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Terry DeVine column: Christmas is about our hearts

I always think of the late Associated Press photographer Henri Huet on Christmas Day. Huet, a gregarious Frenchman who covered the Vietnam War in the 1960s, was killed in 1972 along with several other members of the news media, including Larry Bu...

I always think of the late Associated Press photographer Henri Huet on Christmas Day.

Huet, a gregarious Frenchman who covered the Vietnam War in the 1960s, was killed in 1972 along with several other members of the news media, including Larry Burrows of Life magazine, when their helicopter was shot down over Cambodia.

Huet, a compassionate man who cared deeply about the Vietnamese, was especially fond of children. And the 1960s was a time when the streets of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, were teeming with hundreds of thousands of refugees and orphans.

Huet struck up a relationship with an order of nuns who ran a Saigon orphanage. He was very persuasive and passionate about helping these people, and put the arm on his many civilian and military friends to contribute anything and everything to this orphanage. There were U.S. military trucks running all over Saigon picking up and delivering things on the sisters' wish list, even if it violated regulations.

Christmas morning was a sight to behold. These children, who had nothing, all received something. Most important were the food (mostly rice) and money necessary for the nuns to keep the doors open. But the thing the children valued most was the individual attention of many people who cared.

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Children are awakening all over the United States of America this morning to gifts from Santa Claus, and that's great, but we would do well to remember that our seemingly endless bounty is a gift from God. We are the most generous of nations, and we should be. We must always retain that spirit of giving because it is precisely what makes us great.

That spirit should live in our hearts -- as it lived in Huet's -- all year long. At least that's supposed to be the case. Unfortunately, it is not.

The world would be a better place if it had more Henri Huets in it. Maybe next year.

Merry Christmas.

Students come through

Ninth-graders at Fargo's Ben Franklin Junior High School did a wonderful service for the emergency food pantry this holiday season.

For the third straight year, ninth-graders made the food pantry their community service project, said Principal John Nelson.

The first year's goal was 1,000 pounds of food; they collected 2,000 pounds. Last year's goal was a ton of food; they collected 5,000 pounds.

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Ninth-graders set their 2002 goal at 5,000 pounds; they ended up just a hair short of 8,000 pounds.

The entire project was ramrodded by one team of ninth-graders who got the entire student body fired up and bringing in food, said Nelson.

"The nice thing for me is that the kids took the ball and ran with it," he said. "I got to stand around and be really proud of them."

Food pantry officials said it was the largest single donation they'd ever received. The student body set up what could have passed for a two-block-long, sandbag-passing line earlier in December and passed the boxes of donated food from the school to the food pantry on the other side of 10th Street North.

Students are already talking in the halls at Ben Franklin about next year's project, which they want to be even bigger and better.

It speaks volumes about the quality of these young people. The fact that it occurs near the holidays, in a time of even more need, is simply a bonus.

Congratuations to the Ben Franklin student body.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or tdevine@forumcomm.com

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