nANCY EShelman'S COLUMN ON mARCH 9, 2018:
Camp Hill woman's small acts of kindness have a big impact in Parkland, FL.
Special to PennLive
As you read here today, keep one thing in mind: On the day after the Super Bowl, Lisa Zoll fell in her basement. Her broken left foot sports an orthopedic cast. She caused a stress fracture in her right foot. It's wrapped, but she is able to wear a shoe.
In the days after, sitting in her home in Camp Hill, as she watched the school shooting unfold in Florida, she became determined to send the people in Parkland copies of a book she wrote with Lynn Shiner.
Lisa teaches social work at Temple University in Harrisburg. Lynn, who lost her beautiful children, Jen and Dave, to murder on Christmas Day 1994, works tirelessly for victims. Their book, "Grief: The Event, The Work, The Forever," provides self-help for anyone who has suffered a loss. It is, in effect, a workbook on grief.
If anyone needs copies of the book, it is the residents of Parkland, Lisa reasoned.
She sat down and wrote to a long list of people, from Florida and Pennsylvania politicians to national talk show hosts, asking if they could help her get donated books to Parkland.
No one replied.
Then she saw a TV news show about a Long Island man who would be driving to Parkland in his white van with "Pay It Forward" painted on the side. She decided to see if he would help.
Tommy Maher is a firefighter and veteran of the horrible events of 9-11, where he lost his best friend. After the shooting in Las Vegas, he visited the home towns of the 58 victims to perform random acts of kindness in their honor.
Now he was determined to go to Parkland and do the same.
One thing led to another, and Lisa, with her broken foot and stress fracture, agreed to fly to Florida and meet Tommy.
For a brief moment, she thought to herself, "This is crazy. I'm talking to this guy on Facebook, and I never met him."
But with the blessing of her husband and using money from an inheritance from her parents, off she went, carrying 65 copies of her book, to meet Maher and Sue Coletta, a survivor of the Las Vegas attack.
They carried bracelets with the words "Parkland" and "Honor17" on them. Each time they performed an act of kindness, the recipient would receive a bracelet and a card with the name of one of those lost in the school shooting.
They went to a McDonald's drive thru and paid for the meals of people waiting in their cars.
"I can't tell you how many people teared up," Lisa said, "It was just so raw."
At a car wash, they handed out gift cards for car washes, and then went to a nearby store to buy two cases of drinks for the car wash workers.
They delivered gift cards for subs to firefighters, gave lottery tickets to workers at a fundraising event and donated money to a local rescue mission.
Lisa left books at the Parkland library, at a funeral home and at a firehouse. She carried 17 books wrapped in individual plastic bags to the memorial for those killed in the shooting.
The memorial for the victims of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting is one place where Zoll found ways to provide copies of a book she co-wrote on grief to survivors of the shooting.
The following day she returned to see if more books were needed. She began talking to a mother and her teen daughter who were struggling with the immense loss. They wanted books and agreed to serve as the local conduit for even more books.
The mother, Catherine Walker, pulled Lisa aside to tell her that this project is just what her daughter, Delaney, needs to keep busy and to help.
So many people, Lisa said, want to do something but have no idea what to do.
Honor17 insists the answer is as easy as a random act of kindness.
Lisa met two young women from England in the airport and bought them their first American cheesesteaks. She routinely tips wait staff at twice the amount and tells them why she is doing it. She will pay for someone's cup of coffee.
"It helps people, but it also makes you feel like you are doing something," she said.
Lisa described her trip to Florida as "emotionally draining, but in a good way."
When she returned home, she learned that Lynn Shiner's church, Epiphany Lutheran Church in Lower Paxton Twp., had purchased 100 books to be delivered to the Walkers for distribution.
Lisa said getting books to those who need them is what she and Lynn envisioned. It's "being able to reach people in a way that's not complicated," she said.
Despite her broken foot and stress fracture, which caused her considerable pain on her trip, Lisa said, "I would do it all again. This is awesome that I can do this."
NANCY ESHELMAN: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Zoll and Lynn Shiner will be conducting at a Grief and Loss Forum from 2-4 p.m. March 25 at Grace United Methodist Church, 309 Herman Ave., Lemoyne.