Mustang has had more than its fair share of good fortune when it comes to its civil servants – staff who go above and beyond, people who make a difference every day in residents’ lives.
This month, one of those, a man who has helped so many, far beyond Mustang’s borders, will move on to the next phase of his life – and our community will be a little less bright because of it.
That man is Mustang Police Chief Chuck Foley. The chief earlier this year announced his imminent retirement; later this week, the celebration of his time here will take place, as work moves forward on finding the city’s next top police official.
Foley has certainly put in his dues, working before Mustang in Oklahoma City for 35 years. He began his tenure as Mustang police chief in June 2011.
Those are technical details, though, and although they are important – as is all of the many things the chief has done to move Mustang Police Department forward – for me, there is another side of Chuck Foley that go beyond even that.
I’m talking about the man who has for several years braved the cold waters of the Oklahoma City Polar Plunge to raise money for Special Olympics, the chief who leads his staff each year during Christmas with an Officer, an outreach to area children who might not otherwise have a holiday. He’s the man who called me to his office to ask for help because the spouse of one of his own was desperately ill, a man who not only provides safety and security to those around him, but also is a source of inspiration and love.
He’s the kind of person I believe a lot of people would like to be. I know a 17-year-old – my son, in fact – who calls Chuck Foley one of the greatest people he’s ever met in the nine years I’ve been working as a reporter in Canadian County.
That praise doesn’t come cheaply.
It really is true that we have a lot of amazingly giving people in Mustang, in Canadian County, and we are all incredibly lucky to live in a place where service and giving is the way of life for so many. While Chuck Foley isn’t the only person who fits that description, he certainly is at the top of the list – and he will be impossible to replace.
Thank you, chief, for everything. We wish you the best, but you will be missed more than you know.
This week will see a milestone of the school year – Friday’s Mustang-Yukon football game. For some reason, over time, this event has gone beyond a contest, instigating a rivalry that’s not always pretty.
It’s something that has, at times, turned a high school sporting match into antagonism far removed from the field. From reports of students burning each other’s school flags and nasty social media exchanges to actually – and, yes, this is a real thing – beating a car with “Puke on Yukon” spray painted on it as a sort of school activity, this “rivalry” has at times strained good sportsmanship, to say the least.
To me, this lessens who we are – as students, as parents, as the Mustang community as a whole. Because, after all, this is, again, a high school football game. And, it also involves something perhaps those who take part in these little rivalries miss – the fact that these rivals are our neighbors and friends, family members and coworkers.
And, in cases, fellow students.
That’s in part because of the size of Mustang’s school district. While a particular student might attend Mustang schools, he or she could easily be a resident of Oklahoma City – or Yukon. So, these shows of school “spirit,” aimed at a rival team, could actually impact some of Mustang’s own.
It doesn’t help that this rivalry is not just something kept alive by students. And, it’s not the rivalry itself that’s the problem. It’s taking it to the next level, to cruel words, crueler actions – by people who talk about, who advocate the Mustang “1440” motto, one of kindness.
I’m not writing this as an indictment of all of that, however. This is a different sort of story, one that really is all about kindness, but it’s also about sadness, it’s about loss, it’s about family. It’s about how important this rivalry - and how we deal with it now – really can be.
This Friday is a test, of sorts, not for points or for pride, but for who we are, as people.
That’s because those Yukon rivals, those kids from up the road, have lost one of their own – and they need us, not to talk about who’s best or dwell on a game that will be forgotten in weeks, but to be there for them, as one.
It happened Friday. Like Mustang, Yukon’s band program is a strong and popular one. Like our kids who are out on the field and in the classroom practicing all summer, early mornings and into the evening, so too does the Millers’ band. And, it was on his way to one of those practices a horrible thing happened, a car accident, a family who lost their son, a school that lost a student, a band that lost a member, a friend.
“Three times today I had to stand in front of 180 amazing young people and tell them things that they did not want to hear, and it was every bit as awful as I imagined that scenario would be,” Yukon High School band director Darnell Zook posted on Facebook. “I’ve never had a worse day in Yukon, and I’ve never been so proud.”
