Sometimes there are stories that practically tell themselves, so I have decided to share a few.
The first story involves a neighbor-helping-neighbor event I recently described. The words, however, belong to one of the participating farmers, Brian Case, who happens to be a former student of mine:
“It was a blessing to be a part of this work. We had 4 combines, 3 grain carts, and 9 semi-trucks to harvest 165 acres of beans for a neighbor. Some of us stopped harvest on our own operations to help. Some of the guys took a day off work from their off-farm jobs. Others donated food and labor. All of us would have been fine without the pictures and publicity. We just came together to help a friend in need because it was the right thing to do, no payment or thanks needed or expected. It sure would be nice if the leaders of this great nation would learn a lesson or two from a group of farmers in little old Champaign County – put their differences aside, work together, and just do the right thing!”
I have a sweet little story of my own. A while back I received a welcome surprise in my mailbox: a real letter in an envelope complete with a stamp! Colton, a 7-year-old friend, had used a yellow Ticonderoga pencil to write a few lines in excellent second-grade handwriting with fairly accurate spelling. It is great to have Colton as a pen pal – he and I share a February birthday, and his mother was a student of mine.
From time to time we hear improbable lost-and-found stories that happen to people we do not know. I was intrigued, then, by this account involving the teacher in the classroom next to mine at Graham.
Krissy Randall, who still teaches at GHS, swam competitively at Wright State during her college years. In fact, in 1992 she earned a championship ring in honor of her achievements. Unfortunately, Krissy lost her special ring some 22 years ago on a Florida beach during spring break.
In 2013 a lady named Sheila, whose stepdaughter’s grandfather had found the ring, used Facebook to locate Krissy’s teammate and send a message about returning the long-lost item. Inexplicably, as sometimes happens with modern technology, Sheila’s message arrived only a few weeks ago. The other day I saw a picture of the treasured ring – back on Krissy’s finger, right where it belongs.
During a phone interview a few months ago, I heard another remarkable story, one about a heroic young nurse. I recounted her experience in a profile I wrote for the alumni magazine of my alma mater.
Julie Stroyne Nixon, a Pittsburgh native, joined a hospital staff in her hometown after graduating from Otterbein in 2014 with a nursing degree. On her wedding day this past June, as Julie and her new husband crossed a Pittsburgh street to attend an after-reception party, someone yelled for CPR assistance to resuscitate an unresponsive woman in the vicinity.
Julie told me her training kicked in; still dressed in her wedding gown, she performed the lifesaving procedure until an ambulance arrived. What a wedding memory!
Training kicked in for another brave young person last Monday during the terrible attack that occurred on the campus of The Ohio State University.
By now, almost everyone knows about Anderson Payne’s experience during that attack. As Andy stood outside Watts Hall with his classmates after a fire alarm had sounded, the 2006 GHS alum witnessed a car plow into a group of pedestrians. Assuming the driver had lost control, Andy – also an Army veteran – responded to his military instincts. He attempted to provide assistance to those in need, only to have tendons and nerves in his hand slashed by the knife-wielding attacker.
With great relief we learned of Andy’s successful surgery. The welding engineer student is recuperating at home with his wife, Hilary Wilson Payne – also a Graham grad – and their three young children.
It seems that Andy’s actions provide just one example of protective leadership that morning. In several campus classrooms and lecture halls, individuals like Andy responded to instructions issued by university officials during the “shelter in place” period. Following their military training, they barricaded doors and stood guard to protect fellow students. How fortunate we are to have these brave soldiers and veterans in our midst, willing to continue their service on behalf of us all.
My final story is the condensed version of an actual children’s book, from which we could all benefit. For birthdays each year I send an English copy of an age-appropriate classic of children’s literature to the daughters of my “niece” in Germany. My choice this year was Elmer, by David McKee.
Elmer is distinguished from all the other elephants by his striking patchwork appearance in contrast to their gray hide. When he becomes concerned about his “unordinary” appearance, Elmer covers himself in gray berry juice to blend in as just one of the herd. Fortunately, the unhappiness he feels by disguising himself washes away during a rainstorm. Elmer’s fellow pachyderms assure him they love him just the way he is.
Here’s hoping we, in our fractured society, can learn to accept each other in Elmer-style: just the way we are – free of the political, physical, religious, ethnic, and gender labels we unnecessarily attach to one another.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.
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