Reporting Lesson Number One
When my mother, Edith, was hired on at a Massachusetts daily newspaper as a rookie reporter, her first assignment was to write her own obituary to be filed away just in case. It turned out to be a tougher assignment than she thought.
It was a deliberate lesson that her editor taught her in humility and, more important, in empathy.
She never forgot it when she was writing news reports about the unfortunate, the troubled, the oppressed, the misguided, or the people out there on the fringes of society. All those ordinary un-famous souls who still deserve a compassionate and objective appraisal of their lives.
My high school class in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, numbered only 22. There were just 99 students in the whole high school. In my senior year school mates Mack Heath and Linda Sanderson died one night when their car struck a bridge abutment. It hit our school and our idyllic village hard. I’ve thought of them often since. They never had the chance to live and love beyond their teen years and experience the broader world and work at some fulfilling occupations and thus make their lifetime contributions to our society. I’ve tried to do a little living in their names.
We’re losing too many among us during these terrible days. We see the raw statistics every day. The numbing numbers. We perhaps need to remind ourselves that each of those thousands of lost souls was a person in many ways the same as us, whose life was no less precious, and who faced the darkness all too often alone and suffering.
In the years to come, those of us who make it through should maybe do some living for the lost ones and work some extra measure of good in the world in their stead.