Most people by the age of 18 years old or thereabouts learn that life no longer centers only around themselves. They know, whether instinctively or through family, that once they are adults, everyone needs to pitch in to make their communities a better place for everyone.
Some even branch out by making the world a better place.
What would have happened if a majority of scientists or medical people didn’t care about eradicating polio, and instead just went to work, came home, chatted with the family and went to bed?
The same is true about our communities. What would happen if no one came forward to give their time and talents to make life easier and better for themselves and others? I’ve seen examples of that recently right here in Marion County. The same is true for those helping at churches, hospitals or other causes.
But I am not wanting to point fingers at who is or isn’t contributing to the greater good.
Everyone’s situation is different. For example, mothers might be home raising children or someone might be caring for a sick family member or starting a new business, or other important work. These are all vital in the scheme of things and many of these same people will eventually go on to help others.
As for me, I didn’t grasp this concept about “giving back” until my mid-30s. Even though I thought I was doing good deeds for others, I discovered that my life was unfulfilled. I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t want to die not knowing what or who I could be.
But I believe in something much bigger than myself, which I believe is God, had something in store for me that would open my eyes and help me get off the rock I’d been sitting on for so many years. I started walking the road again.
That’s not to say I didn’t fall in a few potholes or take a few wrong turns along the way, but today I strive to travel in the right direction.
Yet, if I once again try to sit down on that “comfy” side of the road, or it looks like I am trying to detour off the path looking for an easier, softer route, I have people who help me find my way back.
Probably the biggest thing that happened to get me moving again, though, was when I took my first job at a newspaper. It opened my eyes to see how big this world really is and how so many people are doing so many good things.
I also discovered that God had a sense of humor, which I hadn’t seen before. The reason I say that is because I am a people-pleaser and, when it comes to reporting news, it’s likely somebody, somewhere is going to be mad at me about what is written.
For a people-pleaser, that hurts, but it has helped me recognize that not everyone is going to like me. Even so, I still don’t like when someone is mad at me.
But this “coming of age” is what some people call an “aha” moment, or in my case, it caused a flatter forehead from me slapping it so much with the palm of my hand.
On the positive side, this character flaw has worked to my advantage because I like people very much. It’s allowed me to meet some exceptional individuals who care deeply for their profession, hobby or volunteerism.
In recent weeks, I have been privileged to write a story about our county’s lake superintendent wanting to go for the Guinness Book record on marshmallow roasting.
What an undertaking. He needs volunteers to supervise this event, video footage as proof. He also has to make sure he has the logistics correct to accommodate 1,000 or more individuals roasting marshmallows, and all at the same time.
If Steve Hudson didn’t care about his community, this might not ever happen and Marion County might not enjoy bragging rights.
Others volunteer their time to make life better for those less fortunate. Talk with Linda Ogden or Jackie Volbrecht about that one. It’s taken them and a handful of people a year just to develop the program known as “Circles of Hope,” and now they are looking for funding.
Some people might have given up before starting if they knew they would need $10,000 to get the training needed to start the actual help for those in poverty.
None of these people are sitting around watching television all night—they are involved.
It’s because of this job, and people like those I just mentioned, that I have learned so much about giving instead of taking.
As a reporter, I have been able to “report” on a range of stories—some serious, some light-hearted. Whatever is assigned to me, though, I try to understand what the person I am interviewing is wanting to convey to the reader. It’s not about what I think they are doing, it’s about them.
Many years ago, a dear friend and mentor told me to always remember that when I am doing a story, I should think of myself as a “parrot”—almost mechanically repeating what someone is saying. Of course, it’s a silly comparison, but the point is that each story is not about me or my opinions, it’s about that person, place or thing. It’s their story.
I remember talking with a former colleague about my belief that a reporter is someone who “reports” and I couldn’t believe it when he said he strongly disagreed with me.
He said it was about getting into the nuts and bolts and giving the reader a picture of what is going on. One of his classic examples was a story about someone who was killed in a motel. His story had details about the local police eating hamburgers and drinking sodas at the scene while waiting for KBI officials to arrive. He described what was on the burgers, how they ordered them, and more.
“It’s about adding color,” he told me.
Suffice to say, he and I had strong disagreements about the goal of reporting.
Today, I work with people who allow us to report without added sensationalism, which makes for an even better article, in my opinion.
My days are now filled with good things and good people. When I get up each morning, I look forward to my day and the opportunity of learning something new about my family, my community or even my life.
It’s a wonderful feeling to start each day anew and know I have God to thank.