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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Homeyer: Chance Encounter

I’d just arrived at my local tree farm to cut a Christmas tree, when I noticed a picture-book family approaching: Mom, Dad, three cute kids and a freshly cut tree. One of the children, a girl who looked to be about 8 years old, reins in hand, was driving a miniature horse that was pulling the tree. The horse was just 32 inches tall with an adorable fuzzy coat and a braided tail.

And to top it all off, they were accompanied by a friendly German Shepard and a well-trained goat.

This family radiated love, and the parents were clearly present for their children. There were no Smart phones or electronics visible that day. And there were no tears or complaints, either – not even from the smallest child. This was a family unit at its best.

It’s true that some terrible things have happened recently in other parts of the country and around the world. The news doesn’t let us forget them – while politicians and pundits are all pushing plans about what to do. There’s even a slogan, “See something? Say something.”

But instead of looking for craziness or evil plots to report, I’ve resolved to look instead for opportunities to help family and friends who might be having a hard time. I want to reach out to others who seem stressed or unhappy, even if they’re not people I happen to know well.

Most of us know someone with mental health issues, depression, or addiction problems. And while we may not be able to single-handedly fix their circumstances, we can engage instead of avoid. Even smiling and saying hello to someone looking glum can brighten that person’s day.

The more love we can share, the better - and safer - our world will be.

I’m not saying we can avoid mass shootings by simply offering cheery greetings at the Post Office. But it seems little enough to do, and reaching out to others helps me feel better, even if it takes me out of my comfort zone.

I keep replaying the scene in my mind where the kids, the dog, the goat and the horse politely jump into the van while Dad ties the tree on top and Mom checks seat belts.

At a time when the world is awash with fear and sadness, it makes me smile and gives me hope. So for me, as one year ends and a new one begins, friendliness and caring are the order of the day.

Henry Homeyer is an author, columnist and a blogger at the
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