Archived Opinion

A story all about good people doing good things

op frI should get over being astounded by the way the world works. And I’m talking about the good stuff, not the negative.

The package of stories that graced the cover of The Smoky Mountain News last week, “The Golden Children,” is almost allegorical in its arc. Staff writer Holly Kays traveled to an orphanage in a remote part of Bolivia to help do some construction work and spend time with the children. Her reporting about the orphanage — named Kory Wawanaca, which means “Golden Children” — its founder, Carrie Blackburn Brown, and the connection to Western North Carolina and particularly Haywood County, is so touching that it could never be scripted because it would come off as too heartwarming, too many people doing the right thing for all the right reasons.

I won’t re-tell the story because if you haven’t read the original you need to do so. Brown’s saga of starting the orphanage in a developing country as a young woman fresh out of college is compelling in its own right, but she deflects the attention from herself to the children the orphanage is raising. In doing so, she and others have built a pipeline of human and financial capital that stretches from a church in Waynesville to a village in Bolivia. 

But it’s not just that people in Western North Carolina help this orphanage survive and fulfill its mission. It’s also what those who travel to Bolivia bring back to our mountains, the notion that individuals can make a difference, that there is meaning in helping others. That sense of purpose that was the catalyst for starting the orphanage, Brown says, were the life lessons she learned as a youth from some the very people now helping it fulfill its mission.

As Brown put it: “I feel like we were just taking seriously what all our mentors in Waynesville told us all those years, so now it’s your responsibility to take care of this home, because it’s your ‘fault’ that we have a children’s home here.” 

I’ve been in the business of helping tell stories — as a reporter, an editor and columnist — for a long time. Every now and then, one stands out as a testament to all that is good. This is one of those. 

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Officials in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park say they will change their methods for dealing with problem bears after mistakenly euthanizing the wrong animal while reacting to a bear attack on a camper. The changed protocol is good news.

Park employees were hunting for the bear who had attacked a teenage camper while he was sleeping in his hammock. The bear bit the young man on the head and tried to drag him away from his campsite. It took heroic action from the teen’s father to fight off the bear and get medical help for his son. The injuries were serious but the son will recover.

Park officials immediately began searching for the bear, knowing from experience that a bear that has attacked humans is likely to do so again. They shot at a bear that returned to the campsite the next night, but it got away. A second bear came to the campsite the next night, and it was trapped and euthanized.

DNA results, unfortunately, showed the second bear was not the one that attacked the camper. However, a bullet was recovered that had gone through the first bear rangers shot. It was deemed a likely match after DNA testing. Park officials say they did not realize DNA test results could come back so fast, and so in the future will hold bears in captivity longer in order to better determine if they got the right animal.

Park officials had to act fast in this case, and so it’s hard to blame them for the mistake in killing the wrong bear. It’s heartening, though, that lessons learned from this incident will both help keep campers safe and better protect the wildlife that make the Smokies so special.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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