The Daily Saint

"By saints I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society. Perhaps some of you are or will become saints for her child to meet." --Kurt Vonnegut

Bretagne the Service Dog

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Bretagne is a 15-year-old Golden Retriever that is the last known dog still alive after serving at Ground Zero on 9/11. Her owner, Denise Corliss, deployed with Bretagne to numerous disaster sites, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. On their first assignment, Bretagne persevered through nearly two weeks of 12-hour shifts at Ground Zero. 

On one occasion during the search, Bretagne left Corliss’ side and hurried toward a sullen firefighter sitting on the ground. Concerned, Corliss implored Bretagne to come back, sit and stay — to no avail.

“I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss told TODAY. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”

Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9 — but today, even though she’s roughly 93 in human years, she still is a working girl. When school’s in session, she dons a service vest and prances through a local elementary school, where she helps first-graders and children with special needs learn how to read aloud.

“She still has this attitude of putting her paw up and saying, ‘Put me in, coach!’” Corliss said. “She absolutely loves it.”

And just as she did for that firefighter and other rescue workers at Ground Zero, she tends to sense which students and teachers are having rough days.

“I’ve seen Bretagne almost select a child,” Shelley Swedlaw, a search dog handler and a former special education director who accompanies Bretagne to reading sessions, told TODAY. “She’s just really good about knowing who needs that kind, canine attention.”

This year, Bretagne is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards. Corliss is preparing to travel with Bretagne to Beverly Hills for a stroll down the red carpet on the night of the award ceremony in late September.

(Photo/Story via TODAY)

Patrick Stewart

Dawn Garrigus of Statesboro, Georgia, is an 11-year-old with mitochondrial disease, a progressive chronic illness that causes physical, mental and developmental disabilities. She is also a devoted Star Trek fan. 

Through the Make-A-Wish foundation, Dawn requested to attend Dragon Con, a sci-fi and fantasy convention in Georgia, where the popular series would make an appearance. Word got around to Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Picard in Star Trek, that a Make-A-Wish child (and huge Star Trek lover) would be attending, and the two set up a time to meet.

"I was shy at first, not sure what to say or talk about, but he kept talking to me.  I felt like I was on the Enterprise talking to the captain. And suddenly, I was OK," Dawn told The Huffington Post in an email.

Her parents, Danny and Kristy Garrigus, wrote in an email that it was “the happiest [they] had seen her in quite some time.”

(Photo/Story via HuffPo)

Jarron Williams

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"I like to give random compliments to strangers. People usually react by awkwardly saying ‘Thank you’ or laughing. On rare occasions, their eyes light up and you can tell it just made their day. Usually it’s no big deal, but you never know. It may save the life of one person, and to me, that makes it worth it to be kind."

(Dolton, IL)

Shawn

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"You know how, when people first start dating, both people usually give the best versions of themselves? Well, my girlfriend did the opposite. By that I mean, she told me right away that she had health problems. She has sickle cell and she’s on dialysis, and she told me all her bad habits. She was giving me an out, she told me later, so that if I wasn’t up to it, if I wasn’t up to being with her, then she would understand and there’d be no hard feelings. That was four years ago. I take care of her, take her to her dialysis appointments. I don’t consider that being a saint, but I consider it being a person and a man. I’m not going to lie. It’s not always easy. 

"But anyone can be with someone when the other person is at their peak and at their greatest. When you can take care of someone when they’re at their worst and when they’re really going through something, when you can get through the arguments and wake up next to each other and continue to plan a life together despite all that, then that’s love. And I love my girl. I’m going to marry her."

(Detroit, MI)

These Cops

"Not sure where these awesome officers hail from, but I really need to hug them."

(Photo via Instagram)

Taylor

While out and about in Sioux Falls, S.D., I asked a random man, after explaining The Daily Saint and my current project, if he knew of anyone in the community who would fall under the umbrella of a Daily Saint. 

"I don’t know if this is self-serving, but my son is the kindest, happiest person I’ve ever known," he said. "I don’t know how I got so lucky."

The man then told me that his son has a high-functioning form of autism but lives life as if he’s “blissfully aware” of his condition. Taylor works at the local grocery story, and on Saturdays, he volunteers at the zoo. It was Saturday. “You can go talk to him there if you’d like. I’m sure he’d be excited.”

