The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 23, 2013

Extraordinary people have many similar qualities

Point Blank column

By John Blankenship

— We all start out in life as being quite ordinary and many remain that way. The few who have become extraordinary have a number of similar qualities.

They are focused; they have a positive attitude and perseverance; they are masters of time; they are strong communicators; they are brave; they are generous givers; they have high self-esteem; they are confident; they are enthusiastic; they admit their mistakes; they reflect good character; they are good listeners; they are prepared and self-reliant.

The best part of my job as a teacher and journalist is that I get to meet extraordinary people. I get to talk to intelligent people, athletic people, inspirational people, accomplished people, driven people, fun people.

I get to meet people every day who make a difference in their world, whether their world is global, or city, or community, or neighborhood or home.

The extraordinary part is that people who have the greatest impact on others seemingly are those who do ordinary things.

If that sounds contradictory, let me explain.

There are people who win championships with last-minute goals, home runs, baskets or serves, or who go off to American universities to find cures for rare diseases, or who invent the equivalent of the wheel and give millions to charity. And then there are similar heroes in our schools and communities who touch other people’s lives with their gifts of time and energy.

I could tell you many great things that I have witnessed about the people I have met during the past four decades, about the people who go out of their way to help others every single day.

You know about those who are written about in the news columns of the paper, but there are plenty of others who have an equally extraordinary story to tell.

For every front-page story honoring a local hero for his/her volunteer service, there are scores of other selfless personalities who reside in our midst but without trumpet blasts.

In a world that far too often seems composed mostly of the self-centered, we have a tendency to overlook the silent champions laboring in our home district: our splendid volunteers who go quietly — often too quietly for us to even notice — about their selfless work.

We are humbled when we think of the sacrifices they make without desire for recognition, much less praise.

Consider the 3 a.m. fire alarms our firefighters respond to so that our neighbors and friends may be safe, or the ambulance rides on frozen roadways and streets so that a sick person may be safely transported to a hospital, or the lone law enforcement officer checking out a burglary or domestic dispute, or school personnel setting up tables and chairs for a scholarship dinner.

Some are heroes at a moment’s notice, like the teacher who saved a choking child by using the Heimlich maneuver, or the construction worker who got down off his ladder to help an elderly couple with their groceries in the snow.

Others are quiet helpers all year long, feeding the hungry, finding homes for needy dogs and cats, sheltering the homeless or helping sick children’s dreams come true.

Volunteers do it all. We owe so much to them.

Do we thank them enough?

Quite simply, no, and we should, for they are the glue that holds our communities together.

They don’t go out looking for recognition; and yet, they are truly worthy of it.

To that, we can all say, amen.

So let’s take, not a moment, but a long look around at the often unnoticed men, women and even children who make life better for us and think how deeply we are in their debt.

We congratulate them all for their hard work and wonderful record of community service.

I am sure that we are not the first to join in honoring and celebrating the nameless “gluepots” who help communities to stick together, through the best and worst of times. Humbly, we thank them all.


Top o’ the morning!  

— Blankenship is a reporter for The Register-Herald. E-mail: jabbb@