Mattie Mims says good morning to strangers. She brings police officers and firefighters home-cooked meals and stops them on the street to say thank you. She feeds the homeless with her granddaughter at Open M Ministry in Akron.
Loving everybody feeds her soul.
When Mims lived in Conway, South Carolina, she made a meal for 150 firemen and their families to let them know they were appreciated. When she moved to Cuyahoga Falls, she started cooking meals for the firemen there and "they’re so grateful," Mims said.
Last weekend in Columbus, Mims received AARP’s Excellence Award for Tackling Hunger. She was one of five people in the state to be honored. Her friend Lynn Doskocil nominated her for the award.
With today’s racial tensions, people "need to understand that without policemen and firemen we couldn’t live. They lay their life on the line. They don’t get enough recognition," Mims said.
Doskocil met Mims nearly 20 years ago when she was dropping her grandkids off at Woodridge Middle School, where Doskocil was the school counselor.
Back then it was a predominately white neighborhood, Mims said, and some of the parents wouldn’t speak to her.
"A lot has changed," Mims said, but we still face racial issues today. Mims hopes their friendship will show people color has nothing to do with a person’s heart.
"Me and Lynn are the same type of people," Mims said. "It’s sad. People are turning against each other because of racial issues. I thank God we’ve been together for so long. Nothing can break our bond."
In her lifetime, Mims has been discriminated against because of the color of her skin. She recalled one time a little girl ran away from her in the supermarket. Mims said she told the girl’s mother, "You need to teach her I'm a human being, too. If you don't tell her about a people of different color skin, she's going to naturally be afraid of me.'"
Recently, an older woman called her the ‘n-word’ at the gas station in Cuyahoga Falls, but Mims made a decision a long time ago to answer hate with love.
"Forgiveness is cleansing of the soul," Mims said.
She told her granddaughter if someone makes a comment like that, "Just be kind to them. Don't try to hurt them. Don't talk mean to them. You just leave those people alone."
Mims took her 16-year-old granddaughter in from a foster home. She said a little bit of love can change a person.
"I just feel life is too short to be mean and nasty," Mims said. "People need to know somebody cares. You don't know the last time they had somebody to speak to or if they got anybody that cares about them. Inside, you know right and wrong."
She also hopes to set an example with her relationship with police officers and firemen.
"I feel bad for them," Mims said. "I try to put myself in their shoes."
Mims has eight grandchildren. She has taught them all to respect police officers and treat everyone with love and respect no matter their race or background.
"It's about the heart," she said. " If you have a good heart, you love everybody."
If someone doesn’t say hello back "it doesn’t matter because I don't know what they're going through," Mims said. "I say 'God, let them have a good day.'"
Mims said she plans to gather a group of women in the area to cook homemade meals for police officers in different communities.
"If you’re a good person and you know you're a good person than you have to treat people right," Mims said. "It comes automatically. It’s not a job."