For those of you who were fortunate enough to watch Charles Gibson's interview Friday evening; my article will simply be a repeat of what you heard. I had planned on watching it and had intended to write an article about the Miami banker even before I had heard he was going to be on television. Since I didn't have the benefit of watching it; I went back to my original plan of researching this story about a banker who has helped restore many people's faith in Americans-mine included. In these tumultuous times; a story such as this is just what many of us need.
As a writer who focuses mainly on the political arena; it is not often that I am able to write about anything as moving as the incredible act of kindness and generousity displayed by Leonard Abess, Jr. Though this is a wonderful story; the sad fact is that it received very little national attention until Friday evening. We, as Americans, are programmed to write and read about stories dealing with conflict, tragedy, and loss. Think how different it would be if the dailies' lead story everday was similar to this one. They happen; they are just not newsworthy.
There is no doubt that there are a number of stories out there about acts of kindness and couragous feats, but you would be hard pressed to find one comparable to the story of Leonard Abess, Jr. and his empoyees and retirees. When he sold the majority of his holdings last November; he did something no one could have possibly foreseen with $60 million worth of the profits. He gave unbelievably generous bonuses to his loyal employees as well as those who had been retired for a nuber of years. One retiree, William Perry, who had worked for the bank for 43 1/2 years told the Miami Heral that he was shocked. Perry had worked his way up from janitor to Vice President during his long tenure.
When Abess completed the merger in November and made a healthy profit for himself; he was very concerned about the state of the 401Ks that his employees had counted on for their retirements. He was aware that due to the debacle on Wall Street, many of his people found their plans worth very little or nothing at all. Mr Abess decided he had to do something for these people who had been so loyal to him over the years and were instrumental in the success of his bank.. By way of an online video, he told his employees that they could expect a substantial bonus soon while making it clear that this was a one time deal and was not to be looked upon as a prelude to their being dismissed. According to the Associated Press; 471 employees and retirees received an average of $127,000 each!
As heartwarming as this story is: the sad part about it is the fact that had Leonard Abess not been mentioned in President Obama's last speech, we may never have heard of this incredible story. He certainly would not have appeared as a guest of Charles Gibson on television. It is stories such as this that we need to hear about; especially in these times. Though I merely write for a small audience, I vow to find at least one story per month that examplifies the good in Americans as opposed to writing about the dismal state we find ourselves in or the incessant Congressional in-fighting that we are subjected to on a daily basis. I would prefer to write about these acts than devoting my energies to the ramblings of such pundits as that windbag Rash (not a typo) Limbaugh, whose sole purpose is to attack anything that doesn't coincide with his pathological ideologies.
Just last week, I was watching the local news when I heard a story that displayed the good in Americans. Though nowhere near the magnitide of Leonard Abess' story; it still warrants repeating. An elderly woman was in line at the Water Dept. pleading for an extension on her shutoff notice. She explained that she was forced to make the decision between paying for her heating oil or her water bill. A gentleman in line overheard the conversation and promptly stepped forward and wrote a check out to cover her outstanding bill. Although the bill was only a little over $120, I found this to be a true act of kindnesss and something I like to think that I would do. Unfortunately, I scanned the newpapers the next day and was unable to find a single mention of it. But there was Rash, front and center, tearing apart the President's stimulus plan. Time for a change is right!