Distinguished Citizens Awards

A video camera livestreams the annual Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizens Awards at Bennett Botanical Gardens in Hermiston on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

One of the annual events I enjoy covering for the newspaper is the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Citizens Awards.

Usually, covering the event is a little more fun in person rather than watching a YouTube livestream. But whatever the format the event takes, I enjoy hearing about people who are serving the community.

The winners are almost always bashful about the recognition. I’m not surprised — when someone calls to tell me I should do a story about a person they know who is doing good deeds or has an interesting perspective to share, it’s not uncommon for that person to refuse an interview and say they would rather stay anonymous. It happened with one story I was hoping to write this week.

While that level of humility is commendable, I would encourage our Distinguished Citizens Awards winners and others honored in a variety of ways to be willing to take a moment in the spotlight. Some days the world seems like it’s full of mean, selfish people. Seeing examples of people who are helping others can be inspiring and uplifting, and reading new ideas and perspectives helps foster understanding.

Sometimes the story is part of the service.

I know after the past year we’ve had, this year’s Distinguished Citizens Awards was a nice reminder for me of the goodness found in Hermiston.

The list of people who have helped me over my years here is far too long to include a full accounting here. When I moved here eight years ago, on my own and not knowing anyone in Hermiston other than the editor who had interviewed me, I went to church the day after I arrived and was instantly greeted by dozens of people who asked if I needed any help moving. I was a dinner guest at several of their homes over the next few weeks, and since then Hermiston friends have done everything from loaning me a car while mine was in the shop to bringing me soup and crackers while I was sick.

There are also strangers in Hermiston who have shown kindness.

Once, a good Samaritan turned my purse in, intact with phone, wallet and checkbook still inside, to the Safeway customer service desk when I accidentally left it in a cart I put away in the parking lot. I can also think of at least two occasions where people hopped out of their vehicles to push my car out of a snowy intersection where it got stuck.

On one occasion, I was in a parking lot with a friend when she fainted and hit her head on the asphalt and I couldn’t immediately wake her. It was a scary moment, and I’m grateful for the man whose name I didn’t catch who appeared seemingly out of nowhere, helping gently bring her back to consciousness while I called 911 and handing her a bottle of water from his truck (luckily, she recovered from the concussion).

My job has also brought me into contact with so many people I have been impressed with. I look at some members of the communities in the Hermiston Herald’s coverage area and feel tired just thinking about all of the committees and boards they sit on and nonprofits they volunteer for, and yet they still have time to bake neighbors cookies or mow their lawn.

There is goodness here. Let’s let those lights shine bright.

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