I have lived and worked in the Killeen and Harker Heights area for more than half my life.

In my time as an educator, I counted myself quite fortunate that I could see a lot of good — certainly much more positive than negative — working in the classroom. But I lost all joy when health issues took away my ability to teach.

Life has a nasty habit of throwing us curveballs that get in the way of things; it interrupts our lives and can turn our viewpoints sour rather quickly if we’re not careful.

We find our thoughts are taking a decidedly dark and negative bent and, against our collective will, we find we have become dark and negative ourselves.

Reading the headlines and watching the news certainly doesn’t help. It’s full of tragedies and calamities, and stories of truly terrible people doing truly terrible things. The combination of all of this can drive us even further into the darkness if we let it.

So when I got the opportunity to begin writing, I decided I needed a serious break from all of that, and chose to write about the community — something light and happy and not at all negative — hoping it would restore my faith in humanity, and life, at some point.

What I got back from my community restored my faith in so many more ways than I could have counted. Just in the course of one week:

I have seen a community come together for sick and disabled children who will never run, or cross home plate, or score a touchdown; lots of people and businesses from Killeen and Harker Heights donated their time and services to help. Everyone smiled and laughed.

I have seen a community come together for a library to promote reading in the young and old; every department in the city of Harker Heights volunteered their time (and trucks) to help. Everyone smiled and laughed. I joined the reading club.

I have seen a community come together for common cause: To help the homeless. People from Killeen, Fort Hood, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, and elsewhere ran, walked and danced their way through the 5K course. Everyone smiled and laughed. I danced a little, too.

So here is what I’ve learned: life is messy. It throws you curves. It doesn’t play well with others. And you will occasionally struggle.

I’ve learned that I am still teaching, just differently. But I’ve also learned that hope is what springs from my community.

The more I see my community at work, and the more I see the people in my community coming together for each other, living, loving, the more hope I have. And hope means that I — we — can fight another day.

Stephanie Ratts GRISSOM is a Herald correspondent.

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