Journalism by nature is kind of a mercenary profession.
I like to think of it as Western — a mysterious outsider rides into town on a horse, gets the job done and then vanishes before the next day’s light.
Unless you were a member of the Manheim Township High School graduating class of 2006, you cannot imagine the intensity with which I wish I had that comparison handy for my 10-year reunion last month.
Dramatics aside, I think it covers the broad strokes of exactly what it is that I do. Nobody wants to hear about the phone calls, the emails or the sheer volume of typing that gets a paper to print.
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I get that, I really do.
Despite the conversational somersaults I performed that evening trying to pretend otherwise, the unvarnished truth is that the most interesting thing about my job is other people.
Fly-fisherman Joe Humphreys would have been a hit at that reunion. Ditto for Isaac Messner, a former State College Area High School senior who beat cancer and used his Make-a-Wish window to donate new uniforms to the boys’ track and field team.
These are people with actual stories to tell, and for one week out the year, they gave them to me on loan. Our relationships are usually short-lived, unfolding in a series of sometimes highly personal questions masquerading as a business transaction.
Krista and Brandon Williams spent an hour telling me about their daughter, Leah, an 11-year-old girl with a rare genetic disorder whose frequent out-of-town medical appointments had pushed the family minivan to its breaking point.
Music teacher Shannon Henry told me about the car crash that crushed her hands and nearly did the same to her sense of self-worth.
Claire Feaster, an 8-year-old student at Houserville Elementary School who was born with schizencephaly, has a family who loves her so much that they performed a Halloween miracle and turned her wheelchair into Cinderella’s carriage.
In today’s world, it’s easier to distrust than to trust — especially when it comes to somebody with a pen and notepad.
I’m always grateful when somebody chooses to take that leap, and I hope that they continue to do so in 2017.