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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: The question is: Why are we here?

On snowy cold days, like we've been having, we catch ourselves looking out the window and wondering, "What in the world am I doing living in Bemidji." Then I take a snooze, dream some dreams about spring and wake up with the realization that I am very lucky. You might feel the same way.

I think we are put on earth for two reasons. First, we are put on earth to appreciate and care for what the Creator has created for us. If we don't, who will? There is no better place to appreciate what the Creator has done than in Beltrami County, Minnesota.

Every week, my colleague Blane Klemek describes in picturesque prose the flora and fauna of this area or, as he likes to refer to it, the great outdoors. It's this great outdoors that brings us to this area and it's this great outdoors that makes us stay. The great outdoors can be your backyard, a city park, or a trail along the lake. If you look for beauty, you will find it.

When Kathy and I spent time living in the inner city of Camden, N.J., I really missed the great outdoors of southern Minnesota. I wasn't used to the concrete jungles of our big Eastern industrial cities. I purchased binoculars and began bird watching along the polluted Delaware River and found beauty in the common cormorant.

Whether it be the red bellied woodpecker at your feeder, the squirrels racing up the tree when they hear the door open, the ever growing snow banks, the deer tracks in the snow, the frost on your window, or the flying squirrel that somehow found a way into your closet, winter, in all of its grandeur, leaves us speechless like the subzero temperatures that make us gasp for warmer air. The Creator has made a marvelous wonderland for us to see, feel, smell, touch and taste. We just have to look for it.

A friend of mine is moving from California to Hawaii to be closer to his children. He said that he thinks about me when Minnesota makes the news with its below zero temperature. There is often a 100-degree difference in temperatures between Minnesota and California. He just can't understand why you and I stay here. Until you live here, it's hard for people to get it. Knowing that the Creator made this for us to appreciate and care for is the reason why we are here.

The second reason why we are here is to help others find happiness. If they haven't found happiness, we do whatever we can to ensure that they do find it.

I had my students write cards to someone they care about. They took it pretty seriously. Although I didn't ask to see what they wrote, I was happy they thought about it and took some time to write a card. This may have been the first card they ever wrote to this individual. I can't help but feel that when that person received it, he or she was pleasantly surprised and it probably made their day. Maybe just writing the card made my students' day, too.

My students have not had an easy life. For many people it's difficult to bring happiness to others when they are struggling to find happiness themselves.

As I do every week, I go around to businesses and ask them to support the 100 percent graduation goal. We talk about the goal and how to bring it about and then I usually ask them if it can be done. This one particular business owner said she doubted it very much. When asked why she felt this way, she said people have too many other issues to worry about. It's hard to work at a goal like graduating from high school or appreciate what is around you when you have no food to put on the table or when you have no home to go to. This is true, but we will never get the job done if we think it can't be done.

This is where you and I come in. If one of the reasons we are here is to help others find happiness then we have to find ways of eliminating the issues in one's life and help them build on the good things one step at a time. Beltrami County does this in many ways but we still have people that don't see beauty around them and that helping others means first helping themselves.

If each of us can find happiness by appreciating where we are and what the Creator has given us, we now need to do whatever we can to help others find the same happiness. It's that simple.

I'm writing this on Thursday and I am looking out of my office window at the 10 inches of snow that fell and is now creating whirlwinds of mini blizzards in my driveway. I am thinking about how clean everything looks but also thinking about the work that is ahead of me. All of a sudden I hear this noise and a big truck comes up my driveway to plow me out. That's what life is about—to find beauty, to help others and to have hope we can do both. That's why we are here.

Riddle: What did the zero say to the number eight? (Nice belt.) You see, you can find beauty in everything.

100 percent graduation rate

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. These tips will increase the likelihood that students will stay in school.

1. Teachers, take a look at your class roster. Are there some students that you have not noticed lately?

2. The more heart you put into teaching, the more emotion and the greater likelihood that kids will remember what you teach.

3. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die." We need to think about all of those students who do not graduate and who feel they cannot make a contribution.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.