An Investment of Kindness

Gus Thompson was born in slavery in Kentucky. As a young man, he and his wife left Kentucky to settle in Coronado, California on the San Diego Bay peninsula. He got a job working in a hotel and was able to buy property and build a house and barn. The year was 1895.

When Coronado became known as a resort city, the city leaders passed housing restrictions that virtually excluded people of color from living in the community. Gus and Emma were protected from the restrictions since they already had a home.

Gus was both an entrepreneur and someone who tried to resist social injustice. He converted the upper level of his barn into a boarding house to provide accommodations to those who were otherwise excluded from living in Coronado.

One of those whom he supported was the Dong Family. The Dongs were a Chinese-American family who had lived in California since the late 19th Century. Lloyd Dong, Sr. was a farmer who moved to Coronado to become a gardener. Both Lloyd and his wife were strong advocates of the value of education. In 1939, Gus and Emma gave the Dong family a place to stay. At first, they rented them living quarters in their barn. Later they gave the family an opportunity to buy the property. In 1955 Emma sold the property to the Dongs after Gus had passed away. The Dongs became the first Chinese-American family to purchase property in Coronado.

The Dongs lived in the Thompson house and converted the barn into an apartment complex. The memories of the kindness began to fade as the children of the Dongs moved away from Coronado but still maintained the property.

When the sons, Ron and Lloyd, Jr. realized that they could no longer care for the property, they decided to sell it. The value of the property had grown to $8 million. They decided to remember the kindness of Gus and Emma Thompson by making a gift of $5 million to support the education of African-American students attending San Diego State University.

Kindness is often the best investment we can make. Think of how the investment of kindness of Gus and Emma Thompson has been returned many times with no end in sight. How many lives have been lifted and are yet to be lifted with one simple act of kindness?

In our ever-growing toxic society, kindness is no longer thought of as a positive personal trait. We seem to honor those who project toughness through their demeaning attitudes to those who are struggling. But the absence of caring for others never generates a positive return to our society. The kindness of Gus and Emma Thompson should be an aspirational model for all of us, especially for those who are still thinking about their future and how they want to live their lives.

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“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

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