Be like Jimmy

By Reade Brower | Oct 24, 2019

Life isn’t easy. We need a hand up from time to time. We’re all regularly faced with tough decisions. The only road map we have sometimes is our moral compass and our intuition. Perhaps that’s enough; need to trust those more.

When kids come into our lives, there are no manuals. You fall back on how you watched your parents child-raise and how you envision parenting to be, but it’s never as easy as it might have seemed when you were the “know-it-all kid.”

It’s usually best trusting your gut, but that isn’t foolproof. Sometimes we overthink and guess wrong. Other times we under think and guess right. Still other times, we wrestle with something getting a mixed bag.

Last week, in a small incident, the overthinking came into play. Needing a “power lunch” as time had gotten away; my neighbor, Wasses Hot Dogs, would be the ticket. As I was walking over to get in line, a group of young children, aged between 9 and perhaps 15, was heading there to get after-school sustenance.

Coming at the hot dog stand from different directions, I lengthened my stride but the kids arrived first, just a step or two ahead. The oldest began to take charge; telling me to go ahead, she then began to ask the others what they wanted, how much money they had, helping them with the math (how much money equaled how much food they could get).

Standing in line, thinking these energetic kids were polite enough to allow me to cut, and listening to them figuring out what to buy, my gut said, “Do something nice.” Perhaps I could buy them some French fries so they didn’t have to choose between hot dogs, fries and soda; that would be nice. I could order four fries to give them, or perhaps just two they could share.

Then the overthinking began. Was it creepy for a grown-up to buy random kids French fries? I wanted to reward them for being polite and admired their overly energetic attitude and the way the older girl was herding her flock with kindness and patience; perhaps this gesture might be my “good deed for the day.”

When the moment came, I ordered my own fries, my two hot dogs and that was it. I worried there might be something wrong with this gesture; there wasn’t, it was coming from a nice place and would have made me feel good, too.

But I didn’t pull the trigger and wondered why. Why are we so often afraid to take a chance that being nice and friendly would be misunderstood?

What I figured out was that this moment was clouded by self-doubt that had come from a recent column; there was discussion after submission on whether calling out the Point Lookout story was an overreach and whether I had the right to an opinion (because I’m the owner and have the power, some thought I shouldn’t criticize those working for the paper or the paper itself).

If the column hadn’t already gone to print, I might have made the editor’s job easier and changed it or pulled it altogether. But, it was too late and the column ran.

Self-doubt is a killer.

In the end, the column sparked discussion, healthy dialogue and learning occurred.

That brings us to Jimmy.


Luckily, scientist Mahmoud Ghannoum had Jimmy Dorsey — who, when he passed away, was a Vietnam vet, volunteer fireman and football coach — as his travel agent 30 years ago.

Ghannoum was fleeing his homeland of Kuwait, which was under attack, on his way to a job interview. He told Jimmy he needed to change his ticket, something that could cost Jimmy his job.

Mother Jones reported Jimmy “made magic happen,” also “opening up his own wallet to give the stranger $80, a gesture of selfless support.”

Mahmoud never got to thank his angel stranger, but did go on to make the world a better place, getting the job, making America his home, becoming one of the world’s leading scientists in microbiome (gut bacteria, probiotics) research.

Recently he found Jimmy’s wife Elaine while searching online in his effort to thank the selfless stranger for that random act of kindness. Unfortunately, Jimmy had recently died at the age of 69 after a long battle with lung cancer.

Ghannoum and Elaine planned to meet sometime in the future, in memory of Jimmy.

This is how people survive beyond their lifetimes; this is how legacies are made. Mahmoud is happy to give Jimmy’s wife joy in her retelling the memory to The Washington Post, recalling, “It wasn’t out of the norm for (Jimmy) to do something like this.”

Elaine hopes this memory and story about her husband’s act of kindness will inspire others to “be like Jimmy,” a doer, not a thinker.

Sometimes, going with your gut, like Jimmy did that day 30 years ago, is what moves the world forward.


“Guard within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.” — George Sand (pen name Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin), novelist (1804-1876)

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 29, 2019 04:45

I could easily become discouraged, yet can see people drawing together with vulnerable spirit of encouragement and enthusiasm. Proud to be an American? No, I am not at this present time.  Admitting that prevents me from becoming depressed or  hypocritical.  Reach out and touch someone; as Reade has done. YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. :)

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 24, 2019 11:18

Thankful for the Reade Browers and the Jimmys in the world.  They are moving the world forward, and so can you. It does take a conscious decision. 

Life is good,

As long as I don't give a damn if I am misunderstood.  :)

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