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10/12 Mi Town: Patty Taylor Dutcher

These beautiful autumn days are flying by, and the calendar tells us that Old Man Winter is hiding just around the corner.

Walking around the Western Oregon University campus, I noticed the trees are beginning to wear their fall colors. It's only a matter of time before those gorgeous leaves cover our lawns and sidewalks and become not so beautiful when they become wet and soggy and we have to deal with them.

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One good thing we can all do in this season of renewal, when students are beginning a new school year and we are all preparing for the upcoming changes, is to take the time to do something for somebody else.

Not so easy, perhaps, as we have busy schedules and demands upon our time grow more and more with every passing day. Whatever our jobs and interests and responsibilities, our economic and social situations, we are all working harder and doing more all the time.

Speaking just for me for a moment, there are days I feel nearly overwhelmed -- and I'm supposed to be retired, with a very understanding husband and grown children. It's hard to say "yes" and accept yet another volunteer task when we are all stretched to the limit with job and family responsibilities and not enough hours in the day to do the things we need to do, much less what we want to do.

We can't all step in to save the world, but there are so many little things we can do to make our communities better and happier places to be. Not everyone can write a generous check to support their favorite charities, but volunteering at the library, a food bank or your nearby school is always appreciated.

Can you spend an hour reading to someone in a nursing home? Can you share homemade jams and jellies and baked items with a local church or community group? Can you help with telephone calls for a school event?

Last week's Itemizer-Observer featured a list of community organizations that would welcome your help. If you've never volunteered before, it's a great place to start.

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What we can all do -- even if we don't have any extra time or money -- is brighten somebody's day with a smile or a few kind words of encouragement.

We've all had moments when everything is going utterly and completely wrong, and it feels like nothing will ever be right again. But a warm and friendly smile from someone else has made the day much better.

Sometimes that is enough to help us pick up our burdens and face the future with more courage and hope than we had before.

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