I started off writing this week's editorial hoping to find ways to convince people to take time during the holiday season to put aside their petty differences and to extend an outstretched hand of peace and tolerance to others. However, everything that's happened around the world this year just seemed to knock the wind out of my sails.
At that point, I seemed more focused on looking at what was wrong with humanity versus seeing those shining examples of what mankind has done very well. When I took a second look, I realized there are a number of good things happening out there that we often don't hear since they don't make the news headlines.
Take our own community for example. Earlier this month, teams of dedicated volunteers came together to help the less fortunate in our small town. Programs like the Giving Tree or Shop With A Cop allowed us to bring the precious gift of hope and compassion to those who otherwise couldn't find a reason to celebrate the season of giving.
For the past six years, I've seen firsthand how these programs have directly benefitted these families. I personally watched as their lives were made a little bit better, even if it was just for a short time.
But it didn't stop there. When we learned that the shelves at our local food banks were in danger of running dry, many of us stepped forward with gifts of food. The annual Stuff the Bus effort alone collected enough food that it filled not one but all three school buses parked in front of our local supermarkets on both days.
Other food drives held in recent weeks helped ensure that the shelves at our local food pantries are not only full but will have enough left over to help them continue to provide help well into the new year.
Perhaps that's what make Mountain Home so special. Despite our own struggles in life, we're willing to stretch out a hand of compassion if it means making someone's life a little better.
In that same spirit of compassion and friendship, I'd like to offer a suggestion to help keep this Christmas joyous and memorable. Let's take a break from ourselves.
Let me explain.
Throughout the year, a lot of us spend an awful lot of time tearing down those who we disagree with or we feel that we have to quarrel with one another due to our differences in opinion. Just for once, I'd like to see all of us keep our opinions to ourselves. Instead, let's just be grateful for what we have and stop focusing so much on what we want or how we want others to think.
Let me share my perspective on some of the things that make me extremely grateful. While my family has had its fair share of ups and downs this year, we have plenty to celebrate.
I'm grateful that my youngest daughter finally graduated from high school. Once she received her diploma, it seemed that my stress level came down significantly since I'm not dealing with homework issues every evening -- at least until she goes to college.
At the same time, I'm grateful that my wife and I were able to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this month. While we didn't do anything formal to mark the occasion -- which is typical for the two of us -- we celebrated in our own special way by simply spending time together.
I suppose that's the way we've always been. We've always been the ones that prefer to do things on the spur of the moment.
I'm also grateful that the new Star Wars movie came out last week. Ok, I admit it. I've been a Star Wars geek since I was 11 years old, but then, I digress.
There's something else I have to be grateful for as I prepare for Christmas. After more than 35 years, I finally reconnected with one of my childhood friends.
Growing up in our neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, Frank and I were the best of friends. We spent countless hours each day playing baseball or riding our bikes each summer. He was the one who made me laugh at some of the most inopportune times, including plenty of unplanned outbursts at school.
But our friendship ended up being put on hold when my family and I moved away. Eventually, Frank and I lost contact.
Earlier this year, I tried to track Frank down once again based on a very slim lead -- a link to a church's Web site. On a whim, I called the church and left my name and phone number wondering if I had the right person or if I had reached the proverbial dead end once again.
My phone rang a few hours later, catching me off guard and causing me to jump. In an instant, Frank and I finally reconnected, and it seemed like old times once again.
I still remember wiping away tears from my eyes as the two of us spoke. I was so happy to hear from my childhood friend that it filled me with a sense of absolute joy that even today I can't put into words.
Today, Frank and I stay in contact the best we can through social media. I get to see everything happening in his family, and I keep him up to speed on everything happening with mine. It was just one of the reasons why I'm so thankful this Christmas.
-- Brian S. Orban