Life

Here's to the helpers shining a light in the dark

Jamarco Clark hugs Jan Hanks, family resource coordinator, Nov. 9 as she thanks him for a donation at Van Buren Elementary School in Cedar Rapids. Clark was at the school to donate a box of coats, gloves and hats collected at a drive at the African American Museum of Iowa and purchased through his nonprofit, One Less Obstacle. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jamarco Clark hugs Jan Hanks, family resource coordinator, Nov. 9 as she thanks him for a donation at Van Buren Elementary School in Cedar Rapids. Clark was at the school to donate a box of coats, gloves and hats collected at a drive at the African American Museum of Iowa and purchased through his nonprofit, One Less Obstacle. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

There is something about shining a light in the darkness that makes me love Christmas trees and their twinkling lights. When the days are cold and I’m driving home from work after nightfall, brightly colored lights shining in front of houses and trees glowing in windows are welcome, silently defying the winter and night.

That idea, of shining a light in defiance of darkness, is one I’m pondering this holiday season.

The news so often feels mean and cold these days. We see children starving in Yemen and families running from tear gas at the border and entire towns burned in California. Then we see our leaders obfuscating and blaming each other instead of working toward solutions.

I don’t have cable, which means I’m spared the talking heads yelling at each other on the issue of the minute. But I do have Twitter, which is much the same, just in text format instead of video. I can’t bring myself to give it up, perhaps from a kind of FOMO — fear of missing out — related to the latest news.

So, as a buffer, I work to make sure my feed is sprinkled with happy accounts like @IvePetThatDog and @EmergencyKittens.

One account I follow, @erin, was started by journalist Erin Ruberry, who curates a newsletter, “In Better News” that focuses just on things that bring smiles to people’s faces, whether those things are giant Australian cows — ahem, steers — named Knickers or an Iowa woman donating part of her Powerball winnings to an organization that helps veterans.

Sometimes people accuse us in the media of focusing only on the negative. The fact is, the negative is often where the news is — and journalism can be a different kind of a candle in the dark when we spotlight the systems that aren’t working and the people those systems have hurt.

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Still, I take the point. It is important to spotlight the good things happening in our communities as well, and I think we do.

“Look for the helpers,” springs to mind, the oft-repeated quote from paragon of all things good and pleasant Fred Rogers. The host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” said, as a boy, when bad things were on the news, his mother would tell him “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

With that in mind, this holiday season I wanted to throw a spotlight on a few such helpers we’ve featured in The Gazette lately:

• The craft beer brewers across Iowa who joined more than 1,000 nationwide to brew a special beer to raise funds for communities impacted by the deadly Camp Fire in California.

• The people who donated more than 254,000 diapers to the Eastern Iowa Diaper Bank this fall to help new parents.

• The congregations at churches affiliated with Family Promise of Linn County, who provide shelter to families in need, including an immigrant family from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are seeking asylum and aren’t yet legally allowed to work.

• The estate of Stephen W. Benda, which donated $3.8 million to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Foundation after Benda’s death, to help the hospital that helped him.

• Jamarco Clark, who organized a winter clothing drive for local elementary students and spent his own money to buy gloves and hats to supplement donations.

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• The 150 volunteers who packaged and delivered 815 meals to the elderly on Thanksgiving at IBEW Local 405 as part of the event sponsored by AbbeHealth Aging Services and Transamerica Corp.

• could go on. The list of people in our community working hard to make a difference is long. So here’s a toast to them, to the helpers, to the small moments and big acts alike that are shining a light in the darkness. Cheers.

• Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.