As I stood there with the glow on my face and the warmth of the expiring wood in the large fire by the side of 100 North, I looked around and saw kids from the community taking it all in. The evening was cool, but not cold, yet hundreds of high school students, some with parents, others with younger siblings in tow were there for the annual event, the homecoming bonfire.
As the fire grew higher, the crowd became more excited. The school band had just finished playing their part in the event, and despite the intense heat that branded everything within 50 feet of the blaze, every once in a while one of the students would dart in with some small scrap of wood and toss in on the conflagration.
As this happened school officials and the fire fighters working the scene would shoo the kids back and tell them how dangerous the heat could be. Despite that, every once in a while one would still go after the thrill of tossing on another stick.
Standing off to the side of the blaze, talking to a fire fighter and a school administrator was an official from the state fire marshal's office. He had apparently been in town for the Community Awareness Fair that went on earlier in the day at St. Matthew's Church in east Price. No one knew why he showed up at the bonfire celebration, but he was there.
"This is really something," he said with a light in his eyes that didn't come from the reflected blaze. "We couldn't hold anything like this in Salt Lake anymore. There would be violence or other problems."
That remark struck me odd at first. I had grown up in Murray and we had had at least one bonfire for homecoming when I was in school. But over 30 years have passed since then and things have really changed along the Wasatch Front. Then another remark he made as he looked around brought me back into the 21st century.
"These are really good kids in this crowd," he said as he walked away from me and into the assembled throng.
He was right, they were. Other than the occasional stick thrower disobeying the rules, there were no problems in that field that night. No one was arrested, no one stabbed, no one shot or shot at. Certainly I am not naive enough to believe there wasn't some drinking going on before the event; nor am I so out of it that I believe every kid that was there was stone cold sober.
But I can tell you this. Most were courteous when addressed and everyone I talked to was downright friendly. I didn't even hear any foul language which is unusual when around a large group of teenagers.
There are times when it is easy to look at the bad side of things in our area; the substance abuse problems, the mental disorders, crime problems, etc. Certainly we shouldn't ignore those problems, but on the other hand we need to realize that the vast majority of our teenagers, while each having their own set of pubescent complications, are good citizens with strong personal goals and a bright future.
Some times it just takes someone from the outside to remind us of how lucky we are and how good we really have it.