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Road to happiness: Making a difference

Maybe it’s because many of us were raised with a work ethic, but it seems to me that the happiest people are those who feel they are making a difference in their world.


There is joy in acts as small as caring for a cat or making your baby sister laugh–or in keeping that New Year’s resolution to take better care of yourself.


Amy Perry, who recently retired from the Rubaiyat LLC bookstore in Caldwell, once told me that she didn’t set out to own a bookstore–she just wanted to live in a town with a bookstore and starting one herself proved the surest way. Now her daughter Sazja will see her bookstore remains.

Since reading Bill Gates’ “The Year Ahead–2023,'' I've been thinking how Gates must feel looking back at 22 years of fighting the world’s inequities. Imagine writing this line, “Since 2000, when the foundation began, the childhood death rate has been cut by half.” It’s an amazing feat and childhood vaccinations contributed much–but there is still far to go.


The Gates Foundation is now working on a new handheld artificial-intelligence device that can take and interpret ultrasounds quickly far from hospitals. It’s also hoping to improve the college graduation rate in the U.S. by seeing that more students will be ready for algebra by the 9th grade. Additionally, Gates is involved with genetic research that may soon eliminate both AIDs and sickle-cell anemia and with cutting the energy needed to heat buildings.

The man is making an important difference in this world.


As I read his words, I imagine the size of the team that made these results possible–and how happy each member must be knowing what’s been accomplished and reflecting on all the ups and downs involved in the day-to-day work.


Amy could open her bookstore with just a little help from her friends. The bigger the problem, though, the bigger the team needed.


We honor Rosa Parks for ending segregation on buses in Montgomery, AL. But we shouldn’t forget that she is the figurehead for a large team–all the women who stayed up all night duplicating fliers and finding volunteers to pass them out at hundreds of bus stops plus all those who walked rather than take a bus, those who provided other rides, and those who, through newspapers and sermons, kept the boycott alive for the full year it took to get change.


Joining a team can stop the despair that comes from believing you can’t make a difference.

There are many traditional teams in our area dealing with local problems–churches, parent-teacher organizations or friends of teams or libraries. Other service groups include Eagles, Elks, Rotary, Kiwanis, Shriners, Soroptimists, League of Women Voters, University Women, Jaycees and Chamber of Commerce.

My team happens to be the county Democratic Party.


I come from a family of educators. Grandmother Willmorth, who became a teacher in 1898, saw learning as a source of happiness and as the backbone of democracy. People need to work with others, understand options, and make wise choices.


When the Idaho legislature cut school funding 20% in 2010–and bragged about making the greatest cuts in the nation–I realized poverty wasn’t the real problem here in Idaho. Many legislators simply didn’t support public schools.


When the Luna Laws were passed, the number of students considering education as a profession dropped severely and many experienced teachers left the state. Idaho citizens have fought for their schools–repealing the Luna Laws and passing bonds and levies year after year, but the attacks continue.


A voucher system will defund our schools and leave thousands without education choice. If you care, please join a team.


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