Roughly 69 percent of American adults celebrate Easter in some capacity. But you wouldn't know it from the syndicated material opinion page editors had to choose from last week. The Easter-related pickings were pretty slim this year.

Bloomberg News offered a column with the headline, "Survey says the real meaning of Easter is . . . candy." But I've had my fill of debating whether this holiday comes loaded with too many treats and not enough theology. It's pretty clear the chocolate bunnies won that one.

There also was ample opportunity to offer commentary on the fact that Easter this year falls on April 20, "the pot-lover's highest holiday."

"No one is quite sure why April 20 -#8212; or 420 -#8212; is considered the ultimate day to smoke weed," noted an Associated Press story, "but it's been a tradition for decades."

This fact has been creating a buzz on social media, we're told. But I'll resist the temptation to delve into a "higher power" debate. Chances are, it would just lead to the consumption of more candy.

Instead, I refer to something Rabbi George Gittleman wrote last week in his Close to Home concerning Passover, which began Monday night. He noted how at its root, the holiday "is a lesson in hopefulness," something that certainly rings true for Easter as well. "First lesson in hope: Don't underestimate what a few committed people can do," he wrote.

If you're looking for that kind of story this holiday, here's a suggestion: Check out the list of 19 locals honored at last week's "Real Heroes" breakfast by the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

Given the news of late -#8212; of people stealing from nonprofits that trusted them, of state legislators being charged with corruption and of a South Korean ferry boat captain accused of abandoning his capsizing ship after telling passengers to stay in their cabins where they would be safe -#8212; these tales of "a few committed people" will restore some faith in mankind.

People like George Kennedy of Ukiah, who, for that past 10 years, has been working 35 hours a week at the Ukiah Senior Center, running a weekday lunch program. He also delivers meals to housebound seniors. And he does it without pay, which allows the program to keep meal costs down.

Kennedy, 90, says the work keeps him out of mischief. "As long as I can walk, I guess I'll keep doing it," he said in a video played to hundreds of people gathered at the 11th annual "Real Heroes" breakfast in Rohnert Park Thursday.

On the other end of the age spectrum, there's Riley Orton, age 9. The Sonoma Valley lad first set out to raise money to help people at the age of 5. He started a lemonade stand. "But that didn't work out so good," he confessed.

Thankfully he didn't give up. He organized a successful toy drive for the Valley of the Moon Children's Center. He then expanded his fund-raising efforts to include school supplies for children in Africa.

He was so successful, he drew the attention of a founder of a preparatory school in the slums of Kisumu, Kenya, who ended up naming the school's charity organization the Riley Orton Foundation.

Then there's Chris Kittredge who read an article in Life magazine in the late 1980s "and it just spoke to my heart." The story concerned Canine Companions for Independence in Sonoma County and the result has been more than 20 years of volunteer service, helping to deliver and raise puppies to become service dogs for people with disabilities.

"I love dogs, but I also love people," she says. "And these dogs are destined to help people." A number of the canines are now being placed in the court system to help with abused children who won't share their stories with anyone. "But they will tell their story to a dog," Kittredge said.

"It's always hard to say good-bye to the puppies," she said. "However, it's sort of like sending your child off to college. . . . You know they are so ready, and they're slightly driving you crazy at that point."

And there's Tim Blair, a U.S. Coast Guard captain who was recognized for his work for the past 12 years helping veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He helps them by doing what he knows. He takes them sailing.

"We are just facilitators without really trying to facilitate," said Blair. "The sound of the wind, the sound of the waves splashing against the boat, the physical movement of the boat -#8212; all of these create an environmental experience that, in and of itself is deeply relaxing and focusing these veterans into the present moment."

One of the challenges of PTSD is not being able to live in the present moment because of certain memories.

"Sailing enables you to find yourself and lose yourself at the same time," Blair said.

If you find yourself wanting more of these kinds of stories of selfless service, check them out by going to www.youtube.com/user/arcsml or going through the American Red Cross web site.

They are a welcome break from all the other news.

<i>Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. Email him at paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com</i>