapes, not to mention multi-million dollar homes and estates. Dover is Massachusetts’ wealthiest town.
I discovered Dover Road about seven years ago, as I sought a route that would avoid Route 495 and much of Route 9. Traveling it for the first time, I couldn’t believe what I found. I pretended that it was my “secret route” that no one else could use.
But my fantasy was short-lived.
Dover Road is a short cut for many wealthy people who live along the route and who travel to the hospitals of Brookline and elsewhere for work. Yet I pretended that I was alone on the road, wearing an “Invisibility Cloak” to hide my fears from others on the Road.
But my destination today is a place of victory. A place without fear.
I love the idea of returning to a place of victory, whether it is in-person or in one’s mind. It is so exciting and tremendously satisfying. Here are some people who returned to their personal place of victory:
It is MacArthur returning to the Philippines.
It is the American Army marching down the Champs Elysees on August 29, 1944.
It is Lovell, Young and Cernan returning to the moon.
It is Brady returning to Gillette.
It is Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”
It is the D-Day survivors returning to the Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches, perhaps for the last time.
Today, April 27, 2021, I am all of them. They are within me. My victory is much less spectacular, but no less meaningful. When I arrive at my place of victory, I will meet other victors. I don’t know them. We are a special army. Although we fought our battles independently, we were always connected. We came from around the world to fight our battles, yet we fought in the same war at the same time.
And today, I will be given a new name: “Survivor.”
We survivors will meet each year at our place of victory, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Brookline, to share our stories. Over the last seven years we all took different roads to get there, but one year from now, I know I’ll be taking Dover Road to join them. Wearing my brave face. Wearing my victor’s armor. Shedding my Invisible Cloak. Kicking fear to the pavement.
What a beautiful journey it will be…..
David J. Wudyka
The Make Life Good! Team
On January 6, 2018, Michael Kristof, an editorial writer from The New York Times, proclaimed 2017 “the best year ever.” Here are some of the impressive list of accomplishments affecting human welfare in 2017 that he brought to our attention as proof:
- A smaller share of the world’s people were impoverished, illiterate, or hungry
- A smaller number of children died
- Every day more people have access to electricity
- More people gained access to drinking water
- More children’s lives were saved by vaccinations
- Fewer people have been blinded by diseases such as trachoma, disfigured by leprosy or suffer from other ailments in general
Did I miss something?
While impressive, there must be more to this story. Let’s balance this view with a look at some other, quite different, events of 2017:
- President Trump took office
- Las Vegas Strip shooting
- Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting
- Hurricane Irma
- Bombing at UK Ariana Grande Concert
- Hurricane Harvey
- Texas Church Shooting
- Orlando Police Shooting
- San Bernardino shooting
- Hurricane Maria
- Southern California wildfires
- Death of Tom Petty
…and many more
So what’s up here? Your list may be different, but it’s clear that 2017 may have been great in some ways, but certainly not in others.
It turns out that, in 2017, Mr. Kristof also wrote about positive life changing achievements in 2016, against the backdrop of the world’s negative news stories. He will probably do so again in 2019 about 2018. His real message this year, and in all years, is that our progress should empower us to battle the world’s “moral threats.” There are certainly many of them to attack.
At The Make Life Good Company, each day we see far too many people who appear to have missed the train of success, who received the “bad hand,” or who simply need a friend. We are saddened by our observations. That’s why we strive to “remind, encourage and inspire” people to make life good for others.
It would be wrong for all of us to think we are done now because of our achievements in 2017, no matter how impressive they may have been.
But we don’t think you will.
Together, let’s make 2019 the “best year ever!”
The Make Life Good Team
The Make Life Good Company Contributes to the Recently-Dedicated Station Nightclub Fire Memorial Park
The Make Life Good Company, a social good lifestyle products company, was one of many individual and corporate contributors to the construction of the Station Fire Memorial Park in West Warwick, R.I., which was dedicated recently (5/21/17) to honor the 100 music fans who perished in the Station Nightclub fire on February 20, 2003.
