Sohn: It's a day to celebrate the silver linings in our clouds

Sohn: It's a day to celebrate the silver linings in our clouds

August 30th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson speaks to seniors at Ooltewah High School last week and announced that he will be donating his bonuses for Hamilton County's academic growth to a student scholarship fund.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

It's easy in this day and age to overlook the good stuff happening around us.

A perfect example is the gunman scare Wednesday at UTC.

Though there was plenty of second-guessing in the hours after about whether UTC officials properly responded to reports of a man carrying a rifle near the campus (UTC students were evacuated, not put on lockdown), there also were plenty of important lessons.

Most importantly, the "gunman" turned out to be a Chattanooga police officer walking to his house from his car after a work shift. But aside from that very wonderful turn of events, consider these silver linings:

* First silver lining: People who thought they saw something suspicious reported it. The original 911 caller told dispatchers he thought it could have been a police officer but he couldn't be sure. What if he'd been wrong, but said nothing?

* Second silver lining: The event reinforced that social media is not the same thing as official police and news reports. By the time word spread rapidly across social media, by phone calls and text messages, police said they had received "unsubstantiated reports" of the suspect wearing a ski mask and tactical gear or having been seen in separate locations.

* Third silver lining: The scare prompted UTC officials to review and refocus. "In retrospect, we should have locked down the campus " said Chancellor Steven Angle in a statement on Thursday. The uneventful event and its subsequent "heavy" police response also gave Police Chief David Roddy a new opportunity to talk about safety and the unreliability of social media as an information source.

***

Of late, there has been so much other "good news" — at least good local news.

McKamey Animal Center and Petco Foundation are teaming up to offer up to 1,050 free spay/neuter operations to any dog or cat from seven targeted ZIP codes in the Chattanooga area.

Pet owners from ZIP codes 37405, 37406, 37407, 37421, 37411, 37343 and 37415 may call 423-305-6502 to make their appointments on Tuesdays through Fridays. Petco Foundation will foot the bill.

This is not small potatoes. McKamey took in 7,000 homeless animals in 2018. The Humane Educational Society, seven miles away, takes in another 5,000-plus unwanted animals a year. Spaying and neutering is the humane answer to a growing problem.

***

And just as Hurricane Dorian takes aim on the Southeastern Atlantic coastline from the Florida Keys to South Georgia, local church members from across the South are preparing — and have been for months.

Last week, members of Burks United Methodist Church on Hixson Pike were part of the effort. They drove two hours south to Decatur, Alabama, to pack emergency cleaning supplies into large plastic buckets being readied for transport to wherever they might next be needed.

The volunteers worked in an overheated warehouse on a day when outdoor temperatures in muggy Alabama sizzled in the mid 90s. The effort is part of the United Methodist Committee on Relief's Disaster Response. The committee is a nonprofit relief wing of the United Methodist Church.

The Burks volunteers spent a long day — about 12 hours — away from Chattanooga, but Neil Carriker, a volunteer with the group, told Times Free Press reporter Wyatt Massey it was time well spent for the soul, as well as for future disaster victims.

"You come down here and you work for a day, you check 200 buckets, you can see the work you've done," he said. " You've accomplished something and you know that it's helping people."

That's good stuff — happening around us every day.

***

There is more.

Just over a week ago, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson showed Chattanooga a personal side of a good heart.

It had only been a week since Johnson had announced our schools' "historic" and "unprecedented" TNReady and TVAAS scores — big gains for a school district that has for far too long had far too many underachieving students.

Johnson's focus is turning that around. And tied to the students' success, Johnson, by contract, received $15,000 in salary bonuses.

Here's where the good heart comes in.

Johnson announced he is donating the salary bonuses he earned this year to create student scholarships.

The LaBrenda Johnson Memorial Scholarships are named in honor of the superintendent's late mother, who died in 2017, just days before he interviewed for the superintendent position here. She was one of the first black students to integrate the University of South Carolina and went on to work as a social worker and serve as a caregiver for several members of Johnson's family.

"She taught my family — my sister, brother and I — that education is extremely important and that it's not about what you get but all about what you give," Johnson told students as he announced the scholarship program. "She taught us the importance of education and taught us the importance of serving people."

***

It's easy these days to forget the goodness around us, but today is a great day to pause and smell the roses.

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