I got home one evening last week to a pleasant surprise on my front porch — I’d been “boo-ed!”
A bright-orange, plastic Jack-o’-lantern filled with candy sat on the step smiling up at me, a sheet of paper declaring a neighbor had chosen to “treat” me, and I had two days to pay it forward.
I tore into the sour bat gummies, loaded up on my favorite candy at the store the next day and sneakily deposited the same arrangement on another neighbor’s porch while they were away.
I smiled at the thought of them coming home from what might have been a long day to a bit of kindness and Halloween cheer.
It was a small thing, truly, but it brightened my week to give and receive in a small way in my neighborhood.
When you live life alongside people, it gets messy. People have needs — we face hunger and housing crises, disagreements and disabilities — but when we work together to solve these issues, we keep ourselves moving forward.
Lawton is an incredibly generous community; everywhere I look, someone is giving out food, clothing, toys, medical supplies, job search support, advice and encouragement. And there are often wonderful people on the receiving end, grateful for a bit of kindness in some of their darkest seasons.
Over the past three months, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and writing about a few of the people, places and organizations who work to bring our community together.
From yoga instructors to piano teachers to nonprofit directors, this community is full of wonderfully altruistic individuals giving back where they could be taking or capitalizing. Weekly, I’m inspired to hear about the missions many have dedicated their lives and work to, all in the name of improving our community and loving people well.
I keep a photo on my desk of three men — Farron, James and Forrest — who are working to feed and house some of our most vulnerable neighbors facing homelessness. Their words from our interviews ring in my ears and remind me there is hope for every life, no matter how painful the past has been. Two of these men have known more heartache and darkness than I can fathom: drug abuse, jail time, suicide attempts — their stories have been redeemed and their days are now spent loving and serving. They are our neighbors, and I am proud to know them.
There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of everyday heroes just like them, everywhere I go.
I see them in the schools: teachers, administrators and of course, students. I’ve met dozens of kids who are working to make their corner of the community brighter. From JROTC cadets restocking a bare food pantry to upperclassmen mentoring incoming freshman, these kids recognize the world is theirs to care for and they’re not afraid to start now.
I see them in the neighborhoods: families and seniors, volunteers and social organizers. I’ve met residents who work tirelessly to ensure their neighborhoods are safe, welcoming and of course, fun! From food drives to holiday parties, these folks care that their community is a special place, and they make things happen.
I see them in the nonprofits and organizations that keep our community moving forward. There are too many to name, but I get chills every time I have the honor of stepping foot into a nonprofit, like Family Promise or the Armed Services YMCA, where our neighbors receive the services they need and the respect they deserve. I love meeting with folks from local charitable organizations, like the Alpha Delta Kappa Alpha Eta Chapter for women educators. These ladies inspire me to use my talents and time to serve others.
If you’re in need of some altruistic inspiration, check out the November issue of the Constitution’s 580 Monthly magazine, which came out in Sunday’s newspaper. Its stories center around a theme of giving back, just in time for the Thanksgiving season. You can also find copies on racks around town or at swoknews.com/580-monthly.
And with Halloween on Thursday, it’s not too late to “Boo” someone! Go to beenbooed.com to learn how to surprise your neighbors. It’s a fun activity for school-age kids!
Hannah Maginot is a features and area reporter for The Lawton Constitution. Send her story ideas from your neck of the woods at firstname.lastname@example.org.