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Good news. A Florida woman shows us that all is not lost for humanity
How far would you go to help your new spouse’s former spouse?
How far would you go to help your spouse's former spouse?
How far would you go to help your spouse's former spouse? [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jun. 3, 2021

Has the human race got you down? Reading this might help.

In an age when building walls eclipses building bridges, when pigheadedness trumps common sense, when incubating political grudges has grown into a national pastime, comes the story of a Florida man, his two wives and one very important kidney.

We’ve all heard of siblings donating organs to their ailing brothers and sisters, or parents willing to give up just about anything to keep their children alive. Friends donate blood. Neighbors donate bone marrow. A stranger agrees to donate a kidney to anyone who needs it, setting off a chain of donations that save dozens of lives.

Selfless acts, for sure. But this story has the kind of magnanimous twist that could have had the Hatfields and McCoys rethinking their inter-family discord.

Jim Strickland and Mylaen Merthe divorced about two decades ago. They remained cordial as they raised two kids, the Associated Press reported in an article published this week. Fast forward to last year, when Merthe’s kidneys were failing. She needed a transplant.

At about the same time, Strickland was getting married to Debby Neal-Strickland. Debby, 56, knew Merthe, 59, from family gatherings, but they weren’t close. That didn’t stop Debby from offering Merthe one of her two healthy kidneys. The successful surgery took place two days after the Nov. 22 wedding.

Let that sink in — a newlywed woman donated a kidney to the former wife of the man she just married … two days after saying “I do.” We all know a few people who would likely think twice about donating a kidney to their current spouse, let alone the person to whom they used to be married.

Debby said she knew that Mylaen’s daughter was pregnant. She thought about Mylaen missing out on meeting her first grandchild.

“I just couldn’t not try to change that,” said Debby, who lives in Ocala with her husband. “God told me, ‘You’re a match and you need to do this.’ "

I just couldn’t not try.

You need to do this.

The country can seem like it’s a place where creating problems is more popular than solving them. But with enough Debby Neal-Stricklands, maybe there is hope for humanity, or at least reason to believe that getting along has its benefits.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.