Three Stories That Show Who We Really Are

Published: April 1, 2019

By Jim Lichtman
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While news out of Washington continues to consume much of the news cycle, there are stories that remind us that compassion, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence are reminders of what’s really important.

The Good Samaritan –

“I was getting a car at this particular dealership,” Dan Laguardia said. “I was going to trade in my car and get the new car and be done. I heard Kayla crying. She got up and left pretty quickly,” he told

When Laguardia asked what happened, the salesman explained that 22-year-old college student Kayla Cooper couldn’t afford a down payment on a car and wasn’t sure how she was going to go back and forth to work.

Laguardia changed all that.

“I overheard what happened,” Laguardia told the young student. “I’ve got a car that you might like. This is no strings attached,” he added.

“I am still in shock,” Cooper said. “I was crying. A car is helping me so much right now.”

“If I was her,” Laguardia explained, “I would’ve wanted somebody like me to do it. I have been in situations where a little hand up would have been nice. I just figured it was me being what I wanted in my life.”

The Power of Perseverance –

Thomas Panek is president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. He’s also a runner.

“Running is a very productive and constructive way for us all to stay healthy and active,” Panek told Runner’s World.

Earlier this month, Panek became the first visually impaired runner to complete a half marathon (13.11 miles) two weeks ago in New York City, guided completely by three dogs.

“The most important reason [I did this run] is to encourage people to run, no matter what disability or ability level is, no matter what, health and wellness is important,”

“Though Panek, who lost his sight in his early 20s to retinitis pigmentosa – a genetic condition that causes the breakdown of cells in the retina,” Runner’s World writes, “Panek has run many major marathons including Boston, New York, and Chicago with human guides, this is the first time he’s only been guided by dogs.”

“I think the point of doing this is to say there are no excuses,” Panek said. “Your excuse is not going to be good anymore. If I can run 13.1 miles through the streets of NYC blind, your excuse isn’t going to be good enough.”

Pursuit of Excellence and the Blessing that Followed –

Until very recently, 8-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi lived in a homeless shelter with his family. However, the 8-year-old Nigerian refugee has one extraordinary area of excellence, chess.

While recent news has centered on wealthy parents buying access to elite universities for their children, Tanitoluwa won his category in the New York state chess championship.

As reported by Nicholas Kristof for The New York Times (Mar. 16), “What’s even more extraordinary is that Tani, as he is known, learned chess only a bit more than a year ago. His play has skyrocketed month by month, and he now has seven trophies by his bed in the homeless shelter.

“ ‘I want to be the youngest grandmaster,’ he told me.

“Tani’s family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on Christians such as themselves. ‘I don’t want to lose any loved ones,’ his father, Kayode Adewumi, told me.”

Arriving a little more than a year ago, Tani and his parents were struggling to make ends meet. However, while attending a local school, Tani was introduced to chess by a chess teacher who volunteered at the school. The young boy was hooked.

“Russell Makofsky,” Kristoff continues, “who oversees the P.S. 116 chess program, waived the fees, and a year ago the boy took part in his first tournament with the lowest rating of any participant, 105.

“His rating is now 1587 and rising fast. (By comparison, the world’s best player, Magnus Carlsen, stands at 2845.)”

But that’s only the first part of this story.

“After my column about this hard-working family,” Kristof writes in an update (Mar. 23),  “a GoFundMe drive raised more than $200,000 for Tani, his parents and his brother. A half-dozen readers offered housing — in a couple of cases, palatial quarters. Immigration lawyers offered pro bono assistance to the Adewumis, who are in the country legally and seeking asylum. Three film companies are vying to make movies about Tani.

“The family settled on one of the more modest and practical housing offers: An anonymous donor paid a year’s rent on a two-bedroom apartment near Tani’s current school.

“The Adewumis have decided that they will not spend a cent of the $200,000 GoFundMe money on themselves. They will take out a 10 percent tithe and donate it to their church, which helped them while they were homeless, and the rest will be channeled through a new Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to help African immigrants who are struggling in the United States the way they were a week ago.

“ ‘Anybody who is coming from Africa who is in the position we were in, we will help them,’ Mr. Adewumi said, acknowledging that details need to be worked out.

“I asked them how they could turn down every penny of such a huge sum. Didn’t they want a celebration dinner? New iPhones? A vacation?

“ ‘I’m a hardworking guy,’ Mr. Adewumi explained. He has two jobs: He drives for Uber with a rented car and sells real estate through Brick & Mortar. Someone has now offered him a free car so that he can keep more of the money he makes driving, and Tani’s mom was just offered a job as a health care aide at a hospital. …

“I asked Tani if he was O.K. with seeing the $200,000 disappear. He shrugged. ‘I want to help other kids,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind.’ …

“ ‘God has already blessed me,’ Mr. Adewumi told Kristof. ‘I want to release my blessing to others.’ ”

We need stories like these; ethical stories that remind us that there is, in fact, more good happening every day than we might believe.


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