For teens, homeless and others in need of love

Kids of all ages need love and support and also are the ones often seen giving of themselves. This week, we're feeling a soft spot for teenagers, the homeless and the incarcerated.

Beads Behind Bars

There are segments of our society that people tend to shy away from. People in lockup typically fit that description.

That's what makes Beads Behind Bars such a great program.

It's generous that people will donate money and supplies to keep the program up and running. But it goes beyond generous to devote an afternoon every week to voluntarily spend a little time in the juvenile detention center.

Everyone can use some positive reinforcement and a creative outlet. Kids who have made bad choices perhaps need those two things a little more than the rest of us.

Teenage years are hard even when you're not sideways with the law. We appreciate anyone reaching out to a teenager, but especially teens who are off track.

Life through poetry

Another creative outlet that is reaching teens (and older folks) in the Mid-Columbia is spoken word poetry, specifically the work of Jordan Chaney.

Yes, we said poetry, but it's not your great-grandfather stammering through The Song of Hiawatha. This kind of poetry is performed, not read. It's from the heart, not the head. And it doesn't even rhyme.

But it does speak to the issues of the day. It's a way for kids (and inmates) to express themselves and develop confidence.

Chaney presents workshops. He performs readings. But what he gives is hope.

He works with kids inside and outside of the penal system.

He also performs at wineries. There's plenty of chances for you to hear him.

Visit ww.billowingwords.com for a schedule of appearances.

NICU care packages

And even though teenagers can be tough, they all start as babies, and who doesn't love babies? As far as the Southridge DECA project goes, we're talking about itty-bitty babies and ones who are seriously ill.

A neonatal intensive care unit is an amazing place. It's like a time machine for families that find themselves there. The outside world just disappears -- but your teeth still need brushing and you sometimes need distractions.

So things like a toothbrush or puzzles are welcome gifts.

And the thing we like the best about this project is that it was initiated by those "pesky" teenagers. Good job, kids.

Retired driver

And since we're still talking about kids. Imagine the stories you could tell if you had driven school bus for 43 years. Just ask Marilyn Van Hollebeke if she has any anecdotes.

You're sure to hear stories of bats and snakes and who knows what all. A lot happens in a couple of decades.

Not everyone would have the tenacity to hang on to a "temporary" job for that long. Or to drive the 800,000-plus miles. But most people who work with and care for our kids share her drive.

Vet's passion

People in Pasco can now keep a few chickens in their yard. That would classify as a hobby for most people, not the difference between life and death.

But for many people scattered across the globe, their animals are their livelihood, and keeping them healthy is vital.

People like Patricia Lyon who travel to these distant places to treat sick animals and teach people how to care for their livestock do more than relieve a suffering pet (which is also a great service). They provide food for a family or a whole village.

Talk about the big picture. Thank you.

Homeless veterans

Here's a quick update on the house the vets built. It's working.

The house opened in August and is serving four men with food, shelter and counseling -- all good things to help people get back on their feet.

Mother's love

Another group that saw a need and finished a project is the quilting friends of Nola Ellis. Ellis suddenly passed away after starting a quilt for her daughter.

Her friends finished the project and gave it to Gayle Franzen the week before Christmas.

We all hope that we make a difference in the lives of those around us. And in truth, each of us does, for better or worse.

For the most part, we don't know how long we have to make that difference. Even those who are gravely ill don't know exactly when the end will come. A life will be cut short. Projects will be left undone.

We could use that as an escape clause to not try. Or we could live by the motto carpe diem -- seize the day.

Now that we spend Thursdays focused on kindnesses great and small, it's increasingly obvious that all of us have the chance to help those around us and to lift another's burden.