Valley Voices

Goodness happens in downtown Fresno – that’s my reality

Reality television seems to entertain the masses in America. It is no secret that this genre of entertainment is an unrealistic and staged portrayal of life. It is certainly not life as we know it. We all realize that what we see is not what is true..

My daughter and I had a firsthand look at this a few weeks ago in downtown Fresno’s nostalgic Warnors Theatre. The Dance Studio of Fresno, led by 30-plus-year artistic director/owner Sue Sampson Dalena, participated during a taping of the reality show “Dance Moms.”

No, I am not one of those dance moms. But yes, I am the mother of a dancer. I was not sure what we would learn from this experience. But at the end of the day, we walked away with a valuable perspective of what we know is absolutely, undeniably true: Life is nothing close to reality television.

There were lights and cameras, staging, a script. There were re-taping of routines for edits only. That’s just not the way life is. For most people, there is no spotlight, only a glimmer of light in their current situations. There is no way to stage life’s circumstances. We simply deal with what comes our way as best we can.

We have no scripts. We don’t even know how our stories will end or when. We rely on faith, hope, and love to catapult us through. There is no opportunity to re-tape, repeat or edit a situation. Instead, we center ourselves with supportive loved ones who provide encouragement to carry on.

After a few hours of being in the world of reality television, I had to take time away and move completely away from it all. I ended up at a coffee shop in downtown Fresno.

I noticed a man sitting at one of the tables. He just needed a warm place to sleep in the cold and foggy weather. Next to his table were two large bags with his belongings. As I drank my latte, my heart sank when he was asked to leave the premises if he was not a customer.

I understand why, yet it was still hard. I went from the world of reality television to life’s true reality – struggle. The man kindly said he would leave and was allowed to stay for a few minutes to regroup.

As he readjusted himself, a father and son walked in. The father told his 12-year-old son to wait for him while he went to the washroom. What I observed next was a great moment.

The young boy noticed the man and, without being told and without any fear, asked if he was OK. The man smiled, perhaps wondering why anyone would care about him. As the man began to get up to pick up his bags, the young boy then said, “Here let me help you with you those, they are heavy!”

I was amazed at this interaction. No cameras, no lights, no script, no audience, no expectation of recognition, or doing something nice only to expect getting something in return. This young boy’s kindness and eagerness to help someone in need was purely good, essentially human, and simply the way we should treat one another. It is not because someone is watching but because kindness fills the world with goodness.

As the young boy struggled to hold the heavy bags, his father reappeared. Without knowing what occurred and without hesitation, he opened the door for the man. The father clearly was the model for his son. He had no idea of his son’s generosity, so I made a point to let him know how proud he should be of his son’s actions.

It was the type of moment that fills our hearts as parents. We live for moments when our children do good in the world. That is a parent’s greatest accomplishment; and when my five children show kindness to others, my heart smiles.

As the man walked away with his belongings and on to the street finding another warm place to reside, we remained in the coffee shop. This was reality. This was life as we know it. It was a collision between hardship and kindness.

This was human kindness the way it should be: unsolicited, unselfish and unbelievably pure. When opportunities for human interaction wrapped in goodness appear, we must pay attention, take action, focus on it and replicate the goodness. We can make the world a better place.

There is no script in the reality of our lives. The reality is that we go about our lives with the people surrounding us. We celebrate hard-earned accomplishments and muddle through hardships together. We decide who plays a role in our lives.

We put together our own cast of supporting roles and as the lead role, every now and then we can sprinkle tidbits of kindness to others in need. The reality of our lives is that life can be a struggle for each of us. When we realize the struggle exists in every one of us, offering kindness to lighten someone’s heart can make all the difference.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

Jeannie Liao is a mother of five, writer, and educator. She is a former administrator for The Fresno County Office of Education and Clovis Unified School District. Write to her at