A local resident related during a meeting Friday morning that he was surprised with a fresh, hot cup of coffee delivered by a deputy last week when he was ringing a bell at a red kettle for the Salvation Army. Apparently, during a break in his volunteer time, the man had mistakenly sought a cup at the grocery store, which no longer provides free coffee and the deputy who overheard the exchange decided to run out and buy him one at a convenience store down the street.

At the same meeting, talk turned to reminiscing about the way life used to be and, with the Rushford-Peterson referendum on some of our minds, how things have changed in school buildings that are being built. Following up on that thought, a school administrator explained how the security system works at the local school. In the spirit of the conversation, he also recalled that when he was young, he participated in fire drills. Today he schedules lockdown drills.

A few hours later as news spread of the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut, the administrator was preparing an email that outlined the precautions the school district takes and provided tips to parents on how to reassure their children.

For those of us at the meeting, even if we didn't have children in school, the administrator's story was on our minds as the coincidence was eerie. We weren't the only ones to be thinking about things related to the school shooting as that took precedence over other matters last Friday for nearly everyone across the country.

However, in times of darkness, we shouldn't forget the stories similar to the one of the surprise coffee. After all, as we go through our daily life, we are countless times more likely to be touched by a random act of kindness than a random act of violence.

The horrific act in Newtown, Conn., shouldn't be minimized, but it needs to be put in perspective, especially considering all the fear it generated as parents, many already shaken by the recent discovery of the bodies of the two Iowa girls that were abducted, discussed all the steps they can take to protect their children and themselves.

Although school, and other mass shootings, make a big impact, they are relatively rare.

For a little perspective, if last Friday was an average day, four times as many people were killed in traffic accidents on our nation's roadways than were killed in the mass shooting. The odds of you or your children becoming victims of a mass shooting or an abduction are about the same as being struck by lightning.

This isn't to suggest that we should push the incident out of our minds. We as a nation need to grieve and share in the sorrow of the victims. An incident like this can tear at the American soul.

We also need to take a good, hard look at our culture, including the way we handle mental illness and the accessibility of personal weapons of mass destruction. Even if rare, one mass shooting is too many.

On a personal level, though, we shouldn't let fear be our companion, especially at this time of year when sharing, comfort and joy come to the forefront.

The good in our society far outweighs the evil that creates such a furor. It's not that surprising that a person would go out of his way to get a cup of coffee for someone just as it isn't that surprising that a local businessman would be willing to take time out of his busy day to ring a bell to bring Christmas cheer to people less fortunate. There are dozens of local people throughout the region who have taken the time to ring the bell.

The individual acts of kindness just within our small communities could probably fill a very large edition of this newspaper with no room left over for anything else. Those random acts of kindness happen all year long, not just during the holy season, by all types of individuals that have a variety of beliefs.

Christmas and the other religious holidays always occur during our darkest time of the year. Our collective love creates a shining light to break through that darkness.

Our days may seem darker than usual this year, but rather than despair, we need to show even more love to intensify the collective light that shines across the land. When you think about all the good things that have happened or that we have helped make happen, we really do have much to give and much to celebrate.

Give your children hugs, but also make sure they delight in this special season with the joy that children so naturally exhibit. Also, make sure you take time to have a very, merry Christmas.

Peace be with you and best wishes from all of us at your community newspaper.