The Make Life Good Company donated one of hundreds of bricks used for pathways throughout the memorial park. It is inscribed with the words "The Make Life Good Company" with an emphasis on the words "Make Life Good."
"The park is a lasting memorial to all those who were killed and injured as a result of the fire and we wanted to contribute in our own small way to all of those who were affected by the fire," says David J. Wudyka, president of The Make Life Good Company. "Our contribution of a brick represents our hope that all of those who visit the memorial park in the decades to come will be always mindful of taking actions that do, in fact, Make Life Good for others, including protecting people from an event like this from ever happening again."
The fire on Thursday evening, February 20, 2003, was caused by pyrotechnics set off by the tour manager of the band Great White, which ignited plastic foam used as sound insulation in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage of the Station Nightclub. A fast-moving fire with intense black smoke engulfed the club in less than six minutes. Video footage of the fire shows its ignition, rapid growth, the billowing smoke that quickly made escape impossible, and the exit blockage that further hindered evacuation. The toxic smoke, heat and the stampede of people toward the exits killed 100; 230 were injured and another 132 escaped uninjured.
The dedication ceremony was attended by hundreds of family and friends of those who died and many of the more of the injured survivors of the fire, including Rhode Island native, recording artist and NBC “The Voice” season 11 runner-up in 2016, Billy Gilman, who performed his song “There’s A Hero” (written by Don Cook and John Jarvis) at the dedication ceremony. Rhode Island dignitaries also spoke at the ceremony, including Gina Russo, chairwoman of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation and a survivor of the fire, Rhode Island U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Congressman Jim Langevin, Governor Gina Raimondo, and former Governor Donald Carcieri, who was the governor of the state at the time of the fire and its aftermath.
The mission of The Make Life Good Company is to remind, encourage and inspire people to “Make Life Good!” for others through positive, pro-active messages on the products the company offers on its website (MakeLifeGood.co), The company is based in Wrentham, Mass.
Rhode Island native, recording artist and NBC “The Voice” season 11 runner-up in 2016, Billy Gilman, sings his song “There’s A Hero” (written by Don Cook and John Jarvis) at the dedication ceremony of the Station Fire Memorial Park, West Warwick, R.I., which was held recently (5/21/17) to honor the 100 music fans who perished in the Station Nightclub Fire on February 20, 2003. The event was attended by hundreds of family and friends of those who died as well as many survivors of the fire. In the background (l - r) are Congressman Jim Langevin (RI), Senator Jack Reed (RI), Gina Russo, chairperson of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation and a survivor of the fire, Gene Valicenti, dedication master of ceremonies and news anchor at WJAR-TV and WPRO-AM, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and former Governor Donald Carcieri and his wife Suzanne.
In this new age of technology, we've become connected seamlessly to happenings in our hometowns, states, countries, and around the globe that touch us. The Internet is at our disposal every day, providing us with stories just minutes old.
Though these stories are varied, many are uplifting accounts of kindness: a waitress gets a large tip, many times greater than the bill, because a patron overhears she's a single mom struggling to pay rent; a woman takes care of an elderly couple's home and pets while one of them is in the hospital; a kid grows his hair out and cuts it to give to his friend who is sick and losing his.
These are exceptional examples of kindness and empathy with an important layer to it: none of the people above expect anything in return for their actions. Selflessness is the concern for the well being of others and the action that comes with it. The concept of pay it forward is rooted in this selflessness, with hope that once we receive or benefit from a kind gesture, it's then rewarded with a gesture of its own.
With world Pay it Forward day upon us, we at The Make Life Good Company encourage everyone to participate not just on this one day but everyday in any small way possible.
We are connected to each other in such a way today that our reach is not limited to our immediate circles. Our reach is worldwide. And it is our gesture that is remembered by those who are touched.
Pay It Forward.
"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." - Aesop
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