"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." -- Helen Keller
A community's success should not be measured in what's accomplished during good times because it's easy to showcase good works when things come easy.
So, as cities and towns continue to struggle in this difficult economy, it seems like the right time to gauge Porter County's progress.
When I came across Helen Keller's words, I couldn't help but think that the past year, with all its challenges, comprises what Keller called many "tiny pushes" that moved our community forward.
In Valparaiso, we saw hundreds of tiny pushes at the Opportunity Enterprises Pack-A-Thon. More than 800 volunteers showed up to prepare 43,000 bags for runners in the Chicago Marathon. The Pack-A-Thon, a fundraiser for OE, is a perfect example of how the efforts of honest workers can exert an extraordinary influence on a community.
What happened in Porter County also triggered a ripple effect that could be felt beyond our borders.
When sixth-graders at Willowcreek Middle School in Portage studied Latin America, they learned about the plight of children in Guatemala. They, along with teachers Richard and Marissela Lynch, organized a clothing drive and sent boxes of clothes and shoes to the Highlands of Guatemala. Their hard work is a reflection of their school, parents and community.
In south county, the Kankakee Valley Historical Society recognized the historical value of the Collier Lodge and surrounding area. Through methodical work using trowels and brushes, volunteers removed thousands of years of soil from the site to unlock the mysteries of the past.
Their work -- revealing the significance of that area along the Kankakee River -- has paid off. The Collier Lodge is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of many steps the Kankakee Valley Historical Society is taking to make the area an historical tourist destination.
These are just a few of the thousands of tiny pushes that have taken place over the past year. While families, businesses, cities, towns and schools continue to face challenges in 2010, there seems to be plenty of evidence that Porter County's "honest workers" are accomplishing great, noble and humble tasks -- which I would call great success.
John Scheibel is Porter County editor at The Times.