When 'service to others' makes the front page

Updated 11/4/2021 4:09 PM

When we think of how accomplishment is recognized in the news, certain topics probably leap immediately to mind.

Like sports, for example, where new heroes rise and fall nearly every day and the very culmination of achievement is represented in championship contests like those being settled even now in prep sports throughout the suburbs and, of course, currently the World Series on the national stage.


Or like academics, where students may attract recognition through accomplishments as simple as making a dean's list or as dramatic as standing out in a school play, leading classmates in extracurricular clubs or projects or winning an elite scholarship.

Or like science, with some remarkable discovery; or business, through numerous levels of personal advancement or company prosperity; or government where the right kind of hardworking officials sometimes find ways to help make our lives more bountiful and secure and our communities more inviting and comfortable.

All these subject areas and more are ripe for news stories about remarkable people who make a positive difference. But one area that especially appeals to me, and I think many readers, can be summed up in the phrase "service to others." We carry numerous stories every week about people doing volunteer work or initiating special projects to better their communities. Two, in particular, made an impression me in the past week, and I was struck by the personal differences that distinguished the individuals profiled, even as their stories punctuated the axiom that one of the subjects put into words.

"I just think that's what life is about, to help each other. It really is," 96-year-old Mary Stitt told our Burt Constable for the profile we published Sunday.

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Stitt, the daughter of a Methodist minister who grew up moving from town to town before attending college, starting a family and eventually settling in the Chicago suburbs, would go on to make such a mark as an educator that she would find her name attached to the school from which she retired as a school principal in 1992, Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary School in Arlington Heights. After her retirement, she became involved through Rotary International in the global effort to eradicate polio and would win Rotary's International Service Award for a Polio-Free World in 2011-12.

Sister Leticia Lapid took a somewhat different route to the suburbs and a life of service. Rick West wrote about her impending retirement for a front-page story last Thursday. She grew up in the Philippines with a "dream to see the world" that led her into nursing roles around the globe before she became a nun in 1987 and settled into "her calling ever since I was in high school" as a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin.

Stitt's and Lapid's personal stories are vastly different. The same could be said for nearly every report we carry describing someone's achievement in volunteering or service to the community. These differences are part of what make such stories so appealing. They show how everyday people are quietly doing extraordinary things around us all the time.

They may not be adored athletes or prominent politicians or renowned scientists, but they are making our communities and our world a better place. It is only fitting that from time to time, they, too, should find their place on the front page.


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