Bill Scanlon mug

Bill Scanlon

I was all set to write about it when I received an email from a friend and former colleague (who is now a professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC). He told me he’d been reading these columns and appreciated the “good news” that I’ve tried to convey.

He then me wished a joyous holiday. He celebrates Passover; I celebrate Easter. That got me to thinking (sometimes a dangerous thing) about the relevance of his greeting, and themes common to Lent/Easter, Passover and the Muslim observance of Ramadan (April 2 to May 2).

Based on my understanding of these faith traditions, I believe all focus on reflection (seeking rejuvenation) and hope.

I’ve tried to highlight positive things in these weekly missives and believe there’s no shortage of things to talk about. I don’t have to reflect beyond the last few weeks to make the point.

I’m now going to bore you with several personal examples, and I bet you can come up with a list of your own that reinforces the notion that Norman is, indeed, a city of hope — a City of Joy.

Are you familiar with the “Big Event?” On “Big Event” Day, which was April 2, University of Oklahoma students reached out to the community and performed work projects for various charities and neighborhoods. They cleaned-up up city parks, painted buildings and fences, planted flowers, etc.

My neighborhood was privileged to have 15 young men come and help pick up trash and debris, enough to fill a 20-foot rolloff dumpster. My friend Joan Barker coordinated a similar project at Hall Park. There were many other examples throughout the city; student participation numbered in the thousands.

The “Big Event” is organized annually by students as a contribution to Norman and its residents. We benefit, not only in the work done, but in getting to know some fine young people. Hope for the future?

I’ve written in these spaces about my participation in Juvenile Court proceedings. Judge Gail Blaylock, who presides at this court, is all about redemption, not punishment. She’s always looking for ways to help the individuals who come before her, holding that there aren’t bad kids, just bad circumstances.

About a week ago, I joined Judge Blaylock — along with representatives from the Norman Police Department, Norman Public Schools and the OU School of Social Work — to discuss how to help kids and their parents find better ways to meet life’s challenges, to find hope where it seems to be lacking.

Dr. Margene Brohammer from NPS outlined a program now in use in Lawrence, Kansas as a vehicle for further discussion. We’ll meet again in a week to follow up and discuss this and other ideas. Positive steps.{p class=”p1”}On Wednesday, I had an appointment at the Oklahoma Blood Institute for a regular donation. When I arrived, I was greeted by friend Michael Ridgeway. Michael donates lifesaving plasma at OBI every two weeks, providing hope to those in need.{p class=”p1”}OBI has announced that donations are well below the number needed to maintain a supply of blood to meet critical demands. Think about whether you can help.

Last Friday, I spent the day at a statewide Early Settlement Conference conducted by the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. This conference was for individuals who volunteer as certified mediators, working with courts throughout the state.

I was one of three mediators from Norman at the conference. We listened to new ideas on how to settle disputes and learned from each other’s experiences. You might ask how this benefits Norman citizens, since courts are involved (and you don’t want to go to court).

Though many mediations are indeed court ordered, this service is available free of charge for the asking. True, you have to schedule mediators through the court (in Norman, the Municipal Court), but once a mediation is scheduled, the court’s role in these voluntary sessions is over.

Something of value leading to renewed hope? I think so.

I mentioned that Norman is a “City of Joy.” There is a book of that title, written by French author Dominique La Pierre.

The book is about a French priest sent to minister the slums of Calcutta. He arrives, thinking of all the good he’ll do (an ego thing). He soon learns what the downtrodden already know: that life is precious and worth living, something that inspires hope. He learns that it’s his privilege to serve.

The individuals I’ve mentioned here know about that privilege. This attitude of service is part of what makes Norman great.

May you have a joyous holiday, and much happiness (and I promise, next week will focus on Norman High!).

Bill Scanlon is a former Ward 6 city councilor who volunteers in support of the Norman Police Department and Norman Fire Department, and serves multiple city committees. Prior to his work in Norman, Scanlon served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force — where he last worked as chief of mission analyses under the assistant chief of staff for the Air Force, Studies and Analyses at the Pentagon — and worked for Northrop Grumman in Washington, D.C.

 

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