by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I had been looking for just the right column to pen before Election Day. I think I may have found it.

It’s the story of Marilyn Mock.

You wouldn’t know her. She’s not running for president. She is 50 years old and has a rock yard business in Texas, which she runs with her three kids. Last weekend, she went to a foreclosure auction with her son to see him bid on a house.

While he was signing the papers, she wandered back to the auction area and sat down on the floor next to a woman named Tracy Orr. Being friendly, Mock asked if Orr was bidding on a house.

No answer.

She asked again.

Orr started crying.

Then she opened the brochure and pointed. “That’s my house,” she told Mock. A reversal of fortune

The truth was, that had been her house. Orr paid $80,000 for it four years ago. Then, like a lot of Americans, she lost her job and wasn’t able to keep up with the payments. Eventually, the bank foreclosed.

Orr, who is now a housekeeper, had come to the auction as a way to say good-bye.

Mock listened to her story. Saw her tears. And before she knew what she was doing, she was raising her hand as the property was on the block.

“I had no idea what this house was,” Mock later told me. “I didn’t even know where the town was!”

But she kept bidding. And at $30,000, it was hers. She turned to the sobbing Orr and said, “I did this for you.”

Can you believe that? In a Samaritan minute, Mock plunked down 30 grand for a total stranger, with no idea if the woman could pay her back. “I just know she went from complete sadness to complete happiness,” Mock said. “And it really makes you happy when you can do something for somebody.” A lesson for all of us

The two women have since worked out a deal. Mock – who is hardly wealthy – took a loan out against her dump truck to buy the house. And Orr plans to make those payments each month, thus slowly paying it off. Meanwhile, Orr gets to live in her home again. And both women now have a new best friend.

“I’ve got somebody that, if I ever get depressed or something,” Mock said, laughing, “I can call and gripe and I think she’ll probably understand.”

Now, remember, there was nothing in this for Mock. The attention she has gotten all came after the fact. Her son, Dustin, told me that he was not surprised, that she always had been this way – the type of person who would see a struggling mother in line at the supermarket and pay for her groceries, no questions asked.

“I shake my head at her,” Dustin Mock said, “but she’s always done good things, for me and everybody else. It’s a body of work, to be honest.”

A body of work. Of good deeds and selfless acts. I can think of no better pre-election story than this one, because if America is to survive the next few months and years, it won’t hinge on which man sits in the White House.

It will hinge on whether we are willing to think as much about others as Mock did, to actually help someone simply because they need it, not whether we think they deserve it. It will hinge on our belief in the innate goodness of fellow citizens, rather than assumptions that they are bad because they are not like us.

No matter who wins on Tuesday, nearly half the country will feel it’s not its guy, just as Orr’s problem was not Mock’s problem. But when you look at it less selfishly, you see we are all sort of sitting on a floor, sharing our stories together, hoping they affect others.

In that way, Mock, with her quick, instinctively protective act, laid out more of a national blueprint than Barack Obama or John McCain has done to date.

Mock was asked that day: Why did you do it? Why come to the rescue of a stranger?

“She needed help,” was the answer.

If only kindness were always so easy. Then maybe this election wouldn’t be so hard.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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