Friday, October 27, 2023

Insight: A faith in humanity

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

For the record, I still believe in humanity. That’s not always easy to say, but deep down inside I cling to the belief that mankind is essentially good, and we are all part of this wonderful thing called life together.

As a journalist with a lengthy career, I’ve covered some of the most inhumane and uncaring activities imaginable while also reporting about some genuine acts of kindness and care for our neighbors, friends, and family. In my lifetime, I reported about the aftermath of war, hate crimes, murders, and horrible animal cruelty. Yet I’ve also told the stories of those who are determined to make life better for their community and those are the stories that have interested me the most.

Here are a few shining examples of things I’ve been fortunate to write about:

When I was a reporter in New Mexico in the late 1980s, I learned of a family struggling at Christmas just to survive, let alone to celebrate the holidays. The mother and father and three children lived in a mobile home 10 miles outside of town. The father was stricken with irritable bowl syndrome and had been laid off from his manufacturing plant job because he frequently missed his shifts because of his illness. The family didn’t have health insurance and there were days the father could not even stand up because of severe pain.

Both the mother and father refused to apply for welfare or food stamps and insisted that they could find a way out of their situation somehow. They owed two months back rent and both the electric bill and phone bill were overdue. They didn’t have a car to even go buy groceries and would ask neighbors to take them to the store when they had any money to buy food.

A local church group wanted to help purchase gifts for the children for Christmas and that’s where I came in. They introduced me to the family, and I spent an afternoon at their mobile home interviewing them for a story that was supposed to run in the daily newspaper on Christmas Eve. What I found in speaking with them was a strong will to overcome their circumstances.

With Christmas approaching, they were doing their best to find a way out and that meant something challenging for the mother. She had just been hired by Burger King and was walking 12 miles one way to her job and 12 miles back every day to support the family. Rain, snow or sunshine, the mother had been spotted by some community members walking on the highway each morning and afternoon.

Both parents told me they did not care about physical hardships they were faced with, rather they realized that they loved each other and even if they didn’t have Christmas gifts or even a Christmas tree, they were a family, alive and breathing. The headline for the article was “No Gifts But Poor Family Has Ample Love.”

The article ran in the newspaper, and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. People read the story and throughout the day on Christmas Eve brought them food baskets, wrapped toys for the children, and a warm new jacket for the mother for her commute to work. An anonymous donor paid their overdue electric bill, and a county commissioner paid their telephone bill. A church group reached out to their landlord and paid their back rent and three months of advance rent for their mobile home.

But the best surprise was yet to come. A car dealer donated a used vehicle for the family on Christmas Day and brought it to them so the mother could drive to work instead of walking every day. Several local merchants also showed up on Christmas Eve with a Christmas tree, lights, and ornaments and an abundance of presents to go underneath the tree. A college professor offered to pay for the father’s medicine to help him get back on his feet and get back to work.

When I called the couple a few days after Christmas for their reaction in a follow-up article, they were speechless, humbled, and grateful.

I also once reported in Florida about a soldier who had lost a leg in combat in Iraq who returned home after his medical discharge. Less than a week later he was organizing a volunteer effort to build a wheelchair ramp for a home where a disabled World War II veteran lived. Despite his own injury, the Iraq War veteran was there during the build, sawing lumber and directing the volunteers.

When I asked him why he chose to do this at this time, he told me “Someone has to, and it might as well be me.”

These are just a few examples of people caring about the plight of others that I have reported about. I read just about every day about others. When I think of all the tragedies of wars right now, ghastly terrorist attacks in the world, mass school shootings and other unthinkable events, I’m reassured that there are good people out there who truly care about their neighbors, their community, and the world in general. <

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