This week's coverage is about community leaders.
Not our everyday newsmakers — like our valued military service members, city leaders, chamber of commerce and nonprofits, who daily strive to make North Okaloosa and our country stronger — but rather those who rise up and do what they believe is right on a much smaller scale.
Whatever their age, whatever their background and whatever their deed, whether small or large, for self-improvement or the community’s benefit, their strength and determination inspire us and, I’d like to think, help us want to become better people, go the extra mile in work or church, strengthen our relationships and appreciate our neighbors more.
The Crestview Area Ministerial Association, for instance, showed us last weekend that churches could cross denomination lines with its meet-and-greet cookout at Rolling Hills condominiums complex.
Doesn’t that inspire us to look at our own prejudices and the proverbial walls that surround us, and aim to reach out to those of different political and religious affiliations?
I grow weary of politics that aim to divide and conquer, and can only sigh when someone says, “Well, you would believe that because you’re a Democrat,” or dismisses someone with, “Typical Republican.”
We see constant name calling on cable news but, even more distressing, those sentiments echo in our local communities. Frequent commenters on crestviewbulletin.com and our Facebook page attack the messenger and not the message — and the chasm widens, communication breaks down, and the community suffers.
Indeed, united we stand; divided we fall.
Standing up for his community with service projects that include overseeing construction on an AMVETS post walkway is Crestview teen Tayler Vest, who has made his parents proud, earning the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle honor.
“In fourth grade, Tayler was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome,” his mother, Kellie, wrote in an email. “He overcame what some call a disability and turned it into an ability."
His story inspires us to persevere despite outlying factors. I wish a leader like Tayler was around when I was in Boy Scouts. Our Troop leader died when I was in high school; it was devastating and led me to leave the troop. After seven or eight years of Boy Scouts, I didn’t attend Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and with each story I read like Tayler’s, I regret it.
That’s why we publish these stories, though: to inspire others and empower them to make responsible, informed decisions.
On that note, Crestview teen Harrison Mauldin seems like the embodiment of empowerment. You know that maxim, “If you can see it, and believe it, you can achieve it?” This 14-year-old proves it works. He says, “I will always picture myself as a winner.”
Sure enough, he won a bronze medal in the 800-meter run and a silver medal in the 1,500-meter run in May during the Special Olympics’ Orlando Games.
How often do we give in to heavy workloads or personal problems and let them stress us out or determine our moods and the way we interact with others? We could all use Harrison’s strategy, imagine the victory before it happens, and use that goal as motivation to overcome any hurdle.
In a country with a more than 50 percent divorce rate, it’s comforting to see two couples who have honored their wedding vows and set an example for stability and commitment.
And aren’t those qualities — commitment, stability and mutual respect — the essence of community?
All of these leaders, otherwise unsung heroes, typically stay out of the public eye if not for the newspaper, so it’s an honor to bring you their stories.
Keep reading, and we will continue bringing you many more.