I arrived at the Great Plains Zoo and there was Taylor, greeting the visitors who were walking in to see the animals for the first time.

"I like working with the animals because I don’t like when people abuse or neglect animals," Taylor told me at the zoo. "And I like greeting people because I like to make them smile." 

(Sioux Falls, S.D.)

Eric

Eric was sitting at the desk as a volunteer greeter at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minn., when I walked in the door. After he asked why I was visiting the Twin Cities, we, as usual, got to chatting. I asked him if he’d ever done a random act of kindness for someone else (although he was being so sweet and charming and informative about my experience at the Guthrie that he was giving out an act of kindness just then), and he was very bashful. After a little coaxing, Eric told me he’s a former pastor. He did all sorts of acts of kindness throughout his time (although he certainly didn’t put it that way). He spent several years as a volunteer where people were connected with others who were low-income and had mental illness. He spent several years hanging out with Steven, a “gentle soul” who was schizophrenic. They’d go to lunch, and Eric often brought him groceries. Steven loved Disney movies, so Eric always made sure he was stocked with the films.

"I don’t think people realize, though, how much others just need someone to listen sometimes," Eric said of their time together.

At his church, Eric set up a type of drawing in which a person could win $100. The catch was that the person then had to go out and multiply that money by doing something kind for someone else. “The creativity was amazing!” he said.

One person donated a goat to a family in Afghanistan through the Heifer Project, a non-profit created to alleviate worldwide hunger. Another group used social media to parlay their $100 to raise money for children with cancer. “They ended up raising $30,000.”

When Eric’s co-volunteer Mary came by the desk at the Guthrie, he said, “Oh, this is the person you really want to talk to.” Mary talked about taking care of her mother when she was sick and always keeping tabs on her family.

Both Eric and Mary were warm, “gentle souls,” excited for my project and wanting to talk about others’ good work over their own. Thank you, Eric and Mary, for being my Minnesotan Daily Saints. If you’re ever in Minneapolis, go to the Guthrie and ask for Eric and Mary. They’ll show you the way to a wonderful visit!

(Minneapolis, MN)

Bob Marley

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Though Bob Marley wrote the song “No Woman, No Cry,” he gave the songwriting credits to Vincent Ford, his friend who ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown, the very low-income area of Kingston, Jamaica, where Marley grew up. The royalty checks that Ford receives from the song ensure that he can continue to run the soup kitchen for locals in the area.

Ryan

A 12-year-old boy named Ryan was at a Red Sox game on Friday when he got his hands on a foul ball. Rather than keeping it, though, Ryan was caught on camera immediately giving it to the girl behind him. The girl, whose name is Reese, looks excited and bewildered by the act of kindness. The Red Sox announcers also saw the sweet gesture, so they sent one of their reporters down to the seats and give Ryan two baseballs for paying it forward. Watch the start to a beautiful relationship begin here.

Linda

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I was so grateful in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when I stumbled upon a tiny farmers’ market in the middle of a parking lot near the railroad station. I was dying for a peach or a tomato or a bushel of bok choy, anything that was colorful and fresh and biodegradable. It was all a bit hard to come by in South Dakota, so when I got to talking to Linda and her employee Ashley, who were there selling vegetables outside, I found out that Linda owns Linda’s Gardens. She’s there each week at the farmers’ market, selling produce to the locals from her small farm in Chester, S.D.

"You’re never going to become rich having a small business like this one, so you really have to love it and just do the best you can," Linda told me.

Linda said it was a lifetime dream for she and her husband to own their farm. They are both fourth-generation farmers in South Dakota, so the quality of the product is exceptionally important to her, along with allowing people of all economic means to have access to locally grown fruits and vegetables.

"These farmers’ markets still aren’t that common out here in South Dakota," she said. "And it’s happened a lot where people won’t have enough money when they go to buy our product here at the market, so we often just end up giving it to them."

Just that day, Linda and Ashley brought flowers and produce to the home of one of their regular customers. He was homebound after just having surgery related to a cancer diagnosis, and they wanted to brighten his day and be sure to get his usual food items to him.

