Ann Fitzgerald: Rural community is not without some of its own good news tales
I switched on the radio while driving the girls to school last week. Ray D'Arcy on Today FM was going through the papers and every item was bad or sad, stories of greed and violence, atrocities and suffering, further tightening of the financial screws, bullet after bullet of unrelenting misery. I turned it off.
While I know it's supposed to be bad news that sells, to my mind what people really want to read about is humanity. Or, voyeuristically, the lack it. OK, I know that means I won't be called upon to write a lead story anytime soon; and call me a romantic if you like but there has to be a role for telling some of the good stuff that is happening in our world today -- many of those stories of unselfish and unsolicited acts of kindness.
Speaking of schools, shortfall in funding is a universal problem and fundraising is pretty much an integral part of the life of every school. Parents at our children's school have been undertaking bag-packing in supermarkets in Portlaoise over the past two weekends and these have raised almost €2,500. Well done and heartfelt thanks to the shoppers of Portlaoise.
Not all help and not always the most important help is financial. I lost my mobile phone last week. I never missed it, but the man who found it handed it into a nearby shop and the staff went to the bother of ringing the last few numbers dialled on it until they got to my dear husband, which eventually led to us being reunited (my phone and me that is, not my husband).
Or think of the generosity of GAA football pundit Joe Brolly donating a kidney to a man he scarcely knew. And this past year, the entire country was moved by Kerry teenager Donal Walsh as he selflessly implored young people to fight to stay alive, even as his own life was being eroded away by cancer.
There was not a dry eye in the house when Elma Walsh, Donal's mother, spoke at a women in agriculture conference in Killarney last month. I had a stand at the conference, with A Year on our Farm, and my next door neighbours were two lovely ladies from Duhallow Community Food Services, Rose Drew and Eileen Murphy.
This is a fantastic group, which, this year, will provide a massive 28,000 meals on wheels to the needy in north-west Cork and south-east Kerry; an increase of 4,500 over last year. This is funded by a commercial catering enterprise and a baking enterprise supplying local retail outlets. As I was packing to leave, Rose and Eileen loaded me up with some delicious apple strudel and other goodies, "for the road home". It may not have cost a lot of money but it genuinely meant a lot to me. Yes, I could have afforded to pay for them but it was a simple, warm, homely gesture -- traditional qualities at the heart of Irish society.
For those of you who have stuck with me this far and have begun to wonder if I was ever going to get to make some farming or even vaguely rural point, well, the time has come.