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Each of our lives matter

The past few months have made me realize how precious life is.

There was the tornado that tore through the heart of Marshalltown. In its path, it destroyed homes, businesses, local history and public spaces. I remember the initial shock of seeing the damage, but I also remember driving over the Center Street viaduct one morning on my way to work and realizing that I had normalized the destruction. That really hit me when I was visiting downtown Ames and for a moment was taken aback by being in a downtown that wasn’t destroyed, with all the buildings intact and no construction in sight.

I’ve talked to one survivor of a life-threatening accident, Maddison Wignall, and heard her journey to recovery. It made me think through what I would have done had I been in her shoes and how terrified she and her family must have been.

I’ve interviewed two families who tragically lost a loved one in an accident. Derek Williams died in a car accident at just 28 years old. Enrique Maravilla Avalos died after falling from a ladder while replacing a gutter and all he was trying to do was support his family while he made arrangements for his restaurant.

All of those stories have made me reflect ‚Äî and they’ve certainly all had an impact on me. I wish I could do more to help with the pain families in our community face for a variety of reasons. I’m a journalist because I want to make a positive impact. I hope in some small, or large, way telling these stories makes a difference whether that’s carrying on someone’s legacy or letting the community know what they can do to help.

These are the kind of stories that keep you up at night and make you wonder. They’re the kind of stories that emphasize that every day is a gift and you never know how many days you get.

Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling pain from these stories. The guilt comes from feeling my own pain even though I could never truly understand the pain of what those I’m interviewing are going through. What right do I have to feel sadness over someone/something I’m barely connected to when the person I’m talking to has had their life completely altered? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever felt bad about feeling bad.

I’ve thought a lot about that and have told myself it’s OK to feel pain in tragedy that I am not personally impacted by because it means that each of our lives matter. Our life makes a difference on people we know well, but also people we only interact with casually or even ones we may never meet.

One of my favorite quotes is from Jackie Robinson: “A life if not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Each of our actions — from how we treat people at the grocery store to how much time we spend with loved ones — make a difference. Each day we get to make a thousand choices that impact other people. May we all be grateful for each day and choose to act with kindness.

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