One of our frailties, as human beings, is our clear memory of all things bad and often fleeting memories of the good things that happen in our communities every day. And there are plenty of good things, many of which we have had the privilege of writing about and sharing with you in 2012.
For instance, the genuine surprise of Shannon Shanning, a special education teacher at Bruce M. Whittier Middle School in Poland, when Principal Ayesha Farag-Davis presented her with the 2013 Maine Teacher of the Year Award.
Shanning, who is the first special education teacher to earn this honor, was praised by her students for her enduring love and support, and for giving them the confidence to believe they can do anything.
And, giving that confidence, Shanning said, makes her “feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
She accomplishes a lot, as do the other 17,621 teachers in Maine, every day.
That recognition, in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., should be crystal clear this Christmas Eve.
No teacher should ever be placed in Victoria Soto’s predicament where, in an intense sense of responsibility to care for her students, the 27-year-old teacher sacrificed her own life to save theirs.
Society now seems determined to prevent that from ever happening again, but the truth is that teachers – in small ways – save and enrich lives every day in teaching the academic and life skills we need to succeed, by creating an excitement in young people about learning and by showing each student that their contributions are valued.
The important work of teachers is aided by thousands of classroom volunteers across the state, such as Jean “Grammy” Davis who volunteers at McMahon Elementary School in Lewiston and Colleen Fickett at Park Avenue Elementary in Auburn. These women provide extra love and attention to youngsters, creating a sense of comfort in the classroom.
And, in the classrooms at the B Street Community Center in Lewiston, teacher Rilwan Osman tutors adult students in English and citizenship so that they might become naturalized United States citizens, embracing a land where many of us were fortunate to be born and where many more strive to work and live.
The Somali Bantu Youth Association of Maine began offering tutoring to immigrants in 2009 and, since then, more than 130 Lewiston residents have become naturalized citizens through a tough course of study and testing.
And, we can't think of the good that was 2012 without thinking about children — like 8-year-old Cielo Escobar of Lewiston and her friends — who set up a lemonade stand on Wilson Street to raise money for a 14-year-old girl with a rare blood disorder that destroys her bone marrow and makes her susceptible to cancer.
Escobar doesn’t know the girl, but heard about her from a cousin and told us that “I thought about that girl and about cancer. I wanted to help out.”
That kind of altruism is what defines our communities.
And, although we occasionally learn of the kindness of good Samaritans, most of these good works go unrecognized. The wallet returned to its owner, the teens who help an elderly woman push her car out of the snow, the police officer who spends his own money to help a needy family.
These people make these efforts knowing that we all want the same things: comfort, support, understanding and love.
During the past year, one of our own employees — Staff Writer Erin Cox — has been the recipient of great community support after she was hit by a car.
Cox, who works in our Rumford bureau, was crossing a street in Mexico last February when she was struck. She spent several weeks in the hospital and is still healing from her injuries. “I’d like to say a thank you to all the readers … who supported me after my accident,” Cox said, grateful to her community for its genuine caring.
As we look over the past year and count our blessings, we do so knowing that bad things are going to happen in 2013. But we also must know that good things are more likely to happen, in our schools, in our communities and in our homes.
This day, embrace those good things and the people who make them happen, and enjoy a very Merry Christmas.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.