Our opinion pages are regularly filled with columns about serious, hot-button political topics, and 2020 — the most chaotic of years — has been no exception.
We’re in the final days of a bitterly divided presidential campaign with enormous implications for the future direction of our country and many of its institutions, though it appears very likely the outcome won’t be determined by election night or even next Wednesday morning.
We’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to at least 8.7 million infections and 225,000-plus deaths (though it is widely understood that the actual death toll is likely much higher), and we’ve yet to enter the traditional peak flu season and the potentially treacherous winter months ahead. And even though the pandemic should have never been made into a political issue, it unsurprisingly has. And in its wake, we also find ourselves in an economic crisis for millions that we’re far from climbing out of.
And we’ve also seen civil unrest in city streets around our nation as America has only begun to scratch the surface on some long overdue conversations about race.
I and others who write in this newspaper will undoubtedly have much more to say about these issues and many others in the weeks ahead. But it’s never a bad time to pause to acknowledge the wonderful things and good stories that happen in a community and have nothing to do with politics. Good stories can be found even in the worst of situations, and last weekend Barrow County had the opportunity to celebrate something positive and rally around a girl who was at the edge of the death but, with her fighting spirit, has made it back home.
For those of you reading who may not yet be familiar with the story, 15-year-old Joslyn Stinchcomb was walking through her Winder neighborhood and listening to music late on the afternoon of July 31 when she was brutally attacked by two pit bulls that had escaped from a neighboring house. The dogs tore off her scalp and caused severe facial, throat and neck damage. Thankfully, a neighbor heard screams and called 911, and a responding deputy was able to shoot one of the dogs and scare them away. (They were later caught and euthanized and their owner was charged with reckless conduct and county animal-control ordinance violations).
Joslyn had to be life-flighted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for emergency life-saving surgery. A few days later she was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston, where she spent nearly three months with her grandparents and legal guardians, Sandra and Paul Stinchcomb, by her side.
Joslyn suffered extensive nerve damage and paralysis on the left side of her face, and doctors at one time were not sure if she’d be able to talk again. But after 19 surgeries, including a recent successful skin graft procedure, Joslyn is talking, out of the hospital and on the road to recovery. A long road lies ahead, but she and her family have already proven they will not be deterred.
“…Although this has been the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through, it has also been a journey that has strengthened our faith and brought us love, encouragement and prayers from people not only all over our community and state, but from countries all over the world,” Sandra Stinchcomb wrote last week on the Facebook page Joslyn’s family set up for updates on her condition.
The community’s embrace of Joslyn, from the heroic efforts of the first responders and doctors who saved her life on that horrific summer day, to outpouring of emotional and financial support for Joslyn and her family has indeed been something to behold, and it was on full display Saturday morning when she was released from the hospital and welcomed back home with a parade, escorted by those very heroes who were her guardian angels.
My father has often quoted the late CBS newsman Charles Kuralt: “It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn't in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.”
In the darkest and most trying of times, if you look closely enough, you can see the best in people emerge, and we’ve seen it throughout Barrow County and beyond with the story of Joslyn Stinchcomb. This is a moment of perspective and warmth that I think a great many of us, myself included, could use about right now.
Welcome home, Joslyn.