The Dothan Eagle on an Alabamian who is continuing a mission to mow lawns for free:

In dog days like these, just the idea of trying to crank a lawnmower will make some folks dizzy — never mind actually mowing the yard. That’s just a small part of what makes Rodney Smith Jr. of Huntsville an admirable man.

Smith has turned mowing into a movement borne of the kind act of cutting an elderly neighbor’s grass free because he could.

Since then, he’s traveled the country five times mowing lawns without charge for the elderly, veterans, single parents and disabled people.

It’s inspirational. But Smith didn’t stop there. With a social media campaign, Smith and Raising Men Lawn Care Service created the 50 Yard Challenge urging youngsters around the world to mow lawns for elderly people, veterans, single parents and disabled people without charge. For every 10 yards mowed, the youngsters get a T-shirt. The initiative has gained 100,000 supporters, with 445 youngsters having accepted the challenge, resulting in more than 5,000 yards mowed in kindness.

Now Smith is embarking on another 50 state/50 lawn tour, and will be inviting police officers to join him and try out a police-themed mower he’s built.

Meanwhile, his movement has resulted in the establishment of eight chapters, where local youngsters extend their generosity in their own communities.

We’re proud to call Smith an Alabamian.

The Gadsden Times on first responders and the impact of stress in their jobs:

People are quick to praise first responders — police, fire and emergency medical personnel — for their heroic, often life-saving actions.

They’re placed on pedestals as the best society has to offer — as people who stay tough and focused in the worst possible situations and under the worst kind of stress.

Living human beings don’t get to stay permanently on pedestals, however. Eventually they have to step down, and clock out from their jobs and go home. And when that happens, the toughness and ability to deal with stress is increasingly dissipating.

The Ruderman Family Foundation, in a study cited by the Vox website, found that first responders, in particular police officers and firefighters, are more likely to die by suicide than to be killed in the line of duty.

Vox also cited figures from Blue HELP and the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, which showed that through mid-June, there had been 97 law enforcement and 46 firefighter/EMS suicides in the U.S. this year. Those are verified deaths; according to Vox, fire/EMS suicides could be undercounted by as much as 60%.

The website also cited a study in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association that found first responders in the U.S. and Canada have higher rates of alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than the general population.

The reason for these disturbing trends is obvious. It’s not easy for first responders to forget, or leave at the office, the horrific and often tragic things they must deal with on the job.

That’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that they’re human beings — and human beings often need help.

About 90 local and area first responders attended a session hosted by the Gadsden Fire Department this week at The Venue at Coosa Landing. Material from the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance designed to help people in those roles cope with stress was distributed.

The material approaches the issue on two fronts — helping individuals assess their own frames of mind to see if potential problems are developing, and helping them recognize whether colleagues might be having issues.

We commend the Gadsden Fire Department for hosting this program, and we hope Chief Stephen Carroll’s concern that “some of the guys will take it to that nth degree before asking for help” will prove unwarranted.

First responders willingly risk their lives to care for others. They should do the same for the man or woman in the mirror.
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