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Do you want the bad news or the good news?

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Mitch Traphagen Photo
Sammy the dog has been pretty happy since puppyhood. He doesn’t spend a lot of time reading news websites but is always happy to get a cookie, or find an errant shoe laying around.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

mitch01I logged into a Tampa Bay news website today and was literally assaulted. Among the articles offered was one (complete with photo) of a sad and innocent-looking dog that was recently found and had indications of being the victim of an organized dog fighting ring. Nice. Nicely stomach turning, I mean. Along with that was a story of a guy who bullied a 76-year-old man for money. Also sad-looking in a photo was a bay area coach wearing handcuffs and chains after being sentenced to five years in prison for secretly videotaping members of his swim team in the locker room—again, stomach turning. But perhaps he should be glad to have five years of relative security offered by the prison, keeping him safe from some pretty furious parents. Let’s see…we also have an angry drunk guy who bit a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office patrol car. Yes, he bit the car and did $300 in damage to the seat. And a couple was arrested after smacking a toddler in the face—yeah, their own toddler.

On one hand, you can say all of that is good news because some whacked-out people are off the streets and the sad-looking dog is now in safe and caring hands. On the other hand, it feels like an assault on the senses to see headline after headline of nauseating and crazy stuff happening in our little corner of the world. Where’s the good news? Surely there is good news, right?

Well, how about this? Former Ruskin resident-turned-Backstreet Boy-turned-…I don’t know what, Aaron Carter isn’t dead. Neither is Charlie Sheen nor Aretha Franklin. They were all rumored to be dead via posts from Twitter over the holidays. Yes, I know! It’s hard to believe someone would tell a lie on Twitter, what with all the tweets about what people had for breakfast and all, but it happened and then it quickly spread. But Aaron Carter isn’t dead and that, at least, is good news. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one of his songs but knowing that a fellow human is alive and well is always good news. Well, except for the people who abused the sad-looking dog and smacked a toddler. I’m not so sure about them.

The truth is good news surrounds us. Children are born, dogs and cats are adopted to good and caring homes, kids graduate without being secretly videotaped, the unemployed find jobs, birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated and the list goes on and on. Running a huge headline, “CHILD IS BORN AT LOCAL HOSPITAL”, would not likely sell many newspapers. Yet I am certain that as much as we seem to possess a macabre fascination with the weird and the whacked-out stuff, as a public we are all thirsting for good news and happy endings.

So there you have it: Aaron Carter isn’t dead. And if you are reading this, neither are you. That’s definitely good news all around. I can also tell you with complete certainty that Sammy, Sadie, Andi, and Casey are all fat and happy, and sleeping in my living room right now. All four are dogs, two of whom came from CARE and two who just walked into our lives off the street. They all possess various quirks and deformities that would otherwise have banished them to the Island of Lost Toys but they know nothing of that now. Emma is snoozing on my bed and has completely forgotten being a tiny starving kitten lost in the packed parking lot of the Riverview High School during a football game on a cool October evening several years ago. Even without being there I can tell you that the neighbor kid is riding his bike down the street and on the next block over, two other kids are running around a house (for some reason, they are always running around a house and I have no idea what they are running towards or from). At just after 5 p.m., the ice cream truck will jingle its way through the neighborhood and, while cool and quaint, I haven’t really missed him because the tune he plays through loudspeakers is starting to eat my brain (so I guess that is a bit of both: good news on the ice cream, bad news on the tune).

In Sun City Center, people are pulling out their checkbooks and volunteering their time to help those less fortunate throughout South County. In Ruskin and Apollo Beach, people are working towards saving what is left of our environment and helping those without even the bootstraps needed to get a leg up during challenging times. In Gibsonton, the Showmen are selflessly giving their time and talent to make a difference for numerous local charities. In Riverview, families are working together to make their neighborhoods, and their world, better for their children.

The world is full of good news. South County is bubbling over with good news. If you don’t believe me just stop by my house and ask Sammy, the big white dog. He’ll give you lots of reasons to be happy, because he’s pretty happy. But then again, he doesn’t spend much time looking at news websites and even if he did he would likely see only the good news hidden amongst the bad. That Aaron Carter is still alive is definitely good news to him because that is just one more human who could potentially stop by someday with a cookie or to scratch his ears.

And so it goes. My wife Michelle just sent a text asking about replacing a bicycle for a kid whose Christmas toys were pawned in order to pay the rent. His teacher, a friend of ours, is trying to help him. It may well be that kid will soon be awash in bicycles; happy endings to sad stories rarely get reported. But sometimes from the bad news comes the good. I think Sammy would like that, too. The kid might ride over someday with a cookie.

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