I can’t, I don’t want to, imagine what this family is going through. But, I know on Friday, when the Yukon band takes the field, they will be a member short. And, that’s a pain that all of us know lasts longer than any football season.
Darnell is right to be proud – not only of this wonderful senior who has been lost, but of his other students, his staff and his community, all of whom have come together to remember a 17-year-old whose future has been cut short. We should be proud of our band members and staff who, among many others, have stood up to show their love to a band family larger than any one school, expressing their support and solidarity.
That, to me, is what our community is all about. That’s sportsmanship, that’s what gives me hope for a better tomorrow. And, it’s something that’s the best of all of us. We are more than a team, or a game or even a city – we’re Mustang, a community that cares for each other and for those beyond our borders.
Let’s show Yukon what we are on Friday and let’s remember what is truly important – to all of us.
In my career, I have been blessed to tell the stories of scores of people – from a visit by the President of the United States to Special Olympians, firefighters, marching band members, politicians, civil service and more.
Not all of those stories were earth-shaking; in fact, most of what I write about and photograph is very “normal,” just people living their lives. While I find many of those people to be extraordinary and their actions inspirational, others might not see it that way.
What is certain is that in the last nine years, I have seen much more good than bad – and for that I am both thankful and encouraged. It tells me that even when our world may seem to be at its worst, there is much more to be happy about than maybe we realize during our everyday grind.
Those high points – well, I can name several people through the years who have stood out, individuals and families who have been a living example of the best of all of us. People who have sacrificed, who have given of themselves, who take the hits but come back with love and honor rather than hate and anger. I could write a column about each (and I have about some; perhaps I will about more soon), but there is one who I would like to honor today.
His name is Lee Roy Chesser, or rather “Lee Roy the Bad Boy,” as he told me when I met.
This bad boy is all of 93 years old, a World War II veteran whom I had the honor of interviewing for a recent Mustang Times story. Lee Roy inspired so many feelings for me – he really is so, so funny, but he is also kind and warm, a man who has lived a life that has brought joy to others. He certainly did that for me.
Lee Roy’s story is, in a way, very similar to that of my own father’s. He grew up during the Great Depression and came to age during arguably the biggest conflict the world has ever known, World War II. After surviving that experience, Lee Roy came home, married, worked hard to support his family and now spends his days enjoying every day.
My dad, too, was a Depression child and served in the Merchant Marines in World War II, just like Lee Roy’s friend Bill Owens. He worked hard the rest of his life and never forgot his roots. But, in a way, that’s where the similarities end.
That’s because Lee Roy saw combat, real combat, as a medic who was part of the history of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and service in France, England and more. He saw men die; he helped many more live. It was something that could have broken him, but instead it inspired him – to live life fully and gratefully.
It’s a lesson we all can take to heart.
“I thanked God that I was able to return to our wonderful land,” Lee Roy said. “We saw the destruction, the awful devastation in England and France and people here had no idea how lucky we were that we didn’t have to go through that, how much those people went through and endured – Americans don’t often remember how much we have and how blessed we really are.”
Lee Roy is a blessing to everyone who’s known him. I know he’s a blessing to me, and he’s made me a better person for having the chance to be around him.
How much has Mustang Town Center affected the city and its residents?
It seems pretty easy to answer that question – from the thousands of people who attend special events, the families who travel to the library, to the pool, to the recreation center to gardeners and sports enthusiasts, to seniors coming together for fun and companionship.
All of these things were made possible by something seemingly small, but which has turned out to be a significant investment, a 1-cent sales tax. That tax has been in existence since 1996.
City officials are asking voters on Aug. 23 to continue that tax through its original expiration date of 2030. The request itself shows how well Mustang’s finances have been managed, as the obligations incurred in connection with the original tax will be paid off in 2017, more than 13 years ahead of schedule.
I think that’s a pretty good reason to consider officials’ proposal now to continue the tax. Doing so – extending a tax, not adding a new one – could provide at least $25 million for new projects across the city. Comprised of everything from public safety improvements and recreation add-ons to necessary infrastructure upgrades, all of those items proposed could mean a lot for Mustang and for its residents.
