Bill Nighy, Yellow Boots and About Time

by Ross Decker  Sr 

I’d only give one piece of advice to anyone marrying. We’re all quite similar in the end. We all get old and tell the same tales too many times. But try and marry someone kind.”

Those are the wise words of advice that Bill Nighy’s character offers during a wedding toast in the splendid movie, About Time. About Time is a movie I’ve seen an awfully lot and I always maintain that, if I were to see it every day, I’d be a better person. I’d be a better man because I would appreciate each day for the sheer beauty of it. But more importantly, I’d be kinder.

Being kind is not something that comes naturally to me. Whenever you see kindness in me it’s because I’ve thought about it first and then gone ahead and acted kind. I’m pretty much a mean-spirited jerk otherwise. In my defense, anytime I actually do stop and think about what to do, I always choose kindness. It’s just that I don’t always think before I act. That’s where I benefit from About Time.

The movie tells the story a young man who learns that all the males in his family have the ability to travel backward in time. Throughout the movie, he continually returns to previous events and rights them. Eventually, and here’s the spoiler, he realizes that he can live every day as it occurs and enjoy every moment for the beauty it has.

My family was never kind. My grandmother wrote one of her sons out of her will, writing a cleverly stinging comment into it which was designed to humiliate him during what she thought would be a public reading in her lawyer’s office. One final spanking from the grave. My mother and her sister loved it. They each wanted to do that in their own will. My mother would do it to me, she thought. But my aunt Thelma, having two sons, would have the delicious opportunity to choose which son she would hurt deeply. She chose Gary. The irony of that is that Gary was her favorite during her lifetime and she turned on him to will everything to Joe. I suppose I’d like that to give me a pass on my own behavior but the reality is that I’m the one responsible for it. So, I could have been kinder. I just chose not to. Because I really am a mean-spirited jerk.

My son is kind, though. So, if I can ride his coattails a bit that would be just fine. The defining moment in his life was Superstorm Sandy. That storm tore through our Staten Island on October 29,2012. It was like nothing we’d seen before and like nothing we hope to see again. The damage and devastation it caused is with us today. Nearly three years later many Staten Islanders have not gotten back into their homes.

Ross Jr. was preparing to fly to Houston where he was to speak at a sales conference. With the airports closed because of the storm, that would not happen. We sat together on his living room couch and decided that, since he wasn’t leaving town, we should go to our old neighborhood, Tottenville, which had been hard hit, to see if we could help in any way.

The first person we saw was our Congressman, Michael Grimm. He was there on the first day and he never stopped helping each day that followed. He walked us on a quick tour, giving us an overview of what the needs were and how we could help. He was later to direct Ross Jr. to set up a relief hub in Midland Beach. It was that relief station that set the wheels in motion for what was to follow.

In Tottenville, in Great Kills and in Midland beach Ross brought his wife and children as he mucked out houses, distributed clothing and provided a shoulder to cry on. He started a GoFundMe account where people sent him money because he asked for it and was on the ground providing immediate help. Great people like Sarah and Tony Zolecki, Eric Worre, pitched in with generous donations to get some immediate supplies. The Higginson family from Agel USA flew out from Salt Lake City with a work crew and gave an astoundingly large donation. Many others joined in. It was a tremendous grass roots action built by people who trusted that Ross was the guy who could get money quickly where there was need.

We were naive enough to think the Sandy Crisis would be handled quickly. Ross thought he was in for the short haul, just until the government and Red Cross released the money designated for Sandy relief. As it turned out, he was about to take more than six months off from work and plunge into volunteer relief work full time.

That was when an amazing thing happened. He met two other great men Farid Kader and Mike Hoffman. They were each working to help Sandy survivors and the three of them linked up. The synergy was outstanding. They formed a group called Yellow Boots Long Term Disaster Relief and were able to help rebuild homes to an extent they’d not foreseen. Congressman Grimm’s office was tremendously accessible to them and they got things done.

Three years later, the drive to help continues. This Friday Yellow Boots will host their third annual fundraiser. The money goes to the survivors. The overhead is smaller than minimal. The Yellow Boots board members take no salary. They continue to do great work, stepping into the gap where government red tape causes relief to come slowly.

In the movie About Time, Bill Nighy continues his toast. He says ” I’m not particularly proud of many things in my life, but I am very proud to be the father of my son.”

That’s a quote I can get behind.

If you’d like to know more about the work Yellow Boots does (or perhaps make a tax deductible donation), visit their site at www.yellowboots.org