The Day – Noreika the latest example of character rising from crisis

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Groton — And so the latest example of character rising from crisis comes from Stacey Noreika, a 25-year special education teacher and Unified Sports coach at Fitch High, who conceived the idea “A Ripple in the Water.”

It’s a Facebook site she established recently to collect restaurant gift cards earmarked for the staff at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and the inspiring, critical work they’re doing, not to mention providing business for the local food service industry.

The “ripple” is creating a surge. Noreika said Friday the site has raised roughly $3,500 already.

“I didn’t think it would ever be like this,” Noreika said. “It’s become like my own little full-time job.”

And to think it began with a trip to the grocery store. Not necessarily a pleasant trip, either. Noreika needed to fill the pantry for her suddenly full house — husband and sons 20, 18 and 15. That’s enough pressure on its face.

“I saw what everyone else has been seeing,” Noreika said. “No bread. Out of a lot of things. I got super annoyed. I got all worked up and I knew I had to channel that into something positive.”

The “ripple” idea comes from Dalai Lama, who said, “just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”

Noreika: “Honestly, I’m hoping that people come up with their own ideas and say, ‘I want to do something for someone else.'”

Noreika is using “Venmo,” an online payment service. Patrons have joined the Facebook group and then either downloaded the Venmo app to their phone or gone through to make a donation to @stacey-Noreika. She will buy all the cards and certificates and distribute them with the help of L + M officials, who already can’t believe such communal generosity.

When character rises from crisis.

Think about this again: The emotion that triggered Noreika’s benevolence began as anger. Her story resonates beyond the money. Because we’ve all felt some form of anger in the past week. The difference: Noreika didn’t wallow. She turned it into a greater good.

We can learn from that. We should.

Not everyone has. Social distancing notwithstanding, we all know people in the “I Told You So” club right now who would rather lecture us on Facebook or practice blame assessment instead of moving us forward.

Then there’s this gem from the town of Darien: “Darien’s drive-through testing for the coronavirus has been canceled,”  The Darien News reported Friday. “Some neighbors expressed complaints with the location of testing so close to their home.”

I know. Defies explanation.

But it’s a glimpse into the psyches of certain people, even in crisis, who espouse Dostoevsky’s line, “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”

(Although in Darien, such tea would still have to be served by Jeeves in the parlor with a nice crumpet, one would assume.)

Anyway, not everyone is wired to think like Stacey Noreika. Let’s be thankful she lives among us. We wrote earlier this week about restaurateurs George Gianakos and Mike Buscetto who donated lunch to the staff at L + M. That led to an e-mail Friday from “A Ripple in the Water” member Leigh Sammons, alerting yours truly of Noreika’s good work.

So please join “A Ripple in the Water” if you can.

Something wonderful is happening, folks. In the midst of fear, anxiety and the unknown, the better angels of our nature are emerging. Character from crisis. Let’s keep it going. They reminded us at Shawshank to “get busy living.” And there is nothing more invigorating than helping someone else. In whatever way we can.

So what’s your idea for a ripple?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro