(This is part of a series I’m starting here on the blog and I’m calling it, “Everyday People Doing Good Every Day.” There are a lot of folks feeling many different feelings right now. This isn’t an easy time for many of us. But every now and then someone sends me something special or tells me a story that makes me feel good again. It helps me remember how much goodness there is around us, and when I see this goodness I’ll post it here to share with everyone. Hopefully, it’ll inspire us to do good things ourselves in whatever ways we can to enrich our world.)
Daniel F. Craviotto Jr. is an orthopedic surgeon.
He’s also my cousin and a very good man.
I don’t just say that because he’s my cousin. You can ask anyone in Santa Barbara who knows him and I’m sure you’ll hear the same.
I don’t get emails at midnight from my cousin Dan. So last night when my phone “dinged” at a little after 12, and I saw there was an email from him, I figured it was important. The guy has been getting up at 4 each morning to handle extra patients, and I hoped everything was okay. Here is Dan’s email…
“He’s 95 now and still has that smile. I’ve known him for 20 years. Operated on him twice. And always the same question: How’s Charlie? You see he’s forgotten that my Uncle Charlie passed away quite a few years ago, but he still remembers him. They played basketball together in the 1930s and 1940s at the Rec Center on Carrillo Street. It is when he asks how Charlie’s doing when I remember that my Uncle shared the story of how his good friend was sent away to a Japanese Internment Camp during WW II. Uncle Charlie said he was a helluva nice guy and even at 95, even now I can see that. Humble, soft spoken and always smiling. My uncle, who served in WW II, took a flesh wound and saw his platoon decimated in the Battle of the Bulge, always said, “It’s the shits what they did to our Japanese Americans, putting them in internment camps.” So my uncle’s friend – in spite of all the memories that he’s lost because of age – still remembers Charlie. And for the first time today I tell him, “You know my uncle shared these stories with me about you. About your family and the internment and how it wasn’t fair. How you were such a good friend to him and how they carted you off.”And this man, with tears rolling down his eyes, but still with a smile on his face, just looked at me and said, “What were we to do?” He reached his hand out and shook mine, told me he missed Charlie and my father, Danny, and he thanked me for taking care of him. What a sweet man. Dignified. Full of grace. Always a kind word. I love that guy.”
Dad always felt badly that he couldn’t do anything to help his friend or his family. “They lost everything,” Dad told us. “Their business, their house, their friendships.” In fact, Dad was the only friend who went to the train station to say goodbye to the whole family as they were being transported to the camps. No one else wanted anything to do with the family – a family that had lived in Santa Barbara for many years.
When Dad showed up at the train station, it meant the world to his friend. He gave him a gift, something he’d made at school: a set of black ceramic coffee mugs. They were a parting gift of thanks to a good friend.
We never used those cups growing up; they were always hidden away. I think they were a reminder to my father of something terrible, something beyond understanding, a time that made him feel helpless.
One of those cups sits prominently on my desk.
I keep it there to honor the man who made it. And the friend who didn’t follow the crowd, but who still remained a friend.
Maybe my father couldn’t have done more.
But at least he did something.