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Ron Worman Local Columnist

Kirby — a ‘7l Volkswagen bus with a paint job to rival Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — rolled into town two weeks ago today. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he sputtered into town. What I do know is that he left his tire prints all over me.

Kirby’s owner left Chicago on March 5, headed for New Hampshire. I know, right? Can’t this guy read a map? But Rob has no predetermined route, nor is he in any hurry. He has until April 20.

With only a few hundred dollars to his name, he plans to “gift” his way to the Granite State. It’s his belief that by freely and lovingly giving to others, he will be blessed in return. From what I observed over a span of four days his faith is being rewarded. While in Effingham, he lacked for nothing.

Rob’s concept of gifting is a variation on a theme really. It’s creating good karma, paying it forward, adhering to the Golden Rule. But what, you may ask, can someone with little money or possessions give to others? Rob gifts the very things that any one of us can gift — if we choose.

A smile, a kind or comforting word, a phone call, text or email, a “thinking of you” card, a visit to someone living alone, in the hospital, or in a nursing home. a connection to someone starving for human interaction, one’s time. These are just a few of the many things we can freely and lovingly “gift” to another.

Helen Beckert, one of my grade school teachers, taught me that just being present to someone can be a gift. When a classmate of mine lost his sister in an accident, she told me that I had to go to the funeral home. “But what will I say,” I asked her. She said my presence alone would be enough. To this day, I know that she was right. (Besides, you always did what Mrs. Beckert told you to do!)

My time with Rob affirmed many things. We gift ourselves when we choose to gift others. (Wasn’t it St. Francis who said “it is in giving that we receive”?) By making ourselves vulnerable, we become receptive to what others have to offer. Our lives are enriched by sharing our experience, strength and hope with each other.

There are times when I get down; when I get depressed. It would be real easy to simply plop down on the proverbial pity pot and sit in my you-know-what. It is in those moments when I need to count the many gifts and blessings in my life. And when I do, I realize how very much I have to be grateful for. It is mind-boggling, overwhelming and quite humbling.

Late last summer, while mired in one of those “deep, dark nights of the soul,” I received a text from a young man wise beyond his years. He told me to “hang in there.” While those words were comforting, it was his brutal honesty in the rest of the text that impacted me the most. He admonished me, and called me out on some things. It was exactly what I needed to hear — and take to heart.

While he may not know it, his text was a gift. Every so often I find myself back in that dark spot. When I do, I get out that gift my young friend gave me. For me, it has become the gift that keeps on giving. And those are the best kind.

The poet Maya Angelou penned the following lines: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We all have the power to impact others in that way. But, will it be in a positive way or a negative way? That’s up to us.

Rob’s stated mission is “to change the world one gift, one smile, and one connection at a time.” While few of us will ever have a VW bus of many colors, how cool would it be if we all possessed that same mission?

For more about Kirby, Rob, and his mission, visit kirbythelovebus on Facebook.

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