Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Thank You, Stranger: During her father's illness, small acts of kindness made the biggest difference

Barbara Cox and Victor Cox
Barbara Cox with her father, Victor Cox, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Courtesy of Barbara Cox

It’s time for another episode of Thank You, Stranger, our series about strangers helping us out or even changing our lives forever.

A woman remembers the kindness of another while she was struggling with her dad’s illness. MPR News Producer Ellen Finn talked to her about how even the smallest gestures made all the difference.

If you have a story of your own about the kindness of a stranger, we want to hear it!

Call us at ‪612-361-1252‬ or shoot us an email at Minnesotanow@mpr.org

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Subscribe to the Minnesota Now podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.   

We attempt to make transcripts for Minnesota Now available the next business day after a broadcast. When ready they will appear here.

Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: Time for another episode of Thank You, Stranger. That's our series about strangers helping us out or even changing our lives forever. A woman remembers the kindness of another while she was struggling with her dad's illness. Our producer Ellen Finn talked to her.


ELLEN FINN: Barbara's dad was a hero of hers. He was a veterinary professor at the University of Minnesota and had an admirable do-it-yourself kind of attitude.

BARBARA COX: One of the things he was most proud of was that he never paid for parking in his many, many decade career as a professor at the U because he would bike to work. He had a farm. He famously sawed his leg a couple of times out on the farm and drove himself to the emergency room because he didn't have any other way to get there. So he was a really, really tough guy.

So when he started to lose mobility, it was just really a big change from someone who had just been such a strong, active person. My beloved dad had ALS and Parkinson's, and as a result, was living in a nursing home. And during the COVID shutdowns, had basically been trapped in his room for much too long. So once things opened up and not knowing how long my dad had, I just really wanted to take him out as much as possible.

ELLEN FINN: She started taking her dad on all these excursions. She called them field trips. And she really got to bond with her dad.

BARBARA: My dad was a professor. He was really smart guy and loved learning about things. So everywhere we went, we had the double benefit that we would go someplace and he would enjoy it. And then he would get back to his room, and he would do all this research about whatever he'd seen or learned.

And then he would send me links to things, reflections. And it just had like double and triple the benefit of the experience of going. Last spring and summer, we went to the capitol, we went to Como Zoo, we went to the Science Museum, to the Walker. And we went to-- one of my favorite things of the year is the Art and Bloom Exhibit at the MIA, the MIA.

ELLEN FINN: The exhibit happens every year in Minneapolis. Different florists interpret the art, and it's really beautiful. She used to go with her mom all the time. But this was the first time she was taking her dad, whose illness had progressed to the point that he needed a wheelchair to leave his home.

BARBARA COX: To get to the MIA alone in my regular car with my dad's pretty big wheelchair is a bit of a challenge. And I never wanted to ask for a lot of help for fear that they would say I couldn't take him out on my own, so it was a little bit of a get forgiveness not permission situation. I got my dad into my car. I got the wheelchair. I had grabbed these footrests without really knowing how to use them. And then after getting my dad, you know, with his lack of mobility into the wheelchair and into the MIA, I realized that these footrests were kind of dragging.

ELLEN FINN: Barbara was really struggling to push her dad's chair. She wasn't sure if she could keep going and thought maybe they should just give up and go home.

BARBARA COX: I looked down at the foot rest in one of the crowded exhibits to try to figure out how to place them. And all of a sudden, there was this woman, and she was bending down on her hands and knees and she was properly placing my dad's foot rest. As she was doing it and it was just so incredibly nice, whoever she was with, her mom or her friends said, she's a doctor.

Like to say, you know, she knows what she's doing. Honestly, it was really crowded there. And as soon as she kind of fixed them, then she was just kind of gone. Maybe that was by design that she didn't want to make a big thing, and she just wanted to help and move on. But it was so incredibly kind.

When I looked up, the painting that we were in front of was Christ Among the Doctors, which just didn't seem like a coincidence. And so we just had such a great experience when we went on those outings. But I would say the kindness of people that they showed us was just a really big part of it.

I wish I could have told them how much it meant to me that not only did she help me in a way that actually facilitated me being able to take my dad around at these exhibits, but also just the kindness that she showed and the humanity was just a beautiful, beautiful moment. For all the hardship of my dad's illness, it really gave me a lot of faith in humanity because of the kindness and respect that people showed him throughout his illness.

CATHY WURZER: Barbara Cox's dad Victor died last fall. You can see a picture of Barbara and her dad at the museum. Go to our web site, mprnews.org. And if you have a story about the kindness of a stranger, we want to hear it. You can call us at 612-361-1252 or shoot us an email at minnesotanow@mpr.org.

Download transcript (PDF)

Transcription services provided by 3Play Media.

Volume Button
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News