Opinion Columns & Blogs

Awe-inspiring journeys plentiful in 2014

When I first reviewed the due dates for my future columns as a member of the Olympian’s Board of Contributors, I was somewhat touched to discover that my deadline for my final assignment fell on Christmas Day. I felt I owed my most inspirational thoughts for a piece of work that would land on the editor’s desk on Dec. 25. After pondering over a plethora of ideas, I ultimately chose the theme that traditionally represents the holiday season, the theme of hope. I began scrolling the headlines found throughout the newspaper during the last quarter of the current year always keeping in mind that all journeys begin with hope, offering a myriad of possibilities.

It seems appropriate to begin my column on hope with this year’s Nobel peace prize awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, a 17-year old-Muslim, and Kailas Satyarthi of India, a 60-year-old Hindu. They plan to share their $1.1 million prize equally. Through a phone conversation, the two agreed to work in harmony to both improve the fate of children and to help bring their two countries together. This union represents an amazing journey set on overcoming an array of dissimilarities on a world scale that establishes a precedent of international magnitude.

On a local level, stories of hope appeared again and again displaying the generosity of the communities of Thurston County. The Interfaith Works overnight shelter opened its doors on the first of November in the basement of the First Christian Church in Olympia, due in a large part to the charitable donations of the community. Interfaith offers beds based on the individuals’ level of need focusing on such clients as the elderly or ill. In a recent article on this new clinic, the Interfaith Works was taking in 200 people a night, an ongoing journey with a positive start.

In another Olympia neighborhood, a 14-year-old girl suffering from a brain tumor gained the support of around 400 people at a softball tournament in Dream Park in Lacey. The group raised about $5,000 for the family’s medical and other expenses. The teen’s chemotherapy infusions will continue until next June. Currently the treatments are showing positive results.

Moving from people to pets, the giving goes on. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals has recently named Studley, a therapy cat from Olympia, the ASPCA Cat of the Year. Studley has been visiting the psychiatric unit at Providence St. Peter Hospital since 2007. Danni Sabia, Providence Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy Program coordinator, was quoted saying in a recent Olympian article that Studley brings something magical to their unit. “He just brings this element of peace.”

In Tumwater, firefighters emerged as heroes in a somewhat untraditional role. Firefighters Local 2409 raised about $10,600 for this year’s winter coat give away event at Tumwater Hill Elementary School, where 40 percent of its 460 students qualify for free or reduced lunches. The firefighters delivered near 250 winter coats.

Tenino has its own hero. Country musician Adam Craig donated $8,000 in a grant to his hometown school district. Tenino Elementary School used their share to purchase 30 new guitars for the music program. The fifth graders who received the guitars are now having fantasies of being rock stars according to Tenino Elementary music teacher Gary Witley. What an amazing journey Craig has offered these children.

Mexico sees a sign of hope for butterflies. The migration of monarch butterflies dropped to their lowest level ever last year, but according to the head of Mexico’s nature reserves, the first butterflies have been seen earlier than usual this year, leaving a tentative sign of hope for an important renewal of nature. I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to end these stories of hope than with the pilgrimage of the monarch butterflies, a symbolic vision of all the awe-inspiring journeys recorded in this column.