Love Letters


If this were a film, we could call it Shane Foster: A Series of Fortunate Events.

We could, perhaps, also go by the prosaic title All’s Well That Ends Well – but that would probably have the ghost of William Shakespeare breathing down my neck.

Shane is 16; he is a home-schooled American youth who wields a mean pencil, and his anime and manga drawings are sensational. Shane has also illustrated the front cover of the Janet Elaine Smith’s Max Stryker mystery Bank Roll.

However, what matters most is that Shane is one of those totally altruistic boys who give you their last sweet even if he would have passed around the packet before taking one himself. This is why he took part in a 30-mile bike ride called Bike Around the Bay, to raise money for Earth Force, on the bike he had bought after saving five solid months for it.

Being conscientious, he did not want to take his “wheels” inside after the event was over because it was raining and he would muck up the floor. So, he chained it to the porch and went inside to join his mum Joyce.

Within minutes, the rain stopped, and he went outside to dry the bike and take it in – only to find that someone had stolen it. The thief must go around armed with a metal clipper.

As mums are wont to do, Joyce told us what had happened; and some of us decided to do something about it… without telling Joyce or Shane so as not to raise their hopes.

I still cannot understand how everything slotted together so perfectly – at the back of my mind, I can still hear Hannibal Smith growl “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Some of Joyce’s friends donated money; it was enough to get Shane his new bike, and have something left over. Janet Elaine contacted one of Joyce’s local radio stations; they promised an interview but did not follow through.

Since I am the only writer in the group who is also a newspaper columnist, I thought I would tell the editor of their local newspaper about it. But was I in for a surprise! There were literally dozens of newspapers available.

I picked one, mostly because it has a name similar to this one – the Erie Times News. From the staff list, I picked a name. How was I to know that the columnist, Liz Allen, had had her son’s red Schwinn stolen too, and so could totally empathise with Shane?

This incident had happened on Labor Day 1986. Pat had rested his new 10-speeder against the porch fence. They had even told Bow the dog to stop barking – when all he was trying to do was to alter them to the intruders.

Liz tells me she almost deleted my mail, thinking it was a phoney; I am so glad that ‘something’ about my words made her read it till the end. Ironically Liz wrote in her column that she had “come across ‘Malta’ in crossword puzzles, but [she] couldn’t pick it out on a map.”

asked Liz whether she thought she could find them in the Erie telephone directory, and perhaps write up the story in her column. She did even better than that: Liz devoted a column solely to this incident.

Round about the same time, I happened to win a book token – I write to Ruth Nordin, the organiser of the contest, and asked her to send my voucher to Shane instead. She did even better than that; she actually upped the prize and also sent Shane a Wal-Mart gift card as a bonus.

“Thank you very much. I like riding my bike. It helps me go places I couldn’t go, like the Art House.” Shane, the proud owner of a spanking new X-75 Mongoose, told me.

I have related the story for several reasons. Sometimes, we are too engrossed in our own lives to even realise that other people exists outside our tightly-knit circle.

We actually seek out things that make “them” different from “us” – religion, race, partisanship of any kind…. and if it happens that the same kind of prejudice is used to discriminate against us, we do not like it.

Some of us did a random act of kindness to help Shane. Each of us was able to do it without even getting off our chairs – be it to transfer money, write e-mails, or pick up the phone.

Could all of us not do something similar, for other causes? Or must we be tempted with a lottery prize in order to donate our 50 cents?


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