Since the beginning of 2020, the biggest global health crisis in a century has left many of us feeling anxious and isolated. So on this season of the StoryCorps podcast, we’re bringing you stories about comfort, wisdom, and hope — things we could all use a little more of during this uncertain time.

In this episode, how small acts of kindness can go a long way.

In 2007, Herman Travis started following a simple weekly routine. Every Tuesday, he’d show up at the local food bank, fill a shopping cart with groceries, and make home deliveries to his elderly and disabled neighbors in Holly Courts, a low-income housing complex in San Francisco, California. 

At StoryCorps, he sat down with his friend and neighbor, Robert Cochran, one of the people he delivered groceries to.  

Just a short drive from Holly Courts, longtime friends Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez were working together at Valley Springs Manor, an assisted care center in Castro Valley, California.  Maurice was a cook and Miguel, a janitor.

In October 2013, the California Department of Social Services (DSS) closed the facility; residents were supposed to have been relocated, but a number of them were left behind. The staff stopped being paid, so the majority of them left. At StoryCorps, Maurice and Miguel talk about why they decided to stay.

Next, we turn to Ronald Ruiz, a retired bus operator, who came to StoryCorps’ very first recording booth back in 2004, when it was located in the heart of New York City, at Grand Central Terminal. When he sat down to reflect on his long career, Ronald began with a story about one of his most memorable passengers on his bus line in the Bronx.

Our last story comes from Ceceley Chambers, an interfaith chaplain, and her son, William. For more than a decade, Ceceley has provided spiritual counsel to seniors and hospice patients at nursing homes and hospitals across New England.

In 2015, she was regularly visiting seniors at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, a Boston-area an eldercare organization for people with memory loss. Her son William, who was nine years old at the time, started joining Ceceley on some of her visits. At StoryCorps, they reflect on what the residents taught them.

Four years later, Ceceley, who is still working as a hospice chaplain during COVID-19, sat down to record another interview with her son; this time to share the kinds of lessons they hope people will carry with them, long after the pandemic.

Top photo: Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez at their StoryCorps interview in California on November 07, 2014. By Geraldine Ah-Sue for StoryCorps.
Second photo: Herman Travis and Robert Cochran at their StoryCorps interview in California on November 06, 2014. By Yosmay del Mazo for StoryCorps.
Third photo: Ron Ruiz at his StoryCorps interview in New York on July 28, 2004. By Brett Myers for StoryCorps.
Fourth photo: Ceceley and William Chambers near their Providence home after their StoryCorps interview on July 22, 2016. Courtesy of the Chambers family.
Fifth photo: Ceceley and William Chambers posing in the same Providence-location after recording their second StoryCorps interview, nearly four years later on April 22, 2020. Courtesy of the Chambers family.

Released on May 19, 2020

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Moments of Departure” by Jarrett Floyd; a StoryCorps Commission
“Grey Grey Joe” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album TinyTiny Trio
“Cast in Wicker” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Surly Bonds” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Untitled 2” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Birds Flying in the Dark
“Elegiac” by Bryan Copeland; a StoryCorps Commission