Some things that helped us get through the year


LET'S END 1996 on an upbeat note.

Sure, important events and issues tend to overshadow triumphs of the human spirit. Most of the 3,200 articles, letters, editorials and columns in The Sun that referred to Howard County this year identified concerns, policy battles and crime.

It is the newspaper's responsibility to report such issues and events, and the county had its share of rancor and controversy these past 12 months. But benevolent acts should not be forgotten. More than likely, you gave and received benevolent acts this year.

I remain grateful to the young woman who rescued my family when we were stranded on the Route 100 exit ramp off U.S. 29 last spring. It mattered not to the 20ish woman, who was white, that we are African-American. No stereotypes stood in her way when she stopped on the dark road that night and squeezed the five of us into her subcompact. And when I carelessly dropped my checkbook a few months ago, some kind soul mailed it to me.

From The Sun's files, I've found 10 good deeds from the past 12 months that can serve as inspiration for 1997:

Ten good deeds

1. Deliverance. The nation helped Tim and Kathy Learman get home for Christmas. The Columbia couple's baby, Grant, was born prematurely while they were in Buffalo. Howard County General Hospital used proceeds from its Symphony of Lights display to help foot the $3,050 bill to fly the child here in an airplane equipped with an incubator.

Grant was 3 1/2 pounds when he arrived 10 weeks prematurely in Buffalo and five pounds when he arrived Monday at BWI.

2. Friendship. William Martinez was in Seattle recovering from a bone marrow transplant when his friends sponsored a 15-hour marathon of skating, soccer, basketball and a Monte Carlo night in September to raise money to offset his $40,000 in medical bills. Mr. Martinez, of Thunder Hill, earned friends like these by volunteering for many years as a hockey coach and being an active parent at the Trinity School in Ellicott City.

3. Sanctuary. Science teacher Robert Siskind's stellar reputation as an educator was legend even before he received the county's Educator of the Year award. The honor came for his establishment of Straight Up, a program that helps teens in central Maryland cope with substance abuse problems.

4. Comfort. Lane Blake Gordon received and now continues to give. Staff at Howard County General saved his life after he suffered a heart attack while playing baseball. Now he drives from his Owings Mills home on Sundays to volunteer in the emergency room. He makes coffee, stocks shelves with gauze and finds ice packs for swollen knees.

5. Sacrifice. Hamisi Amani-Dove, of Columbia, earned a bronze medal from his team's performance in the U.S. Olympic Festival in Denver last year. But when he saw 11-year-old Jeff Wolf in a wheelchair among a group of children clamoring for souvenirs, he slipped his medallion around the boy's neck and left. Jeff, who played soccer before a trampoline accident left him a quadriplegic, learned that a bronze medalist can have a heart of gold.

6. Energy. Dana Oldfield works more than 30 hours a week, but she does not get paid. Ms. Oldfield, of Hickory Ridge, is the quintessential volunteer. She counsels mothers on breast-feeding, heads a Girl Scout troop, tutors children and runs a youth choir. It's no wonder she was named Howard County volunteer of the year and was one of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's "Most Beautiful People."

7. Preservation. What's a column on good deeds without a Boy Scout? Josh Sturgill, a Webelo Scout from Pack 615, was among 40 volunteers who planted trees on the banks of a stream near Centennial High last month. Josh values trees more than most. "If humans don't have trees, they're going to die because they don't have air," he says.

8. Understanding. As director of the county's Office of Human Rights, James E. Henson Sr.'s staff monitors hate crimes. He is convinced that his office would be less busy if people from various cultures and backgrounds learned more about one another. His "Study Circles" brings together diverse groups around the table to discuss racial and ethic issues frankly. I doubt he'll reach the people who need Study Circles most, but he gets credit for trying.

9. Restoration. When a Clarksville family lost its mobile home in a fire in January, the community responded with donations of food, clothing, furniture, school supplies and cash. Barry and Beryl Gill lost $40,000 in property, two cats and a rabbit when their home caught fire. When the word spread, scores of individuals and businesses responded. "This has been inspiring," said Linda Chappell, a family friend who helped.

10. Community. Plenty of people saw more of their neighbors than ever -- and even met some for the first time -- after 22.5 inches of snow fell in the blizzard of 1996. Together, residents cleared paths and excavated cars. People drove trapped neighbors to stores and jump-started cars.

We could not have survived 1996 without acts like these.

Norris West is The Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

Pub Date: 12/29/96

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