"He lit up when we came in," she said. "I guess I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older the importance of service to others. If you don’t give something back, what good is any of it?"

(Sioux Falls, S.D.)

Anthony

I got into Minneapolis around 6 p.m. last night and had to stay in a hotel because I had forgotten to give a heads up to my Minnesotan friend that I’d be rolling on in that day. Anthony, the guy at the reception, saw my license and asked me why I was visiting from California. I went into the spiel about my road trip and finding Daily Saints all around the country and making a book out of it. He said, “Oh, I love that. I try to do one good deed a day. That’s why I love guest relations.

"I guess I get it from my mother," he added. "She always told me to treat others the way I wanted to be treated."

I asked him if there was a particular memory that sticks in his mind when he thinks about his mother’s kindness.

"One time my mom saw a woman on the street, clearly down and out, who said she’d just gotten divorced and was homeless and asked my mother if she could help in any way. The woman also said she had to get to the bus station. My mother gave her a ride to the bus station and then gave her $50 for the bus ticket. My mom really shouldn’t have been giving the money away. She had a lot of bills to pay and she didn’t know when her paycheck was coming in, but she gave it to the woman anyway. Luckily, the paycheck came that next week, so she didn’t overdraw her bank account. But she didn’t know what was going to happen. She just knew she needed to help this woman who was so down and out. When I heard the story later that day, it made me so proud to have her as my mom. I guess I just try to be like her every day.”

(Minneapolis, MN)

Dustin Floyd

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I reached out to Dustin Floyd last month when I started planning my Daily Saint road trip. He often hosts people through Workaway, a program where travelers can work at various places in exchange for room and board, at the 1899 Inn in Deadwood, South Dakota, a bed and breakfast he owns with his wife, Laura. From the get-go, Dustin was totally accommodating with my plans and excited for my travels.

I left a week earlier than expected for my trip, which threw off a lot of my plans about where I’d be staying throughout the country. Even though Dustin was already hosting another Workaway at his inn, and even though they only have space to host one at a time, and even though I was now only able to stay one night, and even though I got to Deadwood a lot later in the day than I expected, and even though I ran into a friend (completely and utterly random) while grabbing a salad in Deadwood, and even though I ended up playing blackjack with said friend until 1 a.m. that night (I kept Dustin in the loop during all this), he continued to encourage me just to have a good time and get to the house whenever I wanted. When I finally arrived, Dustin had gone to bed, but he left me several descriptive notes throughout the house, guiding me through the living room, up the stairs and to my room and bathroom for the evening. It was a little welcoming scavenger hunt in the middle of the night in a house I’d never been into, owned by a person I’d never met. 

Dustin, thank you for being my Daily Saint in South Dakota. Everyone else, if you’re ever in Deadwood, S.D., be sure to stay at the 1899 Inn. It’s beautiful and historic, filled with good vibes, good food and good humans.

(Deadwood, S.D.)

This Man

"This man reads every day at lunch to a man who cannot." 

Bob Blackley

For the past three years, Bob Blackley has celebrated his birthday by  standing on a corner of an intersection in North Carolina and giving out $5 bills. This year, he gave away $800 total.

On Thursday, Blackley held a sign that said, “I have a job. I have a home. Could you use an extra $5?”

“Glad I woke up, glad I’m able to do it,” Blackley told Fox8. “That’s what life’s all about, smiling.”

Meredith Tribble

Meredith Tribble of Cody, Wyo., is only 26 years old, but she already has run her own business for four years. She owns Uncommon Grounds, a coffee shop in Powell, Wyo., that focuses on the positive.

She was 22 and right out of college when she bought the coffee shop that, prior to her leadership, had a bit of an “unpositive” way about it.

"No one had liked working there and it was kind of a mess," said Tribble. "I just said to myself, ‘what can we do to make employees and customers leave a little happier than when they came in?"

Inspirational quotes line the walls, board games and books are available for customers to play and peruse, and there is a “book wall” in one corner, where the pages of “Pride and Prejudice” (that have been dipped in coffee) cover the wall. 

"I’ve really tried to follow that Mother Theresa quote: ‘Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.’”

(Powell, WY)