When the voting started to select the CNN hero of the year, I began reflecting on the wonderful things everyday people are contributing to the wellbeing of our lives and the earth we live on. In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed extraordinary contributions ordinary people have made.
Locally, we have and have had our share of people who have generously given of their time, energy and talents to make our lives better. I write this to salute their good deeds and thank them. As we avail ourselves of any of these services, let’s pause to appreciate their efforts.
In Pullman today, we have people like Karen Kiessling, who served as mayor and was the instigator of the beautification of North Grand Avenue. Her activities in League of Women Voters have contributed to better government in Pullman. Nora Mae Olfs served as a county commissioner and has been another shaker and mover. With the passing of Marge Muir, we lost yet another hero who had her hand in a number of worthy causes in Pullman over a long lifetime. A few years earlier we lost Anna Jim Erickson, who studied law so she could contribute her knowledge to help those who couldn’t pay legal fees. She also served on city council. These are just a few of those who gave so much of themselves to make Pullman and the larger world a better place. In Moscow, Linda Paul and Janet Fisk are two I know about. I’m sure there are many others — some men too.
A few projects that occur to me as I write this, such as: the Palouse Trail; saving the rail right of way for future reuse; the skateboard park; river bank cleanup; walking trails and bike paths around town to take cars off the streets; services such as the food bank, low-cost housing and the like provided by the Community Action Center; in Moscow, the Sojourner’s Alliance; in both towns, the after school meals sent home for hungry children; free chore services offered to elderly and infirm citizens; Coast Transport to medical care; Dial-a-ride; the services offered by the senior center; river bank cleanup projects; citizens running for public offices and serving on various commissions and governing boards as part of city and county government; hospital volunteers; in Idaho, those who work at polling places.
Most of these projects either owe their inception or are kept alive by generous, ordinary people. As I write this, I just saw a passing pedestrian pick up a bit of litter and put it in a nearby garbage can. I’ve seen neighbors picking up litter from the street dropped by fans on their way to and from football games. There is so much each of us can and should to make our town a better place for everyone. I’ve named only a few.
These services don’t make us heroes in the scale of what I described at the start of this column, but I think all these actions I’ve named are a part of good citizenship. Living in a democracy involves not only having certain rights, but also the acceptance of certain responsibilities that define good citizenship. Of the people, by the people. If we want our democracy to work as it should, each of us in the course of our lifetime needs to contribute in some way. You don’t have to achieve on the level of CNN heroes to do your part. While we are eternally grateful to those major heroes, it is enough that we all do our part to make our lives and hometowns and region a bit better in some way according to our talents and abilities. So much for this sermon! My daughter has admonished me for most of her life not to preach so much.
Lenna Harding lived her first 20 and past 43 years in Pullman. A longtime League of Women Voters member, she served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board. firstname.lastname@example.org.