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‘It’s ordinary people who are the hope of this country’

Charles Kuralt had one of the greatest jobs in the world. You remember Kuralt. He roamed the nation in his CBS motor home, looking for stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Bob Dotson, with NBC, does pretty much the same thing, and he’s written a new book, appropriately titled: “American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.”
I’m a newspaper guy. Since I was 15, I’ve worked in the newsroom of an industry that does not require a handsome, clean-shaven face or a clear, authoritative voice. (I often wonder how radio people, folks like Bill and Joel in my hometown, can crawl out of bed at 4 in the morning and sound like they’re happy about it.)
Regardless of the medium, though, most of us in the news business like stories about special people in our communities who do nice things for others because, well, because it’s the right thing to do. The special ones are not looking for glory for themselves; they don’t brag; they serve quietly. But they’re there. And it’s those people — not our state and national leaders, not the talk-show hosts who claim to know all the answers, not the editorialists — it’s ordinary people who are the hope of this country.
They travel hundreds of miles to help a town devastated by a tornado, a fire or a hurricane. They expect nothing in return.
They use their vacation time, not to go to the beach, but to serve food and mop floors at a camp for children with developmental problems.
They visit jails and minister to souls who think no one cares.
They feed the homeless living under bridges.
One woman became a pen pal with a man sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and, thanks to her and her lawyer son, the man was freed after 14 years.
A man and his wife regularly volunteer to pick up litter on roadsides — bottles and cans and trash thrown from cars by nincompoops.
Just plain folks usually are the heroes — men and women who risk their lives to save somebody else’s.
And ordinary people often have better ideas than the brains who are paid big bucks to know the answers.
Bob Dotson said it well in his book. “Our country,” he wrote, “would be better served if we listened more to people who don’t have titles in front of their names. Ordinary Americans of all ages and in all walks of life have good ideas. …”
Someone should listen.
Many ordinary Americans, I guess, grow up dreaming of becoming famous or rich or powerful — or all three. Most don’t make it.
But I’m thankful for those ordinary folks who know what’s really important. They make a difference in the community with what they have.
They want the dash between the years on their tombstone — the space that was their life — to stand for more than a nice chiseling in granite.

Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.