Thurs­day thumbs

Help­ing dogs, tur­tles and each other

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

It’s July and the tem­per­a­tures out­side prove it. Par­don our sweaty thumbs. At the Ben­ton County jail, a place that once upon a time lim­ited in­mates to cold sand­wiches, jail­ers are in­tro­duc­ing so­cially chal­lenged dogs into the women’s in­mate ar­eas and chal­leng­ing the in­mates to train the dogs and help them be­come more so­cial. Or­ga­niz­ers say the pro­gram has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on both the dogs and the hu­mans, with a side ef­fect of fewer dis­ci­plinary is­sues for in­mates while they’re in­car­cer­ated. We won’t pre­tend in­tro­duc­ing an in­di­vid­ual to a dog is a cure-all for their com­pli­cated choices, but any­thing that makes a per­son re­al­ize life is about more than just her­self is a good con­tri­bu­tion. We’re pulling for all the par­tic­i­pants

Thumbs up to Brian Reindl of Springdale, re­cip­i­ent of the Arkansas Press As­so­ci­a­tion’s 2017 Head­liner of the Year award. The honor goes an­nu­ally to some­one who brings pos­i­tive at­ten­tion to the state. Reindl, pro­ducer of the movie, “Greater,” did just that. De­spite hav­ing no ex­pe­ri­ence in the movie in­dus­try, Reindl worked for 12 years to bring the tragic but in­spir­ing tale of the late Brandon Burlsworth to the big screen. Burlsworth fa­mously went from a walk-on to All-Amer­i­can as an Arkansas Ra­zor­back, but died in a car wreck in 1999, just weeks af­ter be­ing drafted into the NFL. In honor of the hum­ble and faith­ful young man, Burlsworth’s fam­ily and friends cre­ated a foun­da­tion in his name that seeks to en­cour­age and as­sist un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren. “Greater” opened last Au­gust in more than 400 the­aters and grossed $2 mil­lion. Reindl hopes those who see the movie are in­spired by the film’s mes­sage of hope and faith.

While we’re at it, con­grat­u­la­tions to our long-time colum­nist and friend, Brenda Blagg, the 2017 re­cip­i­ent of the Arkansas Press As­so­ci­a­tion’s Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Award. Blagg’s 50-year ca­reer in jour­nal­ism in­cludes stints as a re­porter, colum­nist, ed­i­to­rial writer, free­lancer and au­thor. But she’s also been an out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate for open and trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment and a tire­less fighter in the bat­tle to pro­tect Arkansas cit­i­zens’ rights to ob­serve and mon­i­tor their tax dol­lars through the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act. The honor is well-de­served.

Sam Tot­ten has given lo­cal lec­tures, writ­ten guest col­umns and sub­mit­ted let­ters to the ed­i­tor on the hor­rors of geno­cide, in par­tic­u­lar in Su­dan, where war and its im­pact on civil­ians has lin­gered for years. Tot­ten, a re­tired Univer­sity of Arkansas pro­fes­sor, has done far more. With his own money and sup­port from oth­ers, he’s trav­eled there and at­tempted to pro­vide aid wher­ever he can when­ever he can. Some might say “What can one man do?” Tot­ten seems to sub­scribe to one re­sponse: “What­ever one man can.”

Help comes in small ways, too, at least when it comes to peo­ple like Joyce Hicks of Bella Vista. A trans­plant from Texas, she’s devoted her­self to re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing tur­tles. We’ve all seen them at one time or an­other try­ing to cross busy roads in Northwest Arkansas. Some of them end up in­jured, and she looks for ways to re­pair bro­ken shells or do what­ever else it takes to give them a re­newed chance at life.

This is a story that re­minds us how peo­ple some­times don’t know what they don’t know, even as it seems so ob­vi­ous to oth­ers. A Texas teenager died Sun­day while tak­ing a bath when she dropped her cell phone into the wa­ter. Nor­mally, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but in this case, she (and other mem­bers of her fam­ily) had made it rou­tine to have their phones plugged in charg­ing via ex­ten­sion cord while en­joy­ing nice, warm baths. It’s a tragedy oth­ers can learn from. Elec­tri­cal power and wa­ter sim­ply don’t mix — ever. Have we reached a point at which we can’t even shower or bathe with­out screen time? Cell phones are in­cred­i­ble tools, but they aren’t healthy as con­stant com­pan­ions. How about some “no con­nec­tion” time, such as at fam­ily din­ners or when vis­it­ing with com­pany? What­ever is there can wait. It re­ally can.

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