ColumnistsDruger's Zoo

Kindness and Caring

Recent small episodes restore and substantiate my faith in the goodness of human beings

By Marvin Druger  |  Email:

The modern world is filled with conflict, violence, prejudice and hatred. But fortunately there is also kindness, caring and love.

I think of all the individuals who serve as first responders to help others in any crisis. I think of the medical profession that, at peril to their own health, moved us through the COVID-19 pandemic. I think of the many volunteers for charitable organizations who are dedicated to helping people in need. There are many other instances of people caring and demonstrating love for humanity.

It may seem trivial but, in this article, I want to tell about small episodes that restored and substantiated my faith in the goodness of human beings. I’m sure you can provide many examples in your own life when someone has done a kind deed for you.

Such deeds are memorable and they reflect my belief that when you help others you help yourself. Doing something nice for someone makes you feel good, no matter how small the deed. Here are some examples of small things that people have done for me recently. These small good deeds are memorable and help me be as kind as possible to others.

It was the week of Thanksgiving. My friend and I were at a conference and we were dressed with a shirt, tie and jacket. We were having lunch in a small cafe. An attractive, well-dressed African-American woman was at the store counter paying for something. The woman approached our table and gave me a $5 bill. “Have a Happy Thanksgiving,” she said. I was dumbfounded and I just stared at her. “Have a very Happy Thanksgiving,” she said and she left the store. I framed the bill to remind me of how nice people can be.

I saw a commercial for a non-stick frying pan on TV and decided to order it. A few weeks later, a giant box appeared at my doorstep. It was a complete set of pots and pans. I had to return it at the post office. The box was very heavy and I was barely able to get it into my car. Meanwhile, the rain was falling. I parked about 20 feet from the door of the post office and wondered, “How can I get this heavy box into the post office without dragging it on the wet sidewalk?” A middle-aged African-American man got out of his car and approached me. “I can help you with that.” He picked up the box and carried it into the post office. This episode was devoid of prejudice. Skin color had nothing to do with his kindness. He was simply helping another human being in distress.

Note from teenagers who were eating at a table nearby. “After I finished eating, I asked the waitress for the check.” Instead, she gave me this napkin with writing on it.”

Recently, I experienced several instances of people buying food for me.

In one instance, I was waiting on a line to pay for a Subway sandwich. The woman who was in front of me announced, “I’ll pay for his sandwich.” I was shocked. I said, “I wouldn’t have done that for you.” She replied, “I like to do kind deeds.”

Another time, I was waiting on a line at the cashier to pay for a large bag of potato chips. The young man in front of me said to the cashier, “I’ll pay for his chips.”

Another time, I was having dinner by myself in Texas Roadhouse. A bunch of teenagers were eating at a table nearby. After I finished eating, I asked the waitress for the check. Instead, she gave me a napkin with writing on it that said, “Enjoy the meal! Have a great rest of the night. The meal is paid for already! The table next to you.”

I went to the All Night Egg Plant on Bridge Street in DeWitt to have breakfast by myself. The place was crowded so I sat down at an empty table for four people. The waitress said, “I may have to move you.” “Fine,” I replied and I moved to a smaller table when it became available. After eating, I asked the waitress, “Can I have my check?” She replied, “Your meal is already paid for.” What a nice gesture on her part.

I ordered a medium pizza at Dominos. When I went there to pick up the pizza, the pizza-maker said, “Oh, I made you a large pizza.”

One evening, I went to Applebee’s to eat dinner. The booth next to mine had an African-American woman and a young child. I chatted with the child and gave him one of my pocket-sized magnifiers. When the woman left the restaurant, she said to me, “Take good care of yourself.” She meant it and I was touched by her sincerity.

People are very complex creatures and kindness and caring can be expressed in many different ways, ranging from holding a door open for an elderly person to saving the life of another human being.

My son, Bob Druger (Druger Eye Care in Camillus) was practicing aikido in a gym when someone in the room had a heart attack and collapsed. My son rushed to his aid and administered CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for about 20 minutes until professional help arrived. The man survived and has recovered. He stays in touch with my son. Bob was awarded the Red Cross Hero of the Year award for his actions. That’s what caring for others is all about.

Every human is inherently focused on self-preservation. In this sense, we are born selfish, but we can learn to be kind and caring. We learn that helping others brings good feelings. We can also learn prejudices and hatred. I can’t imagine how a terrorist or murderer goes home at night after committing horrific atrocities and plays with his or her own children. But that’s part of the complexity of being human.

You may be thinking that it’s easy for me to preach about kindness, caring and love, but how do I practice this myself?

I could have attended medical school and become a physician to help others. But my pathway to helping others was different. I did not enter the medical profession mainly for two reasons. One, I was afraid that I was sure to catch every disease that I encountered in patients. The second reason was that I’d give a wrong prescription that would result in the death of a patient.

So, I decided to enter the teaching profession. Teachers influence the lives of others in positive ways. I taught science in many different settings and at different levels to more than 50,000 students in my teaching career. I was fortunate to end up as a professor of biology and science education at Syracuse University and I mainly taught the large, introductory biology course. My largest class had about 1,400 students.

Teachers do not get the credit or appreciation that they deserve. I once said to a young girl, “Doctors and lawyers get lots of respect. Teachers don’t,” Her response was, “Yes. But without teachers there wouldn’t be any doctors or lawyers or anybody.”

On another occasion, Joan Baez’s father said to me. “Our job as teachers is to inform and motivate students, but, if we motivate them, they inform themselves.”

In my career, I learned that the most important mission for teachers of any subject is to “provide meaningful, motivational experiences that enrich the lives of students and help them identify and nurture their unique traits and find out where they fit in life.” I meet former students wherever I go and testimonies from past students demonstrate that my teaching has influenced their lives in a meaningful way. That’s how I help others and that’s what teachers do as a career.

So, think about how you can help others and do one good deed for someone today. You will feel good about it, whatever that deed might be.


Those of you who read my articles in 55 Plus magazine may think: “Wow! He is narcissistic! He is always writing about his life and his experiences.” There are basically several reasons why I write about my own experiences.

First, each of us has common experiences. Yet, no two experiences are exactly the same. We enjoy reading about the experiences of others and we learn from them. We often find common threads among them. We learn from every experience and every experience, even a vicarious one, becomes part of who we are.

Secondly, I know most about myself and, if I didn’t write about my own life and experiences, I probably wouldn’t have much to say.

I hope that you are interested in my articles and I encourage you to provide me with positive and negative comments.

Simply, email me at and I will respond to you. I hope that my articles have a positive effect on your life. Thanks for reading my articles and providing me with comments.