City Manager Tim Rooney and his staff, as well as Mayor Jay Adams and his fellow council members, are justifiably proud of the city’s financial position, particularly during a time when many municipalities are hurting, thanks to a messed up state economy and some classic examples of poor planning.
That’s clearly not the situation here. Administrators have been prudent with Mustang’s finances and are eying projects that would have a positive impact on everyone. A needed fire sub-station slated for the east side of town – complete with an emergency operations center – dispatch system upgrades and new equipment would help boost Mustang’s fire and police departments, both recognized throughout the state for the quality of their services and personnel.
It is easy to see how Mustang Parks and Recreation, the city library and senior center have made a difference in many, many lives. From the small children who might read their first words to those who enjoy the huge variety of programs made possible by the genius of Jean Heasley and her staff, the center is known far beyond the 12-square-miles of Mustang’s borders.
The approval of the continued sales tax would expand and continue the city’s forward momentum in these areas – and more. More sports teams will be able to enjoy Mustang’s facilities, more seniors will have the chance to make friends and continue their active lives, Wild Horse Park and its services will get bigger and better.
Of course, some of the things slated for completion, should voters approve the tax, aren’t really exciting. But, they are needed. Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has issued mandates to update Mustang’s wastewater treatment plant, and a growing city will always need to upgrade and improve roads.
All of these things – and more – would be possible with the continuation of this tax, something I doubt any of us even notice. And, it’s paid for by a lot of people who don’t live within Mustang’s city limits, a benefit that is not just seen through the tax itself, but through those individuals and families who enjoy Mustang’s service. They are people who not only visit Town Center, but who eat dinner in our restaurants, buy gas and groceries here, people who might just move here because Mustang is such a great place to live.
Continuing this sale is an investment, a good investment. Mustang, and all of us, are worth it.
“Make America Great Again” has become both a beacon and a repulsion, a symbol of the divide across our country.
It’s a reminder of how nasty, tiring and controversial a political contest can be – and it seems no matter your party or beliefs, there’s no denial that this year’s election has been worse than most.
While that might be par for the course, “Make America Great Again” has moved beyond that. Up front, I want to emphasize this isn’t a comment on any particular candidate or party. It’s about something much bigger, something that transcends not just politics, but who we are and what we are as individuals, as Americans and as a community.
The more I hear “Make America Great Again” the more it bothers me in a way that has nothing to do with the presidential election or party politics. This slogan is a reflection not just on our political system, our economy, our international role – it’s an indictment on all of us.
And, it’s insulting.
Implying America is not great now is a disservice to us as a whole. Obviously, I can’t speak to everywhere, but I do know Mustang and Canadian County, I know our people. And, I don’t believe that most places across the USA are somehow inherently worse, that they are “terrible,” “horrible” or “embarrassing” as has been said.
Saying America is not great is to say Mustang is not great. I disagree. That statement doesn’t reflect the many people, organizations and business that honor who we are and what we believe in. “Make America Great” is an injustice to people like Mustang School Board member Mike Kessler, City Councilman Brian Grider and all of those who serve with them, residents who invest their time and energy to make our community better – for no pay and rarely any reward beyond knowing they are doing the right thing.
It’s a disservice to City Clerk Lisa Martin, children’s librarian Lizzy Moser, parks and recreation employee Austin Kern, all part of a team that has raised Mustang up and has made it something other communities has emulated.
It’s an insult to the members of our Masons Lodge, American Legion, Kiwanis, Mustang Rotary and more, all groups that work to help others every day, individuals who shine a light on the best of our community.
It overlooks the administrators, teachers, staff of Mustang Public Schools, a group that has worked to help our children live better and stronger lives, who look to a bright future for their students – and help them achieve it.
It discounts the lives of those students, their parents, their grandparents, their friends, their mentors. It belittles their achievements and their effort, their work and their dedication.
That doesn’t mean America is perfect. We have issues – intolerance, anger, crime, violence, misunderstandings. And, yes, things like racism and hatred. But, giving into those things doesn’t fix it, it only makes it worse. It doesn’t make America “great;” it makes America divided.
