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Posted on Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Forget the Grinches and celebrate the goodwill of local citizens

By Tony Dearing

Bah humbug? When you see the worst in people, it can be enough to dim your holiday spirit, and even your faith in humanity.

Take the story of the woman from Ypsilanti who was shopping in Novi and accidentally put her holiday gifts in the trunk of someone else’s car. You’d like to think the owner of the other car would make some effort to find the real owner of the gifts and give them back. Instead, someone tried to exchange two of the gifts for cash and fled when a store employee became suspicious.

Is that the best that people can do? Fortunately not. For every act of dishonesty or hard-heartedness, you can find an abundance of examples of goodness, compassion and service to others. On this day, and every day, that’s worth remembering. So in the spirit of the season, we offer a tribute to good people who have touched the lives of others in the past year.

Sometimes, the worst acts can bring out the best in people. chronicled a story last week of how a family affected by tragedy was aided and comforted by complete strangers. When a drunken driver struck and killed a 32-year-old woman in Ypsilanti Township, bystanders helped police identify and catch the suspect, comforted the daughter of the victim and gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed for the victim’s family.

Here at, we don’t have to look far to find the best in people. At this time of year, we work with hundreds of people who volunteer as shoppers in our Warm the Children program. Our volunteer shoppers went along as the families of 3,188 children purchased coats, gloves, hats and clothing through this program. We had almost 100 new shoppers this year, as well as many returning shoppers, some of whom worked with as many as 30 families. Some of our volunteer shoppers have been helping out since the local Warm the Children program was launched 15 years ago. We couldn’t do this without them, and we thank them for their help.

When it comes to service to others, we know there’s no generation gap in Ann Arbor. You can tell that just by reviewing all the activities of the nominees for our annual Young Citizen of the Year award. This year’s winner was Katherine Ford, a graduate of Greenhills School. She was active at the Neutral Zone, including serving on the teen center’s advisory council and helping produce the Breakin’ Curfew event. She’s also volunteered at SafeHouse and was active in school organizations such as Students Educating Each Other About Racism. Having young people like Ford in our community makes it easy to feel good about the future.

If you’re looking for other examples of people doing good, we hope you caught the February issue of The Ann magazine, which profiled three community members whom it described as “paragons’’ of volunteerism. The trio of super-volunteers was made up of Letitia Byrd, who at one point served on the board of 30 non-profit organizations in Washtenaw County; Joseph Sutkowski, a University of Michigan student who got a disaster assistance call from the Red Cross at 1:30 in the morning and was up all night even though he had two exams the next day; and Jane Pogson, who has been volunteering in state prisons for some 25 years. “... You get to know people you wouldn’t meet otherwise,’’ Pogson said. “And your life is enriched.’’

We feel enriched, too, by coming in contact with so many people who are doing good works in the community and making a difference in the lives of others. We find ourselves thinking about them today, and appreciating what they do for all of us every day.



Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Thank you Tony. Every time I read an article about our country falling apart, I look around me and and see all the ordinary people doing things to help those around them. There is so much more good than bad, and we should all be mindful that there are no small acts of kindness. A thoughtful word, a helping hand, even a smile carries forward. Let us all work to make a difference in 2012.


Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

Thank-you and bless you, justaposter.

Dog Guy

Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

An ultra "Grinch" would write of "holiday spirit" and reference "Bah humbug" but never use the word "Christmas."