We can honor Bette Belle by our kind words, deeds

It's going to take a whole village to fill the empty shoes that our town philanthropic activist left behind. Although I only met Bette Belle Smith once, her name has been mentioned lovingly in my presence dozens of times. After reading the article about her life (Monday, Page A-1), my 21-year-old daughter asked, "Did you read the whole thing? It's amazing! How does someone do all that?"

I heartily concur, and wonder how we will make up for this great loss. But we'd better step up to the plate. It's our turn! Bette Belle sounded her own horn by tooting the horns of others. By choosing to act in the interests of those around us, we can do the same.

At home? Have you thanked your family members for something lately, or told someone else of their accomplishment in their hearing? I beam when one of my family says something kind about me, don't you? These kinds of affirmations build trust, confidence and the kind of relationships it takes to weather the storms of life. How can we hope to heal the world without the positive reinforcement of a loving home?

At work? How about putting in a good word for a deserving co-worker to your supervisor? Instead of stepping over someone else, give a hand up. And that charity you've been meaning to champion? Go for it! There's one less person to spur you on, so you'd better go ahead and join the cheering section!

At school? A smile can mean so much. Teachers, students, administrators, clerical, and maintenance workers alike leave an impression that colors the whole educational process. It begins with you, and a smile is contagious!

On the street? Did you know that Modestans have a reputation for being terrible drivers? Skill isn't the issue here; I think it's manners. How about we treat other drivers with consideration at a four-way stop, for example, as a way to better the world? At least our little world. How can you raise funds for cancer victims, and then cut them off on the roundabout? Let's change the perception by being good citizens.

Can anyone imaging Bette Belle speeding up to pass on the right or laying on the horn when the driver ahead is a bit slow?

Perhaps you don't feel you could ever be a Bette Belle. But consider what void your life would leave behind. There are things you can do and places you can go that Bette Belle couldn't. I think she would agree. Let's make a big splash while we're here!

Maris is a Modesto resident. E-mail her at

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