Mustang may not be the most racially diverse place in the United States, but in my years of covering Mustang and the rest of Canadian County, I have seen how we care for each other, how we work with each other and how we support each other. We are not a dark or dismal place; we are a place of light and love – a home to people who are there for each other.
We can do better, it’s true. “Make America Better” is always something we can strive for, something we should aspire to. But, we need to look at our many blessings in order to move forward in a positive way, in a way that truly honors all of us and what we are trying to do.
That’s what we do in Mustang. And that’s why Mustang is already great.
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Later this year, there will be a change in Canadian County, one for the worse and not the better as District Court Judge Gary Miller retires from the bench.
If there is one person in our county who has led the charge in making children’s lives better here, it is Gary Miller. Long before there was the center that now bears his name, the judge worked to help children and their families, working to provide services still not available in many counties even bigger than our own.
“During his career, Judge Miller has been a visionary leader in the area of juvenile justice and children’s issues,” Canadian County District Attorney Michael Fields said. “Through his dedication and advocacy, he’s played an immeasurable role in helping transform our juvenile justice system into what it is today.”
That statement was brought to life before the March election over the children’s justice center sales tax. It was then I heard testimony after testimony of children – now adults – who had been impacted by Miller and the center. Whether they were involved in the group home, had faced behavioral or legal difficulties or were protected as children of abuse or neglect, they in one voice talked about how the center and its personnel had changed their lives for the better.
“It all began with Judge Miller,” one of them said.
It’s been a long ride for the judge, who has been part of Canadian County’s judiciary for 21 years. When he retires, most likely in September, he will leave not only a legacy of children he has helped, but also a courthouse of people who have learned and grown from his wisdom, victims who have gotten justice under his watch and a county that is regarded as one of the most progressive in the state when it comes to juvenile affairs.
As a reporter, I’ve seen many signs of Judge Miller. In my early days, it was as an advocate for the children’s justice center and then on a few occasions interviewing him during his work for the Department of Human Services. But, it’s since his return to the judiciary, when he took over Canadian County’s top spot, that I have seen so much more to this man.
Six trials, hearings probably numbering in the hundreds now, and I have seen in Judge Miller someone who takes the law and his responsibility to everyone – accuser and accused both, families and witnesses – very seriously. And, while it might seem like that should be a given, it not always is. As a legal assistant, I’ve been part of trials where judges played solitaire on their phone, slept, let jurors sleep and more.
Suffice it to say I thought I knew Gary Miller pretty darn well – and I do. But, I was again surprised just recently when working on a story about the county’s adult drug court. Again, I was impressed with a judge who cares about people, all people, and who works every day to make their lives better. His interactions with those taking part in drug court were a perfect illustration of that.
“What can we do for you, what do you need from us,” he asked participant after participant. Phrases like “You’re doing great,” “We’re proud of you,” “You can do it,” “That’s just a setback” were his response to most of the people who were part of the program, some of them who had stumbled and fallen.
But, he hadn’t given up on them, no more than he has our county’s children or families impacted by crime.
“There are a lot of children who are now adults whose lives would be much different had it not been for Judge Miller’s commitment to children’s issues,” Fields said to me when I asked him to give me a quote about the judge. “Can there be a more significant legacy than this?”
I say no, that’s about as significant of a legacy as anyone could ever ask for. And, I thank you for all you have done for so many, judge. You will be missed.
The media is under attack – and, in a way, it’s our own fault.
There’s a very public, and loud, example of this in the form of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Several times throughout the course of the campaign, Trump has taken on the media – calling journalists “dishonest,” “the scum of the earth,” “most horrible people ever,” while banning publications and reporters who print items he doesn’t agree with and sugar coating an altercation between his campaign manager and a female reporter.
The funny thing is that Trump, who talks about the records he’s broken in this election, has topped out one that isn’t really mentioned: he has received more than $2 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) in free media coverage, according to data compiled by non-partisan firms mediaQuant and SMG Delta. So, while Trump trash talks the media, he is also getting the lion’s share of television and radio news time, as well as print coverage.
It’s a difficult thing – like any business, television stations, newspapers and all other media outlets must make money to survive. That means providing the news they believe their audience wants to see or read about. The problems start when journalists start selling out their credibility for profits and putting themselves before what they are meant to do and what they know is right.
