"The problems of the world are not in my department."
-- Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca
Unlike Bogart's character, the problems of the world are in our department.
We write about them every day -- after researching them, discussing them, mulling them over and worrying about and even praying over them.
Sometimes it feels like the world is going nuts. Maybe it is. We suspect that many things are actually better than before -- and it's just that, with global communications and 24-hour news channels and the Internet, we're simply hearing and reading more about the craziness.
Still, some things do get worse -- unemployment, oil spills, terrorism, jingoistic regimes in Iran and North Korea and more. It can be daunting, evening sickening, this barrage of news today -- much of it bad or disturbing.
Then, all of a sudden, your world view is rocked -- in a very good way -- by the kind of young men and women we spent an evening recognizing for their achievements this week.
The area's 25 "Best and Brightest" high school seniors were celebrated by The Chronicle Monday night, with the five best -- according to a panel of three independent judges -- receiving cash awards.
You would be amazed, encouraged, proud and hopeful after meeting these bright and energetic young men and women -- some of the best their generation has to offer.
Many are headed for helping professions -- either as doctors and nurses or veterinarians or biomedical researchers who may help find the next big cure. All of them are headed for great things.
But all of them, too, see more than the man or woman in the mirror. To a person, this group of 25 have an eye on their fellow man. It truly is amazing: While most of us stumble awkwardly through our high school years just hoping not to develop a conspicuous pimple or attract a "kick me" sign, these kids are helping their peers or senior citizens, raising funds for charity -- and even starting their own humanitarian ventures.
Quentin Mays of Butler High coordinates events for the Downtown Development Authority and organizes its Saturday Market. In Blind Side fashion, Brenna Cook of Harlem High reached out to a fellow student living in poverty. Clayton Perry of Augusta Christian has made mission trips to Haiti. Megan Pugh of Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School sits with her elderly neighbor and tutors children. Maggie Bosley of South Aiken High organized South Carolina's first Make-A-Wish Foundation fund-raising dinner for children with life-threatening conditions.
Some in this Best and Brightest class have overcome immeasurable odds just to be in school, much less finish at the top -- including anorexia nervosa and abject poverty.
You can read more about these beautiful young lives in our Best and Brightest special section this Sunday.
Take it from us in the Problems of the World Department: If you feel weighed down by the news of the day, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just imagine being in a room filled with young men and women of this caliber, as we were Monday night.
For one thing, they'll bring you hope just being in their presence. For another thing, we'll soon unleash them on all those problems. We're thinking the problems don't stand a chance.
Relax. We're in much better hands than we sometimes think.