Weaning ourselves away from the hard stuff, at least for a day

The last few weeks have been dominated by hard news— bare-knuckle politics, the death of an American hero, nagging unemployment figures, the anniversary of 9/11 and turmoil and death in the Middle East.

At times such as these, it’s easy to lose sight of those heart-warming stories that — even when they appear on page one — can too easily be overshadowed by the negative.

Instead of revisiting the hard news stories — there will be plenty of time for that later — let’s begin this week by counting our recent blessings.

The first is a sad story that began a month ago, but turned out happy — and pretty much against all odds.

Mabel the bulldog disappeared from the van of an Idaho family while they were eating at the Bob Evans restaurant in Liberty Township on Aug. 15. Paul and Brook Jillings and their daughter, Marley, 2, gave interviews to newspaper and television reporters and inspired an outpouring of community support, but after nearly a month, no one could be blamed for giving up hope. But Mabel turned up in Columbus last week, positively identified by her microchip, and was returned to Youngstown for eventual reunion with the family that wouldn’t give up on her.

And then there was the story of Jayden Barber, the critically ill 5-year-old Boardman boy who idolizes Batman. The community got together in August and put on a super heroes show for Jayden, complete with a Batsignal in the sky and a visit by Batman. It was a great night for a little boy who has been through a lot. But the sequel may have been even better.

Christian Bale, star of the latest Batman film, invited Jayden’s family to California. Bale, his wife and daughter spent three hours with Jayden and made sure Jayden’s four days in California were as special as his three hours with the Bales.

Happy to be home

Homecomings are always happy stories, and none is happier than that of 14 Ohio National Guardsmen honored at First Church of God in Newton Falls last week when their unit, the 290th Engineer Detachment based at nearby Camp Ravenna, came home. The unit spent a year in a hostile environment helping people who are not only challenged by the elements — below zero in the winter, above 100 in the summer — but caught in the middle of a war.

Having done their duty, the guardsmen returned to the United States where they get to enjoy the simple things, like a welcoming dinner from a church, and the multitude of pleasures large and small that come with life in the U.S.

There were other good stories to be read in the last couple of weeks, but we’ll close with another story of animals lost and found.

Irene Matas, a 75-year-old New Castle-area woman undergoing cancer treatment got two Boston terrier puppies for companionship. But the puppies were taken during a burglary in which a television, purse and camera also were stolen. Matas said she didn’t care so much about the material loss, but reached out to the news media and offered a $1,500 reward for the return of Peanuts and Sissy.

And, just like the return of Mabel, against what would seem to be all odds, the puppies were returned to Matas within hours of each other Saturday.

“They ran right to each other when they saw each other,” said Matas. “That was the first time they were ever separated.”

Stories of loss, of sacrifice, of hope and of reunion get a second look today. Politics, conflict, dishonesty, civic challenges, disappointment and most of the seven deadly sins will return soon enough.

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