Fresh eyes keep sight of good

Having recently moved into our new home, my wife and I took a Friday and did some painting. Like all novice painters, we removed the tape and found that there was some touching up to do.

That was about a month ago.

Earlier this week, we had company over for dinner, and I realized to my slight embarrassment that we still hadn’t touched up the paint. I have, for weeks, been intending to get to it, but just forgot. It’s like I didn’t even see the bad spots anymore, until someone was seeing them with fresh eyes.

Fresh eyes are absolutely necessary to keen observation because habit and comfort cause details to fade. Put simply: time in erodes awareness of. Having recently returned to the Mahoning Valley, it’s been enjoyable to see my hometown with fresh eyes – especially through my wife’s eyes. With them, we have come to see a lot of good in our city and our county.

This is why all of my past columns have focused on ways to make our Valley a better place: not because I’m a naive idealist, but because I can see clearly that there are forces for positive change already at work in our area.

In previous columns, I’ve invited you to do something – anything, really – to make our city a better place. I’ve tried to show that making our city great is possible. In the next few columns, I want to show that making our city great isn’t just possible, it’s also practical. I want to invite you to see, through fresh eyes, the people that are leaving a mark on our Valley through their everyday lives.

Take, for example, Sophie, a Warren-area retiree. Sophie was concerned that few people were doing anything in the local schools to affect positive change there. She found out that an area pastor had started an after-school club at a local high school and decided to help.

Armed with little else but faltering courage and a sleeve of Styrofoam cups, she walked the halls of that school and invited the students to the club. Imagine it with me: Sophie, gray-haired and seventy-something, inviting Facebook-addicted teenagers to an after-school club in between science and social studies class.

Or, take Karen, another Warren-area retiree. This seventy-something woman has reached out to an inner- city boy and his sister, and though they couldn’t be more different, they share a very special friendship. This is a friendship marked by lunches at their favorite restaurants after church on Sunday, and Mahoning Valley Scrappers games followed by fireworks. Once, when she had to miss their standing Sunday date, Karen and her friends went to a movie: the young man picked the theater, and Karen chose the movie.

Sophie and Karen are just a few of the people who have inspired me during my short time in Warren. If you asked them, they would both say that they aren’t doing anything special; they just did what needed to be done. But what few of us realize is that such an attitude is the beginning of powerful change in our community. We need more people like Sophie and Karen, who simply do what needs to be done.

So this week, take a moment and find someone who is new to our community, and ask them what they think needs to be done to make it better. Then partner with them to bring about positive change. Because an opportunity to do something extraordinary is never far away; we just need someone ordinary to do it.

Tennant is a Warren resident. Email him at