Strangers Among Us

In a little less than two weeks, I will mark my ninth anniversary with the Daily Globe news team.
Nine years. It may not sound like a long time, but it seems like forever ago that I took the leap to a daily newspaper — the hometown newspaper, no less — to introduce a new audience of readers to a writing style I’ve been honing for the better part of two decades.
As I sit at my office desk on this Sunday night reminiscing, I can’t begin to comprehend the number of words I’ve written or tally the bylines I’ve had in this paper.
What I do realize is that I’ve had more opportunities as a reporter than most people could ever dream of having in a lifetime. I’ve ridden on airplanes, floated on boats, bounced around on hay racks, walked through cattle pastures and prairie grasses and stumbled through plowed fields — all for the sake of gathering the news.
I’ve shed tears of sorrow with World War II veterans, cancer patients and tornado victims — and tears of joy during Christmas concerts and basketball championships. At the end of the day I go home and do what I can to decompress. I smile about the good memories and try not to spend too much time dwelling on the bad.
Being a reporter changed me. As much as I didn’t want it to — as much as I tried not to let it happen — it did anyway. I can see it now. I’ve seen it for a while.
Reporters can become pretty good at shutting ourselves off to the seemingly constant bad news around us. We see too much, hear too much and know too much about the struggles of others that if we don’t put up a mental roadblock, the emotions are just too overwhelming. At least they are for me.
I share this with you as a lead in to what I really want to talk about.
In today’s paper is a story I wrote about the new refrigerators and freezers donated to the local food pantries. If you read the entire story, you will learn about the “bad news” in that seemingly good news story.
While I was visiting with Dennis and Marie Weeks Friday morning at Manna Food Pantry, they shared with me several stories about the people they see coming in and asking for help. They are the strangers among us.
I can’t give you the name of a single person who goes to the food shelf because they can’t afford to put a meal on the table or stock their cupboards.
I can’t give you a name, but if I volunteered to help stock the shelves or assist those in need, I might recognize a few faces. I’d venture to guess many of you might as well.
Is there a stigma about people who ask for food? Do we have preconceived ideas of what a homeless person looks like?
 As open minded as I try to be, I still must answer yes to both of those questions. Why? I don’t know.
Maybe I’d rather not know children are going hungry in our community because their parents can’t afford groceries. Maybe I’d rather not know that an elderly man was living in his car, getting something to eat or showering thanks to the generosity of truckers passing through town. Maybe I’d rather not know homeless people enjoy our local parks because they offer shelter from the elements.
I’m grateful there are people in this community who are quick to give both a hand-out and a hand up; and while I wish I could share a name or better describe the face of a person in need with you, I can’t. Just know, there are strangers among us — they may live next door, perhaps they take shelter in the park down the block or maybe they’re getting by on food shelf assistance.
Wherever they may be, it’s up to us to do what we can to help. We can’t say we don’t know about them anymore and, unless you’re better than me at putting up a mental roadblock, it’s not easy to push a nameless, faceless, hungry or homeless person out of your mind.
In this season of Christmas, I’m sure you can find plenty of opportunities to make a difference in the life of another.