Two articles in a recent edition of the Daily News-Record (May 24, 2019) gave me encouragement and reminded me that even in chaotic times most folks are staying focused on things that matter and are going about their work diligently and well.

The first was a front page article entitled, “Reed Just Trying to Make A Difference.” It cited Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed as one of seven Virginia recipients of the 2019 Strong Men and Women in Virginia History award which has been given annually since 2013 by the Library of Virginia and Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. According to the article, Reed is the first person in the Shenandoah Valley to receive this honor. Her response was, “It’s just incredible and really humbling to me that people think of me in that way when I’m just an everyday person trying to make a difference in my community and change lives.”

The second article (Page A2) was “Charlottesville Drama Teacher To Get Special Tony Award.” This award — The Excellence in Theatre Education Award — is sponsored by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University to recognize U.S. educators in grades K-12 who have “demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embody the highest standards of the profession.” The Charlottesville recipient was Madeline Michel, who teaches at Monticello High School. Under her direction students write original dramas that explore identity issues they face every day. Ms Michel says, “This program is not about me, because it has to be about my students. They are our future. They are the people that are going to change the world and make it better. These are kids who give me so much hope in some very dark times.”

I have taken time to write this forum for two reasons. The first is that I appreciate the fact that we have a local daily newspaper that calls attention to community servants like Deanna Reed and Madeline Michel. Further, I am grateful that the Daily News-Record provides an opportunity to those of us who feel a need to offer an opinion from time to time even when its editors may not agree with what we write.

The second reason I write is to affirm the work of the two folks honored by these awards. Though they have not sought the honors, they deserve them; for they exemplify the kind of leadership that is focused not on themselves but those they serve. The greatest servant who ever lived is quoted as having said, “The one who would be great among you must be your servant.” True greatness grows from humble service. Having said that, I cannot avoid thinking, if we had leaders at the national level who served with the same humility and commitment as these and other folks do in their local communities every day, in many ways, the present time might not appear so dark.

Thomas Reynolds lives in Bridgewater.

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