Trump is a great case in point. CBS Chief Les Moonves spoke in March about the businessman’s campaign, including its decisiveness.
“Sorry, it’s a terrible thing to say, but, bring it on, Donald - keep going,” Moonves said. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
But, this doesn’t just occur on a national level and not just in television. Newspapers can be guilty of the same kind of bias – running stories for one particular candidate or featuring favorable items on one, negative on another. Print media can also make a difference by what it doesn’t print. And, that can be as powerful as what it does.
City and county politics might not exactly light a fire under a lot of readers, but what happens here does matter. Look at the city of Yukon and its current financial issues. Right now, the fallout means the loss of a new city hall, which could have been a big bragging point for the city in furthering economic development. It could devolve into the loss of programs and services for residents, higher rates and more.
It's not a fun job, but it’s the media’s job to talk about those things and let readers know what is really gone, not just rumor. Stories like that are more likely to be found – at least in detail – in a local community paper. When newspapers don’t cover those kinds of things or when they only partially reveal that information they are not fulfilling their purpose.
But, there are also stories – and this has happened in Canadian County – that are not news at all. They are something that papers generate as a conflict to create a news story, something I suppose they hope will sell papers or perhaps gain them some kind of interest. Those stories might be interesting, but they are not news. They are not, as some have said a case of journalists telling “the people the whole story” so they can decide for themselves.
These tactics, like not fully vetting sources, not only shed a negative light on these publications, they can really hurt people. They can make a decision in a political race, they could hurt someone’s career or standing in the community. When they are run, not because they are “good for the county, but they’re damn good for the publication” – a twist on Moonves’ thoughts on a national scale – they put a stain on everyone who is working as a real journalist everywhere.
Let’s face it – there are people who don’t always like our stories. Some people believe if you don’t include every word, no matter how wordy or self-serving it may be, you are biased. I have been blessed with a career going on nine years covering Canadian County and can count on one hand the number of people who have accused me of being biased – but they are out there. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, if you are a true investigative journalist and going after difficult and sometimes controversial stories, it’s going to happen.
And, that’s OK. Some people – like Donald Trump - have a difficult time taking criticism. No matter where you stand on his politics, it should be obvious that Mr. Trump does not like it when people question him. The problem is that’s what the press is meant to do. We are there to ask the difficult questions, to illuminate both the good and the bad. If not for the press, how much corruption would there be? Even more than there is.
Everyone is entitled to air their opinion. I’m fortunate to be able to write a column; readers can write letters to the editor. Then, there is social media, which is an entirely different bag of tricks. If as journalists, we can’t be responsible and realize that what we are doing is not just a right, it’s an obligation – to get it right, to be fair no matter what our personal feelings, to present news because it’s news and not because it could engender likes on our Facebook page – then we are as bad as Trump and others like him say we are.
I don’t believe that. I look at our papers and see, yes, the controversies and the crime, but also the achievement and the pride of our community. That is the way to keep readers’ attention and loyalty. Hopefully, that’s what we are doing – at least, I believe so.
“There but for the grace of God go I.”
Oh, it is easy to be judgmental, perhaps easier because when looking at other people’s failures, we are not holding a mirror to our own. Addictions, failures, mistakes – they are all a part of life. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.
And, that can be very true of addiction; in fact, perhaps maybe more so than other things that can befall us in life. Disease, death, even divorce and financial problems, often are seen by those not involved as a “blameless” situation – we are suffering through no fault of our own. Of course, some of those might not be that clear-cut; a divorce may be the result of adultery, financial hardships through poor choices. But, in these areas, many times there is empathy and understanding – after all, many of us have been there.
Not necessarily so with addiction. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs, these problems still hold some kind of taboo. It’s as if discussing them in the open – not judging, but talking – will shine a light on something we’d rather keep hidden. As the saying goes, we are afraid of what we don’t understanding.
