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Elise Patkotak: Most folks are helping, not hurting our world

Elise Patkotak

Sometimes our world is filled with so much ugliness and pain that it's hard to remember that the overwhelming majority of people are good. Most go about their daily lives, whether in America, Gabon, Iraq or China, trying to do their best to get through the day and get back to their families at night. We want a secure roof over our heads, safe streets outside our doors and good food and water on our tables. Most of us just want to make it from morning to night in peace.

Unfortunately, there are people who live to create chaos, horror and tragedy. Most of us find it hard to even imagine the dark soul that must exist inside someone who wantonly kills, especially when they do so in the name of their god. Anyone who can twist their beliefs into such a knot and then believe that knot is the truth is beyond my comprehension.

There is little we can really do to stop people for whom causing pain is the ultimate goal. All the police and security in the world can't stop someone who wants to drop a bag of explosives in the middle of a crowd or open fire with a semi-automatic in a crowded theater. Even living in a police state is no guarantee of safety. Ask the people killed in that movie theater in Russia if a police state saved them. All we can do is get up each morning and go about our business in the belief that no horror will visit us on that particular day.

I work with volunteers at Bird TLC every week. They are the people I need to remember when the news makes me just want to burrow deeper under the covers of my bed. Every week they come in on their day off and wallow in bird poop and debris. They do it with smiles and joy ... OK, maybe not always joy on the day that one of the eagles chooses to evacuate all that was ugly inside him in one major moment, but most of the time.

People like this are found all over our community, good people with a passion to help that makes our world a little gentler, a little nicer, a little easier to bear. Some can be found at the Red Cross, some at the blood bank, some at domestic violence shelters, some at animal shelters, some showing us down the aisles at the PAC. They are dotted throughout our town, serving so quietly that often we don't even realize they're there. They are the people who restore your faith in humanity each time a backpack explodes.

This past Saturday a golden eagle was set free out on the Palmer Flats. He'd been a guest of Bird TLC all winter because golden eagles migrate out of the state in the fall and, even though he'd healed from his initial injuries, he couldn't go free until his compatriots had started migrating back. Volunteers spent the winter braving freezing temperatures to clear snow out of his enclosure and feed him regularly while making all kinds of horrible sounds and noises so that he would not view them favorably. His survival in the wild depends on his continued fear of people.

So when I hear about the bombing in Boston and I read about the twisted hatred of the shooter in Colorado or the bizarre logic of the alleged ricin mailer in Mississippi, I can only be thankful that my world is filled with people who will give equal love, care and compassion to a nuthatch and an eagle; people who will get up early on their day off to run screaming through an eagle cage and feel as though they are privileged to be able to do so. They fill my world with joy and laughter.

In Anchorage in the spring we seem to have two things in abundance ... mud and charity auctions. This Saturday, Bird TLC will celebrate its 25 years at the Egan Center with its auction. All your favorite birds will be there -- eagles, owls, ravens and, of course, Kodi the Cache Crow. Come celebrate 25 years of volunteer power. Come meet the people who make our community a better place for their presence. It's the best way to keep the haters from winning.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.


Elise Patkotak
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