Word of the week: friends - make new ones, keep old

This week, we're thinking about the human side of life, with all its frailties -- the kindness of a stranger, the hug from a friend, the shortness of a young life.

Many people make our lives better. More than we can list. And, most likely, you are touching the lives of people in ways you don't even recognize.

Teen shelter opens

Homelessness is something we don't see much of in this community, but it's here. Unseen is not the same as nonexistent.

Teens without a place to crash at night have been, until now, the one demographic with no place to go.

There are shelters for men, women and children. Now, thanks to My Friends Place, there is a place for teens.

For a variety of reasons, a kid might find himself without a roof over his head. Maybe home isn't a safe place. Maybe he's kicked out.

In a perfect world we would treat the cause, not the symptom. Yes, in a perfect world, everyone would be protected and cared for.

In the meantime, let's provide a place for the homeless to stay and a way for them to get back on their feet.

Residents party

We suppose the opposite of being homeless is being homebound.

For people living at Desert Villa Apartments, replacing the facility's elevator was an early Christmas gift, but it came at a price -- two weeks of stairs-only access.

The upgrade may have been necessary, but it virtually trapped some of the elderly residents. Fortunately, the project included some Christmas angels -- three young men who volunteered to take out the trash and run other errands during the interim.

The management set out food trays and games to ward off cabin fever. The next thing they knew, people were sitting around the tables visiting with each other, making and renewing friendships.

It's amazing how that works.

There's no bad time to be friendly, but cold, long winter evenings are especially great for reaching out.

Two things have to happen for people to spend time together. Someone has to do the inviting and someone has to do the accepting. Why not take a run at both of those activities in the coming month?

Inspiring curiosity

There's something big over at Kadlec Regional Medical Center's lobby. Big and old. Kind of.

Through December, you can see a replica of a 75 million-year-old dinosaur skull. Well, the replica isn't that old, but the original is.

Retired Richland physicist Bill Shipp discovered the bones in 2005 on his vacation property in Montana. The originals are in a museum in Wisconsin, but the replica is making its way around Washington.

It's amazing what we can learn from a pile of old bones. For instance, local doctors Edward Iulian and Lewis Zirkle can tell the animal had a bone infection that likely killed it and it lived with arthritis.

Shipp's hope is that the "fossil" will inspire curiosity.

And it's doing a good job. It kind of makes you wonder about all the things we don't know that we don't know.

Remembering Sierra

Two months ago, Sierra Murray died. Even those of us who never knew her have learned that the world is a better place because she was in it.

The crosswalks around Richland High School likely will be safer because of her as well. Her friends will see to that.

The leadership team at the school is making safety a priority, lobbying the city council to put in a crosswalk with a flashing light and make other improvements.

They're also providing reflective tape for backpacks. And, just in case, they're educating kids about organ donation.

Grief is something all of us become acquainted with. We recognize Sierra's friends and family miss her terribly and commend them for honoring her memory in a way that may save lives in the future.