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Kent, the city that smiles | As I See It

Michael Haley lives on the East Hill and spends his time making others lives better by cleaning up around Kent-Meridian High School and praying for the kids as he picks up refuse, from his wheelchair. - Courtesy photo
Michael Haley lives on the East Hill and spends his time making others lives better by cleaning up around Kent-Meridian High School and praying for the kids as he picks up refuse, from his wheelchair.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

There is a Branding in Kent that everyone seems to be promoting lately, or maybe everyone suddenly realized that it has been here all along.

Some cities have tried to capture cute little sayings that will encourage visitors to want to come and spend the day, or more in their quaint little burg.

The problem has been that there are just so many catchy phrases to go around.

If you visit a town, because of their "fish on the river" verbiage, you might run smack dab into a mall with nary a minnow on the menu. Some may find themselves in the wrong town that has the same branding and may accidentally spend their money at the wrong shop.

Now, I keep running smack dab into Kent's branding without even trying. It happened again on Smith Street just east of Kent-Meridian High School. I was driving toward Smith Hill and out of the corner of my eye I saw it, or rather him. I had to circle the block to see if I was really seeing what I thought that I saw, but there is no block to circle. I had to go halfway down Smith turn right come back up Benson and right again, slowing to find that "Branding" that couldn't really be there.

No way. But there he was. He was in a wheelchair with a five-gallon bucket on his lap and a picker in his hand, poking in the bushes and on the edges of the walkway for pieces of paper and garbage and anything that caused his part of the city to look dirty. I parked, got out of my truck and approached him. As I did, he looked up and there it was, "a great big smile" on his face.

He is Michael Haley. Michael went down on his motorcycle 10 years ago and lost the use of his legs. He says that he has made his job the daily cleaning up of the area up and down the streets, so that the kids will have a better environment on their way to school.

Michael says that kids have it tougher now then it used to be and he can do his part to help them get through it.

"The most important part is that it gives me an opportunity to pray for them," Michael said. "They have so many obstacles in their way, so all the time that I'm picking up junk, I am praying for the kids."

It shook me to the core. I found myself patting my legs, realizing some of the little things that I worry about aren't so important, and being thankful for running into another reason that I love this town, "Kent, the city that smiles."

Don Dinsmore is a regular contributor to the Kent Reporter.

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