Looking for some goodwill

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We're in the midst of Thanksgiving week, a time to literally go "Over the River and Through the Woods," to grandmother's house. We eat too much, watch a parade and some football, and take some time to give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

I want to make a plea that, when you give thanks, you also take a moment to think about if you can share your blessings with others.

We're three weeks into our "adoption" portion of our annual "Holiday Family Adoption Program," and the list of those needing some help this holiday season is long. And, it gets longer every week as Upper Des Moines Opportunity shares more lists of families and individuals in need this holiday season.

I'm worried. But, frankly, I'm always worried at this stage of the program.

"Will we have enough folks out there who are willing, and able, to take on another family this Christmas?"

"Will family traditions, or business circumstances, change so that some longtime supporters can't be a part this year?"

"Will this be the year Mother Nature gets the best of us, and we don't get those gifts delivered?"

The great people of the area never let me down. They're always there, happily taking a family's list and working to make it a bright season for someone they don't even know.

We run the updated list in every edition of The Daily Reporter. Generally, we have between 90-100 individual families on the list. And, in all the years I've been helping coordinate the program, no one on the list has ever been left out.

Granted, there have been many Saturday afternoons, following the last drop-off day, when I've been out shopping for a family that may not have been adopted. That's when the monetary donations so many have given come in handy.

And, if we don't need to "adopt" a family at the end of the program, we provide food coupons to share among those on the list.

As I count my blessings on Thursday, I will count the Holiday Family Adoption Program among the things that give me joy, and perspective. I understand anew, every year, that giving to others is often the greatest gift you give yourself.


One question I'm often asked is why we allow anonymous comments on stories on our website.

Believe me, there are a lot of times I ask myself that question, too.

I'm a big believer in the newspaper as a part of a conversation between ourselves and our readers. I revel in getting comments about items in the news when I'm out and about, at the grocery store or at a concert. I don't even mind the negative comments, because that's what helps make us better.

I believe the newspaper, although it is a private business, is a resource for the community. I love that people take ownership in the paper and what we print.

The website brings in some new readers, and allows a forum for discussion and a sharing of ideas. That I don't mind at all.

However, recently we've had a spate of things that I do mind taking place on our website's forums.

I do mind folks who, under the guise of anonymity, take cheap shots at individuals or causes in the community. I do mind folks who resort to name-calling and profanity. I do mind folks who use multiple user names to monopolize conversations.

It's easy, when you're in the dark, to make accusations about things you know nothing about. It's easy to not do your research. It's easy to kvetch about everything that folks in the community are trying to do. In most cases, I suspect, the folks who are complaining aren't involved in trying to do anything in the community.

We "babysit" the website, monitoring comments. Use one instance of language that your grandmother wouldn't approve of under my watch and you're banned from its use. That's the same standard I hold my reporters to, and I expect the same from the public.

Try to think of the forum as a way to further the conversation, to bring up new ideas in a positive way. Think of it as a civilized conversation, without making snide comments or dragging people down.

Those are the guidelines. That's what's expected. During this time of "peace on earth, goodwill to men," let's aspire to a higher level of conversation.