Monday, December 21, 2009

Going Soft.

This was a week of extremes. A week where I noticed I’m getting a little soft. And I’m okay with that.  

I spent four days at Mount Hood covering the story of three missing hikers. In those four days I witnessed tears, prayers, even a debate raging outside about whether the climbers should have been wearing beacons (locator devices). That debate made me wonder at what point in our own worlds and in our own heads do we forget that we’re talking about fellow human beings? These people were young, passionate, and making a positive difference in other peoples lives and discussion became more about an issue than simply about just them. 

The last night I was there was the one that really stands out. I hung out by a fire until 1 a.m., talking with a brother and a friend of one of the missing hikers, Anthony Vietti. The three of us discussed everything from our places in the world to whether we’d cut off any finger for a million bucks. (Um…no!). But what I will remember most is when Anthony’s brother turned to me and said, “my family and I are at peace now with what’s happened to Anthony…and you will be, too, when the time feels right.” 

But time probably just wasn’t right for me yet, because as I drove back to Portland after learning the search for the missing hikers had been called off, I felt a sense of unfinished business. I was almost home when the phone rang. It was ABC calling to see if I could fly out to Boise the next day to field-produce a heartwarming piece before Christmas. Good Morning America was doing a story on a sheriff delivering gift baskets and coats to those in serious need. Hearing that, it dawned on me: perhaps this was what would help me get to that peace. 

I arrived in Boise and, from the start, loved the town and the crew. ( Our assignment was to follow the sheriff for the next two days throughout beautiful Idaho.  

You can’t miss Sheriff Daryl Crandall. He’s the guy with the curled handlebar mustache and the big cowboy hat. On a wall near his office is a picture of him covered in marijuana leaves after a bust where they confiscated forty million dollars worth of the drug. I mentioned the picture to him and he asked if I wanted him to send me some. This surprised me, so I asked,”the weed?”  He exclaimed, “No! More pictures!” And we both laughed over it. 

Sheriff Daryl might appear tough, but he’s got a lot of heart. His excitement in delivering the gifts was obvious. As we went house to house, I felt a pang in my heart and tears well up. The looks on the recipients’ faces ranged from delight to surprise to embarrassment. It didn’t matter if it was the family of nine without any gifts under the tree, the elderly man who wore shoes a size too small, or the young mother whose yard was littered with garbage, animal traps, and thrown out food…one thing was clear: these folks would now have a Christmas.  

When the shoot came to an end, I couldn’t help myself: I had to give the Sheriff a big hug. Some might perceive it as an unnecessary gesture, but I guess I’m getting a little soft these days. And I’m okay with that.  

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