The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 27, 2013

Mike Pound: Recent encounters showcase best side of humanity

By Mike Pound

— There is this guy who I see just about every day at the Fair Acres Family YMCA in Carthage.

He comes in, takes off his jacket and starts making the rounds. He makes it a point to say “hi” to everyone in the room, and he chats with anyone who wants to chat back. Other than saying “hi” back at the guy, I don’t say much else, so I don’t really know him. He appears to be a nice, outgoing, upbeat guy who likes people.

I wish I was more like that. Oh sure, I can be upbeat, and some people have even told me I was nice. Well, when I was single, girls used to tell me I was nice, but they would say it like this: “Gee, Mike, you’re a nice guy and all, but …”

The thing is, I’m not particularly outgoing, and while I don’t dislike people, I’m not one of those guys looking to make new friends.

Which reminds me, whenever my Aunt Ev would suggest to my Uncle Jim that they should get to know someone in their neighborhood better, Jim would say: “Why? I’ve already got too many friends.”

That makes me laugh.

Sometimes people drive me crazy. Sometimes people do mean or rude things that make me not want to be upbeat. Sometimes I feel like Jerry Seinfeld, who said in an episode of his TV show: “People! They’re the worst!”

But just when I’m in a “People! They’re the worst!” mood, something happens that makes me change my outlook.

On Tuesday afternoon, that something was receiving an email from Claire Shores. I wrote about Claire and her daughter Shelby a few weeks ago. Shelby, who attends Carthage Middle School, has a complicated form of muscular dystrophy. It’s so complicated, in fact, that there is not yet a name for what she has. To make a complicated story less so, Shelby has reduced muscle strength.

When I wrote about Shelby and Claire, I mentioned that the nice folks at KODE-TV had agreed to play a benefit basketball game this Saturday against the faculty and staff in the Carthage Middle School gym. Doors open at 1 p.m., and the game gets under way at 2 p.m. There will be a number of items up for bid and several raffles for other prizes. It should be a neat deal. All the money raised will help the Shores family make its annual trek to Toronto, Canada, so Shelby can see a specialist who is treating her.

The thing about Claire’s email that sort of had me snap out of my “People! They’re the worst!” mood was what she said about Carthage and Joplin.

“When the thought came to have a basketball game, none of us that are involved in the creating process thought this event would get as BIG as it has become,” she wrote. “There are people I have never met who have contacted us and offered to help. I have been stopped at Wal-Mart by a total stranger just to give me money to help Shelby. Shelby is truly blessed and loved by this community.”

How strong is that?

In the email, Claire thanked everyone who has helped or offered to help with the basketball game. She also thanked the staff at Carthage Middle School for its support, and she thanked the entire community.

She also passed along something her husband’s boss told him: “Whenever his shoulder hurts or he has an ache, he thinks about how Shelby must be feeling.”

Most importantly, Claire talked about Shelby and how, after initially being treated by some as somewhat of a curiosity, she has managed to become just another student.

“She is a kid at Carthage Middle School,” Claire wrote. “The teachers and staff admire her strength to go on! As Shelby says, ‘That’s how I roll.’”

Thank you, Claire, for reminding me that people aren’t the worst and that sometimes they’re the best.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.