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Editorial: 'Nebraska Nice' is still a very real thing

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Lots of people had a good chuckle about that Nebraska tourism marketing pitch: “Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

But tongue-in-cheek slogans aside, maybe everyone could use a little more Nebraska.

As we continue to inch our way from the COVID-19 pandemic, every week seems to bring more happy and inspiring stories of Nebraskans that shine a light in the darkness of the last few years.

We realize there is still much to be concerned about both at home and in the world, but these small stories of Nebraskans doing good things helps put more — and needed — positive energy out in the universe.

For example, Omahan Erin Sorenson was out for a walk with her dog one day and noticed a stuffed animal in the middle of the road near 52nd and Burt Streets. Going into the road, she retrieved the small bunny that was dirty from its time in traffic. Sorensen’s motivation for picking up a toy most people would have left in the street? She said it was because she knew that somebody out there had to love the battered stuffed bunny.

“It’s the whole reason I picked it up,” she told The World-Herald. “It had the look of ‘Someone is missing this rabbit.’”

In her quest to find the toy’s owner, Sorenson posted pictures of it on various social media platforms. When others asked her why she was bothering with the bunny at all, she said, “When you find a little piece of good, it’s worth fighting for.”

One of Sorenson’s posts caught the eye of Danielle Allore-Taylor of Spring Arbor, Michigan, who has 1 million followers of her TikTok channel, “A_tall_glass_of_anxiety.“ It just so happens that she restores stuffed animals to their former selves, and her followers love the stories of transformation. So away went the bunny to Michigan, where it has been given new life. Allore-Taylor gave it a wash, new stuffing and a makeover, which revealed its true colors.

Now returned back to Sorenson, she continues to try and find its original owner. If she can’t, the bunny will remain with her.

“I still feel hopeful we can find the true owner,” she said. “What is driving me, even though it’s small, in this corner of the world in Omaha, Nebraska, is it could just bring some joy.”

Nebraskans know that joy can be found in the simple things. A sunrise over the Sandhills. Tailgating outside Memorial Stadium. Fishing in the South Platte River. For a group of Lincoln teens, it meant giving their friend the gift of color.

Nineteen-year-old Zane Stubbendeck is colorblind. For most of his life, he has only been able to see the world around him in hues of gray, tans, browns and yellows.

When his condition was discovered, his friend EJ Soucek promised to help him one day see things in their proper color. Soucek recently made good on his promise. He and several friends pooled their money and bought Stubbendeck a $250 pair of EnChroma outdoor glasses, which help people with color blindness see color. They gave the glasses to their friend for his birthday.

Several people recorded the emotional moment when Stubbendeck could see pinks, reds and greens for the first time. The video caught the eye of EnChroma, which asked Stubbendeck if he would like to be a brand ambassador for the company. They also gave him a pair of indoor glasses.

Stubbendeck said the gift changed his life.

“When you do put on the glasses, things start to fade into color out of the gray,” he said. “Seeing it slowly change was kind of a surreal moment. I looked over and saw a bright color. It was red, but I didn’t know it was red.

“No words can express it because I’d never felt that before.”

To paraphrase the old adage, sometimes it takes a village. In the case of New Jersey traveler Adam Boro, it was a community of 240 people. Staplehurst, Nebraska, to be precise.

Boro’s full-time job is making travel videos that he shares on Instagram and TikTok. Last year alone, he explored South America, Central America, the Middle East and lots of places across the U.S. The 23-year-old content creator decided to travel wherever a dart landed on a map of the United States. He ended up in Staplehurst. When he arrived on Feb. 25, Boro was adopted by some locals at the town’s lone bar and enjoyed the adventures of a lifetime.

The residents don’t call Staplehurst a town. It’s a village, with a school, a church, a bar, a post office that is open only four hours a day, a veterinary clinic and a co-op. Boro started at the bar called the Good ‘Ol Days because it had the most cars parked out front. Resident Jason Luebbe and his cousin Brandon Luebbe were finishing lunch when they struck up a conversation with Boro. They eventually took him on a tour of the town that included stops at the local school, the vet clinic, the waterfall on the Blue River, and their farm before finishing out the night with an impromptu celebration at the Good ‘Ol Days.

Boro said he’s never felt so welcomed in any other place he’s traveled in the U.S.

“The people in Nebraska were so much more community-oriented, friendly and proud of being from Nebraska,” he said. “It was really overwhelming how friendly people were. It was awesome.”

Nebraska is awesome, and not just as a place. Yes, the last few years have been challenging and divisive in many ways, and there will always be work to do in terms of respect, civility and equality. But the above mentioned stories serve to remind us just how good we can be.

Be it an individual, a group of friends, or an entire community, there are many other examples of “Nebraska Nice” out there, proving that this is still a place where “The Good Life” can be found.

OWH editorials February 2022

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