The truth about addiction, the secret we’d rather forget, is that it could happen to each of us. No one sets out to be an addict; for every story of addiction, there is the underlying tale that would tell us why and how this particular person came to this specific place. In order to learn that, though, it means opening up ourselves to the idea that addicts aren’t just some “losers” predestined to a sad, self-inflicted kind of exile, but real people who have taken some wrong turns and who have lost their way.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to cover Canadian County’s Adult Drug Court. Over the years, I’ve written my fair share of crime stories, some of those in the system because of drugs – which is the norm in a majority of cases, experts say; as a former legal assistant with 22 years’ experience, including criminal law, I have a pretty good understanding of the legal system and how it works. I never believed it was right to look at addicts with some blanket judgment that they were bad people; I thought I was pretty realistic about who these people were and what they faced.
I knew nothing.
That became clear within about five minutes of meeting four graduates of Canadian County’s drug court program. They were four people as alike – and as different – as anyone can be. But, they had something in common, a character trait that some people who’ve never experienced their issues has – grace.
That’s because they weren’t the faces of addiction alone – they were the faces of mothers and fathers, sisters and sons, daughters, friends and employees. They were the face of recovery. They have lived through the fire and loss of addiction and have come out the other side, not just alive but thriving. And, with a sense of self-awareness many people could use.
They see how drugs and/or alcohol changed them and their lives and they know the inherent selfishness that goes along with addiction. “It was always all about me,” one of them said – and the other three agreed. But, despite a life that includes the black mark of a felony conviction, they are rebuilding their lives, working to reach out to those they love and realizing there is a lot of love in return. They only needed to reach out for it.
That’s far too simplistic, of course. It’s easy to say “addiction will never happen to me.” But, I believe it’s closer to most of us than we’d like to admit. The loss of a child or a job, a spouse or a parent – all of these could trigger the need to escape, which is how many addicts begin. For people like me with a chronic condition, facing endless pain can make trying to ease it for good appealing. While I’ve never abused pain medication, I can see how for some people the feelings that could lead to looking for a way – any way – to make the pain go away, even for a while.
Unfortunately, some of us – too many of us – can’t open our hearts and minds to the very real truth that all of us are susceptible to addiction. In embracing that philosophy, it’s easy to look at those who have fallen with judgement and anger. I wish you could meet these four real people and see how they have transformed not only their lives and their families, but others who are given the gift of knowing them.
“Now it’s about doing something for others – because I was so selfish, I took so much, I wasted so much time,” one of them said. “Every day is a chance for me to give back and to let people know they are never alone, someone always cares.”
That’s a huge testament to someone who herself struggled with isolation, who still gets snide comments for past behavior. It’s a testament to who she is, who all of them have become, as they’ve been brave enough to face not only what they did, but also what led them there.
In a time when “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems to have fallen by the wayside, these people – people who many would judge to be unworthy – are among the most honorable and honest people I’ve met in a long time. And, we can all learn a lesson from their journey.
People ask me why I love Mustang so, why its people are so inspirational to me – and I can answer that with a little story, a simple tale about a sweet family, a bunch of cool guys and how the smallest of kindnesses can cast a light far beyond what anyone ever expected.
It started off with a little boy and a lemonade stand. Jack Dougherty and his family were celebrating a big milestone – the three-year anniversary of Jack’s heart surgery, an operation made necessary because of congenital heart defects the little Mustang boy had at birth. But, on Friday that was, at least for now, just a memory, as Jack, his sister Anna and his parents, Kristin and Ryan, set up a lemonade stand in their front yard.
But, this wasn’t just any lemonade stand. Jack and Anna were offering refreshment on that hot, hot day, not to make a little change but to help others – and to remember others who have not shared their luck or fortune.
“There is so much bad in the world - not only do I not want my kids to focus on the bad things, I want them to be part of the good,” Kristen says. “Sometimes the world needs reminded of kind acts by strangers because there is so much beauty and kindness in the world, even though lately it doesn't seem that way.”
Each cup given out was marked with the name of a child, those who have suffered and persevered – like Jack – and others who did not live through the fight. They are children Kristin says she remembers every day, as if they were her own.
“We gave away free lemonade to share kindness and make people smile but also to raise awareness for kids like Jack with heart defects that are both living and dead, for Charlie Keith who died while fighting childhood cancer, for Karsynn and Jaxson who were born forever sleeping,” she says.
