Shanti Emerson: Extra ordinary people |

Shanti Emerson: Extra ordinary people

Shanti Emerson

Tom’s hair is white, thinning and always messy. He’s got wrinkles all over his plain face. I’ve never seen him when he isn’t wearing jeans. An ordinary guy, right?

And yet, when his wife of 35 years looks at him, you would think he was Brad Pitt. In fact, Brad probably never got that look of adoration from any of his wives. Tom is a great guy — a wonderful husband, father, son-in-law, friend and neighbor.

Lisa’s hair looks like a bowl of black spaghetti pasta and her figure is hardly the subject of a poem or a portrait. And yet, she has done so much for the youth of Nevada County, it is incalculable.

There’s Margie, who loves and maintains cats while they await new owners. There’s Kathryn and Robert, she in her wheelchair, he with his cane. He was a clown for Masons for 20 years, delighting little ones as they awaited their surgery in the hospital.

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Every day, they give a little bit more. Every day they make someone’s life a little bit brighter.

The list goes on and on. Plain people, ordinary people … people who think of others. People who help others in need.

They bring food to the sick and needy. They camp with the homeless at night to make sure they’re safe.

They set up chairs in their churches and drive widows to doctors’ appointments.

They are volunteer firemen, people who relieve caregivers, master gardeners, organic farmers, dentists who take patients whether they can pay or not.

They clear our hiking trails and clean up the Yuba River. They help people learn English and tutor math.

They belong to organizations that give out scholarships or reading glasses. They work tirelessly to bring us beautiful music, dance performances, and art.

They support local theater, high school sports, and county events. They volunteer at the hospital, the libraries, and the Center for the Arts.

They cry at funerals and weddings and laugh at themselves. They never forget the less fortunate at Christmas and always have extra people around their Thanksgiving tables.

Maybe they didn’t graduate from Harvard or Stanford or win a beauty contest or make any of Forbes’ lists, but they have something much more … the respect and love of many people. They are happy and wise and learned early on that the most important aspect of our lives is our relationships with others.

They understand that in giving we receive and that the most miserable people are those who think of no one but themselves. They are full of gratitude for their blessings.

These ordinary people are extraordinary. They are the ones who keep things running. They want peace, not war.

Every day is a challenge. Every day is an adventure. Every day, they give a little bit more. Every day they make someone’s life a little bit brighter.

Thank you. It is a privilege knowing you. You are my heroes.

Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at

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