A slogan for our times: Keep Kitsap Kind | Ask Erin

As I end my time at the newspaper this week, I realize there is a lot I will miss. Seeing my byline makes my heart flutter. And when strangers stop me and ask, “Don’t you write for the newspaper?,” I’m flattered to be recognized.

But more than anything, I will miss the opportunity to interview some of the most interesting people in Kitsap.

These extraordinary people haven’t been featured on Oprah or Ellen. And they probably won’t receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

They are just good people going about their business in a quiet manner, with no expectation of accolades or cheers.

They make Kitsap a better place just by being themselves.

One of my first articles was about Kirk Payne, a stellar Salvation Army bell ringer who has worked the same post outside of Ralph’s Red Apple Market in Bremerton for several Christmas seasons.

The cheerful and animated Payne knows what it’s like to be down and out. He was once an addict and lived on the street. The Salvation Army helped him turn his life around and now Payne is helping others — both by raising money and spreading kindness — one ring at a time.

Then there was an article on the Field-Bennett family who open their hearts and their home to young foster children in need. They’ve been known to answer a call in the middle of the night and rush to pick up a child who needs a safe place to stay.

“Those babies hold a special soft spot with us,” Kendra Field said in the article. “The little ones just want to be cared for. It’s when you are needed the most.”

The Field-Bennett family shares their kindness one bottle feeding, one lullaby at a time.

Jim Strycharski was a bit shy when I interviewed him, as he seemed to think he didn’t do anything remarkable.

When he’s not working the swing shift at Bangor, Strycharski can be found walking Marty, his Great Pyrenees dog, through the halls of Martha & Mary. The gentle giant nuzzles up to patients and is a highlight of the day for those confined to a wheelchair or bed.

What seems like such a simple gesture to Strycharski — and routine for Marty — has a profound effect on others. A woman on an oxygen sensor was noticeably happy at the sight of polar bear-looking canine.

“Just seeing that dog raises your oxygen level,” said her nurse.

Strycharski and Marty are sharing their kindness one hello and wag at a time.

The past month has put Kitsap in the national headlines and, unfortunately, the news hasn’t been positive.

The stories have been horrific and have many of us are asking, “What’s happening in Kitsap?”

But even amid the sadness and bewilderment, I continue to witness kind acts and thoughtful gestures.

Like the young man who helped me pick up spilled groceries all over the wet parking lot. He even crawled on his hands and knees to rescue a trapped can of corn.

Or the grandmotherly woman who listened patiently as a Girl Scout explained the different cookie flavors, and then amazed the budding salesperson by purchasing a box of each.

As I end my final column for the newspaper, I want to thank all of the people who have shared their kindness. Your acts show that regular ol’ people can do exceptional good for the community.

You may be familiar with Austin, Texas and its slogan: “Keep Austin Weird.”

Well, I propose our own: “Keep Kitsap Kind.”

— Erin Jennings is leaving Kitsap Week to pursue a freelance writing career. She won awards for feature writing and personality profile writing in the 2011 Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest.


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