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Good People

“There are still a lot of good people I say this often to friends and family members. The statement usually pops out of my mouth after I hear of someone’s random act of kindness or generosity — a customer who leaves a $200 tip for a waitress who is struggling to pay her bills, a person who donates a kidney to a complete stranger, a teenager who cuts an elderly neighbor’s grass for free, etc.

In my line of work, I meet a lot of good people. It’s an honor to shine a spotlight on them for magazines and newspapers. I believe sharing stories of kindness inspires others to perform good deeds as well, and thus, my profiles may help make the world a better place.

Last week, I stopped by 80-year-old Marvin Garner’s house to see a project he has been working on for 30 years. He led me to a shed beside his house where he had been working, and that’s when I saw them — a dozen or so horse-shaped silhouettes made from wood.

“I’m still working on the rocker parts for this herd,” he said, hoisting one of the assemblies onto a work table. He showed me how he attaches the rockers to the horse heads and seats to form the final assemblies — rocking horses.

“Some of my friends have donated lumber through the years,” he said. “But I buy most of it out of my own pocket. You wouldn’t believe how much I spent on a box of wood screws last week . . .”

I asked him how many rocking horses he’s built in the last 30 years.

“Well, I lost count a couple of years ago, but well over 100,” he answered matter-offactly.

Marvin doesn’t sell his “rocky horses.” He gives them away to deserving toddlers. He told me that his reward is seeing the smiles on their faces.

He showed me a photo album filled with faded photos of happy-faced children rocking on the wooden toys as if they were riding in the Kentucky Derby. He flipped the pages, paused, and told me about each child and each horse.

Marvin’s wife, Louise, passed away last year, and my friend still grieves, but building horses for children brings him joy, and brings the recipients joy, too. My friend, Marvin Garner, is a perfect example of a good person.

So is Malcolm Mitchell, an NFL champion from Valdosta who helped the New England Patriots defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI a few years ago. He shared a personal story with me during a phone call last week.

“Growing up, I loved sports, especially football, but I wasn’t a great student aca-

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demically,” he said. “But I made it through high school and moved to UGA to play football for the Bulldogs.”

It didn’t take long for Malcolm to realize he was in trouble in the classroom.

“I was a weak reader, and it was just a matter of time before it affected my grades,” he said. “I decided to approach reading like I approached football — by practicing. I practiced a lot, and I got better.” One day as he browsed the shelves of the Barnes & Noble in Athens, he asked another customer to recommend a good book to read. The stranger suggested a book she and others were reading in a book club. Malcolm’s face lit up.

He joined the woman’s book club, even though he was quite different from the other members. He was the only male. He was in college, and the women were in their forties, fifties, and sixties. And the women were white. Malcolm is African American.

“None of that mattered,” he told me. “We connected because of our passion for books and reading. It was a great experience for me and made me want to share that passion with others.” Malcolm began visiting schools and telling the kids about his own struggles with reading and his triumphs. As he approached graduation, he wrote a children’s book, The Magician’s Hat, the first in a three-book contract he signed with Scholastic Publishing. The following year, he started the Share the Magic Foundation to promote reading challenges, organize school events and provide books to kids to help them read their way to better futures.

“I’m more proud of what the Foundation has done for children than I am of my football career,” he told me. “This is my life’s work. When you give a child a book, you give them hope.”

Malcolm Mitchell has given hope to hundreds of thousands of children throughout the country. He’s another example of a good person.

I’m convinced there’s more good in the world than bad, more light than darkness, more positive than negative. We just have to look for “the good,” talk about it, and celebrate it as much as we celebrate the Braves winning the World Series last week. I’ll do my part and continue to write about the many “good people” I meet in our communities. Please do your part and focus on the good in the world, because it’s there. It’s there.

Malcolm Mitchell with a child at a reading event. He’s great! The kids love him!

Marvin Garner displays a rocky horse.

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