She died before we could fall in love. But she taught me one important thing.

Beth Atkinson died. She was one of the best first dates I ever had.

It was a long time ago, so we met the old-fashioned way — on Match.com. We had coffee at Mercury Cafe on Chicago Avenue. We laughed so loudly we made the other patrons blush. You could tell they were merely pretending to study or work, peering up from their books and laptops to witness the splendor of a first date gone well.

After that, we rode our bikes to a taco place and talked about our dreams. She wanted to move to France someday. I did this thing I sometimes do where I look at someone I’ve just met and mentally picture what they might look like in 30 years. Where will the wrinkles settle around that smile? Then we went to my place and made out on my couch.


"When can I see you again?" she asked me. This was what I liked about Beth. Most people were too busy protecting themselves to be direct. Beth made unflinching eye contact when she spoke to you. I envied the congruence she conveyed between her internal and external worlds.

I was moving to another apartment in a couple of days. So, we’d have to wait until after that.

We exchanged text messages for a couple of weeks, delaying our second date due to minor inconveniences and somewhat-full schedules.

Then, Beth stopped responding.

Beth’s roommate, Julia, happened to be a barista at a cafe I frequented. "I haven’t seen you for a few weeks. Did you take a vacation?" I inquired. I fought through the embarrassment that Julia probably knew I had gone out with Beth and that she knew what horrible thing I must have said or did — or what gaping personality flaw or physical deformity I must have had — to make her stop returning my messages.

While removing a biscotto from a jar, tongs in hand, Julia froze and turned ghost white. "You didn’t hear about Beth?"

I hardly knew Beth. But I knew her in ways that her closest friends didn’t know her.

Normally, when someone you care about passes away, you have friends and family in common to commiserate with about the departed.

I didn’t have those outlets as I grieved Beth. The funeral had passed. It seemed perverse to try to talk to Julia because she had been riding with Beth during the bicycle accident. It felt selfish to seek solace from a near stranger who had known her so deeply and experienced the tragedy so closely.

As I sat in my dark apartment with a glass of gin by my side, I read Beth’s mother’s wailing Facebook updates. The contrast in loss was cartoonish. How much of my grief was for Beth, and how much of it was just grief for myself?

I wrote to Match.com to let them know what had happened to Beth. Her profile was gone within 30 minutes. I wondered about the other guys who might be disappointed to see her disappear.

When I see people treat each other flippantly, like e-commerce items they can customize with a swipe, I wish they could learn what I learned from Beth:

Whenever I’m tempted — by what I think I want from the world — to forget someone’s humanity or to fool myself into shying away from a real connection, I remember Beth’s blazing blue eyes, patiently locked with mine, awaiting my response.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
via Spencer Cox / Twitter

In the middle of a heated election, liberal and conservative Americans are at odds over a lot of issues, but there's one thing they can agree on, they're sick of all the political acrimony.

A 2018 PBS poll found that nearly three-quarters of Americans — 74 percent — think the overall tone and level of civility in the nation's capital have gotten worse since Trump was elected.

Seventy-nine percent are "are concerned or very concerned that the negative tone of national politics will prompt violence."

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
via Witty Buttons / Twitter

Back in 2017, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was socked in the face by someone wearing all black at Trump's inauguration, it launched an online debate, "Is it OK to punch a Nazi?"

The essential nature of the debate was whether it was acceptable for people to act violently towards someone with repugnant reviews, even if they were being peaceful. Some suggested people should confront them peacefully by engaging in a debate or at least make them feel uncomfortable being Nazi in public.

Keep Reading Show less

When Trump entered the Oval Office on his first day as president, he was greeted by a note from his predecessor. In his letter, Obama congratulated Trump on "a remarkable run," offered a few bits of sage advice, wished him well, and told him that he and Michelle "stand ready to help in any ways which we can." It was a distinguished letter from a statesman, and a beautiful example of the peaceful and supportive transfer of power that has marked every election in modern history.

Since then, Obama has largely stayed above the fray and out of the spotlight, allowing President Trump a chance to do the job without interference. Even when his friend and former vice president Joe Biden announced his run for president, Obama held back on a formal endorsement, letting the political process run its course. At the Democratic National Convention, we saw a shift, as the former president finally let the public hear his frank assessment of Trump's job performance from his experienced point-of-view.

But at a drive-in rally in Philadelphia yesterday, Obama rolled up his sleeves, took off the gloves, and gave real voice to the frustrations half of America has felt for the past four years. And phew—it was gloriously cathartic.

Keep Reading Show less