Finding Light in the Dark

When the world feels too heavy, we look to the locals for balance

By Molly Priddy

If you’ve been reading national and international news lately, you know that it can feel like, if I may borrow from Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” we’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.

Nationally, we’re faced each day with a presidential election season that continues to somehow reach new heights of disbelief and we’re not even to the June primaries.

Social issues are also on the forefront of many Americans’ minds due largely to the campaign, but also to organic growth, with the Black Lives Matter movement continuing in many cities, and the country having a discussion about laws dictating where transgendered people are allowed to use the bathroom, just to name a couple. These aren’t inherently bad conversations – any time the nation has meaningful discourse on a social topic, it’s valuable. But social issues tend to be heavy topics, and the populace naturally gets worn down.

Internationally, the threat of terrorism continues to loom, with Brussels as the latest target of the Islamic State and tensions pulled razor-wire tight.

In short, it’s tough out there. It’s intense for those of us paying attention and can feel a bit overwhelming, even depressing.

We’ve all got our own coping skills, but one of the best I’ve found since taking this job at the Beacon in 2009 is looking to our future – specifically, the local kids who are doing well and creating goodness in the world.

Part of our job here is to cover large events, and oftentimes the news takes a negative or confronting tack (we say in journalism that we don’t write about each time a plane lands successfully at the airport, it’s the anomalous crashes that make the news).

But in the last few months, we’ve made it a point to cover stories about local kids who represent, if you’ll bear with me, the successful plane landings.

In late March, 13-year-old Sarah Rye from Kalispell won the 51st annual Treasure State Spelling Bee, out-spelling 60 other bright kids from around the state. Sarah is headed to the National Spelling Bee, on May 25-26. In February, Columbia Falls eighth-grader Noah Golan won his school’s geography bee for the third year in a row.

Local Special Olympics athletes recently played their hearts out during the State Winter Games at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and those students have more support at school thanks to the inclusive efforts of teenagers like Katey Deist and her brother, Dusty Deist.

During the holidays, students at Kalispell Middle School sewed pillows to give as gifts to the Montana Veterans’ Home in Columbia Falls.

The valley’s speech and debate teams performed extremely well yet again this winter, bringing home top trophies.

Just last week, Beacon writer Dillon Tabish and photographer Greg Lindstrom created a wonderful tribute to our local athletes with Best of Preps, highlighting winter sports. I’ve seen more than 20 of these special sections go to print in my time here, and they never fail to inspire me and make me proud of the valley’s kids.

And starting this month, the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell hosts the New Artists 2016 exhibit, featuring the work of the valley’s high school art students until May 7.

I’m not able to list in this column all the good things local kids are doing, and that’s pretty awesome. So while national and international issues bring heaviness, I hope we can all remember that we have balance in this valley – there’s plenty of good happening, and if these kids are an indication of the future, we might just be all right after all.

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