That was the first step, but it wouldn’t be the last. Moved by the family’s sweet gesture, resident Rena Bohn made her own ripple in that pond, posting on Facebook and asking people to go by Jack and Anna’s stand.
It was a hot, hot day, but that is what they did. Not only did residents get in their car and go to see the kids’ and take a sip of their lemonade, that Facebook post prompted a call to Mustang Fire Department, where Lt. Allen Sylvester took a call asking if firefighters might want to drop by.
There was no hesitation, no excuse that the men were busy – in literally 10 minutes they were on their way. And, in the process, these men, who do so much for so many every day, went above and beyond what they always do.
The big fire truck pulled up to a couple of kids with wide eyes and huge grins, as the firefighters spent perhaps half an hour drinking lemonade, letting Jack and Anna climb into the truck and wear their helmets and more.
They more than made Jack’s day – they showed him that he and his family are not alone in giving to others.
Kristen says what she wanted to teach her children came to life on Friday.
You know what? Every single person that we gave to only wanted nothing but to give back to us,” she says. “It was so humbling and amazing to put a small kindness out there and have it come back to us tenfold.”
Kristin and Jack, Allen and his fellow firefighters – they are just a few examples of the best of us and how they keep a light shining on the kindness that lives in this world. Kristin is right that there is a lot of ugliness, hate and sadness, something that sometimes seems to get worse and worse with time. But, there is also love and caring, warmth and commitment.
And, a little Mustang lemonade stand standing in the late springtime heat offers a glimpse into the refreshment that that kindness can offer. Now all we need to do is pass it on.
In a few days, parents throughout Mustang will be experiencing the dual feelings of pride and nostalgia as their children pass through one door and head on to new challenges.
This year, I’ll be one of them. And, as we celebrate our son’s high school graduation, it’s a time to not only reflect on his accomplishments, but also on the blessing this school district, this community, has been in our lives.
Part of that blessing has been how our family has been able to interact with people – from city officials and staff members to business people, school district representatives, residents, even politicians. This has not just been as parent and student, but through the honor of presenting the stories of them all. And, it’s something Travis has had the benefit of, as well.
In August, I will celebrate 10 years as a journalist in Canadian County. That’s more than half of Travis’ life. As much as it has been more than a job, a career or a way to make a living, it’s become a way of life, a way to not just report on things, but also a chance to showcase the best of Mustang, Canadian County and more. It’s the people and organizations that make our community special, the way so many of those among us try to make this a better place, how they illustrate every day the kind of people I hope my son will continue to be.
That’s how a job has been so much more. Through the years, as he has grown, so too has Travis’ view of the world, and he has had a unique opportunity to learn about things even many adults don’t know about – things like city council, what county commissioners do, how organizations like the Mustang Historical Society, American Legion, Masons, Youth and Family Services (just to name a very few) do so much for so many. He has been able to take part in helping children find Easter eggs, taught people about the living history of Fort Reno, helped fry a giant burger. And, that’s just the surface.
Because, more important than anything are the people he has gotten to know, individuals he might never have even met under other circumstances. They are leaders like Jay Adams, Chuck Foley, Brian Grider, Kathleen Moon-Staples and Jeff Landrith; they are educators and advocates like Sean McDaniel, Paul Ray and Bob Hughey; they are living inspirations like Al Benson, the Cook family, Dan Cromwell, Dolly Husmann. I wish I could name them all, but there are too many – and, in a world where negativity seems to be so prevalent, that is saying a lot. The best of our extended community is a large and varied tapestry. They are the best of who were are, people who show him every day what people can achieve when they try, what true dedication is and how great a community can be when we all work together.
So, as we ready for these few hours that will mean the transition of one phase of his life to another, I thank those who have made a difference for Travis, both his past and future. And, I thank too the owners and staff of the Times, those who have made it possible for me to continue in this role, who show every day that they are committed not just to running a profitable business or reporting the news, but to being a part of what makes our community great.
The future is bright – not only for our graduates, but for all of us because we truly are blessed to be a part of the world that is Mustang, Oklahoma.