Do you have any blueberries in your life? Do you know any family members or friends who have them? I’m not talking about the kind of blueberries you can eat. I’m talking about the kind that can eat you, so to speak. I’m talking about the kind that Phil Shaltz was thinking about when he put the message “I’m Concerned About The Blueberries” on a billboard off of I-69 West near I-75 in Flint in the early part of October.
At first Mr. Shaltz, a Flint philanthropist and business owner (Shaltz Automation), claims he put the message on the billboard to get people wondering and talking. He explained in Jeremy Allen’s article on MLive.com: “Blueberries are the concerns and the hurdles and the struggles that all of us deal with in a day.”1
It all started on a tour in Alaska when somebody asked their young, seemingly carefree tour guide how things were going. The tour guide replied that he was “concerned about the blueberries”2 He added that there wasn’t enough rain for them to grow. At first Shaltz said he sort of scoffed at his concern, thinking just wait until you have real concerns to deal with in life.
Then Shaltz got to thinking that everyone has concerns in their life and although there’s nothing anyone can do about not enough rain for blueberries, there are lots of things we can do for people, even the smallest gesture, that just might make somebody’s day brighter. He says, “Then I thought about the other issue. We all go through the day and we see people who have blueberries – their own issues – and we don’t do anything. Even when it’s not about rain, when it’s something we can impact, we show just how desensitized we’ve become. We aren’t as helpful to the common man in even the small things in life.”3
Ultimately the Flint Journal was inspired to add a special feature called “Blueberry Moments.” People are encouraged to send in their own personal stories, big or small, describing their own moments when an act of kindness was much appreciated and maybe inspired them to pay it forward.4
That got me thinking about ways that people have helped me with my blueberries. I wrote in a previous blog (How to be a Good Neighbor) about unloading our moving truck in Maryland and that our brand new next door neighbors brought over lunch. Or, even just the random card in the mail or email that said, “I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you” was very much appreciated.
Random acts of kindness are what helping people with their blueberries is all about. In our lives where smart phones, computers and television have all but taken over our attention, I think it’s about making connections and helping people feel that they are not all alone in this world and that somebody actually cares. I think that’s pretty cool.