Today I turn the blog over to Cathy Roberts, great friend and features editor at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, for a powerful, insightful story about finding hope in the midst of the news. Cathy…
January 1991: Operation Desert Storm is announced. I was in the newsroom of the college newspaper, along with a National Guard member who would likely be called up to serve. That moment was the first gut-clenching moment of my journalism career.
Of course, there would be worse. The day I had to knock on doors and talk to neighbors of a slain young woman; the blood was still on the building. When I had to talk with the parents of a girl who was missing and presumed dead.
Then 9/11. Columbine. Sandy Hook. And Webster firefighters killed for doing their job.
When you have a hand in covering the news, you have to keep it at an arm’s length while you’re doing your job. You need to take the phone calls from reporters talking to local businesses that had employees in the World Trade Center. You need to produce a newspaper with the most comprehensive news available for people who need details when a tragedy strikes.
Then, in the days after, the weight of what happens hits, and if you’re not careful, you can lose the hope needed to build a life with meaning.
For me, obituaries help. I know many people avoid these stories. However, for me, it helps to see that these people lived their lives with purpose, that they accomplished much in the little time they had on Earth.
My personal brand of faith also helps: I believe strongly in free will, that God is a gracious God and that humans make the decisions that destroy others’ lives.
What’s left is for the people of God to clean up the messes.
The trap is that you want the whole thing fixed, and whatever the cause – mental illness, unscrupulous gun dealers, world conflict – is too complex to be solved in the months after a tragedy. There’s a second Gulf war, another mass shooting, another fatal fire.
Yet it’s the small things we do that really make a difference: Who knows what a gun buyback will prevent? How about those firefighters handing out smoke detectors? Or those tirelessly working on justice issues in the world?
In that, we all can partake, and bring some hope back into the picture. I recently heard a speech by Deborah Hughes, director of the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum, that inspires and directs this energy. Anthony wrote to one of the suffragists: Do the one thing you can.
She didn’t say solve all the world’s problems, or organize a huge protest that will cause the world to understand the cause. She said one thing – within your ability.
The daughter of one of my high school classmates was killed on a Fourth of July when a stray bullet – fired up in the air in a spirit of celebration – stuck her during a backyard party. The family – and a public that was fed up with accidental killings – did push for legislation that made firing a weapon in a populated place a crime with a stiffer sentence.
However, more important, was Blair’s pure spirit of good. Her parents were foster parents, and she wondered why many of these kids were given stuffed animals for comfort and other trinkets yet did not have socks. So Blair’s Socks was born. Her mother and other family have continued other charity events in her name that make the world better.
So that’s what gives me hope: That out of tragedy, these young lives will inspire people to do good in the world. To do the one thing they can.
Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. – Proverbs 24:14
Cathy Roberts is wife to Chad, mom to two teenage boys, Kiegan and Tristan, and features editor at Democrat and Chronicle. She read all the Harry Potter books out loud to her sons and cherishes those moments when they still want to sit close to do anything. She was born here in Rochester, grew up in Ohio, went to college in Illinois and found her way back here again. And, despite the pressures of today’s newsrooms, she still marvels that she gets to go to work each day and help tell other people’s stories.
Today, instead of a journal page, I’m offering a chance to win one of three bookmarks based on Jessie’s journal page. Read his story here. To enter to win, share one of the 40 Days of Hope stories with your friends and then just let me know in the comments on this page, on Facebook, in email… whatever works for you! You have until 10 p.m. EST today. Go!