Christmas is a time for giving, and even a time for miracles. In Franklin County, people are working toward both right now.
Readers of this newspaper likely have seen Holly Kee's reporting about Makanda Williams, a 10-year-old girl from Ewing who has been diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. Those with the destructive brain cancer face a survival rate of about 1 percent.
What do you do in the face of such overpowering odds? Like any good mother, Makanda's mom, Sarah Carlton, has opted to fight. Thus, Makanda hopped on a plane this week bound for Monterrey, Mexico, where she is receiving a special and innovative treatment.
Even if she's now out of sight, however, Makanda is hardly out of mind among residents of Franklin County. This Friday evening, Dec. 15, the Benton Public Square will come alive with sound and lights once again -- this time to raise money in hopes of helping Makanda fight the odds. From 6 to 8 p.m., "Holiday on the Square: Miracle for Makanda" will include raffles, photos with Mrs. Claus, a silent auction, a hot chocolate booth staffed by local politicians and more.
Kevin Edwards, owner of Edwards Antiques on the square, has spearheaded the event and served as its central organizer, but his initial effort has been only the beginning. Other businesses have chipped in to help, as has Franklin County Circuit Clerk Jim Muir, who has championed Makanda's plight online. Other businesses, including La Fiesta in West Frankfort, are also planning ways to help.
It has become almost a cliche to describe the people of southern Illinois as generous, but that trait is on display so frequently that it almost always deserves a mention. It's not just during the holidays, either. Through floods and tornadoes, economic downturns and just sheer bad luck, southern Illinoisans always prove themselves to be a giving and charitable people.
At Christmastime, it's just easier to see. From coat drives and food donations to angel trees and even the Salvation Army bucket, a spirit of generosity is all around. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
As for miracles? They are harder to discuss and even more difficult to identify.
But Christmas, after all, is a season for those, too -- and how do you look into the eyes of a 10-year-old girl and say you don't believe in them?
If you have the time this Friday, stop by the square and check it out. And no matter what, let the spirit of the season guide your heart and your deeds. It is, after all, our way.