Henry Ford is credited with having opined, “There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.”
The well-known American industrialist certainly accomplished a lot during his life. And he apparently found great joy in doing it.
Mahalia Jackson, one of America’s most inspirational singers of the last century, added something else about being employed that I agree with: “You’re blessed if you have the strength to work.”
For me, another huge blessing throughout my writing and reporting career has been the opportunity to know so many people that I likely would never have had the privilege to meet otherwise.
That includes countless others I’ve encountered in the process of their performing their own job duties. I’ve been impressed, for example, by the caliber of the many members of law enforcement around our county, including our current Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott.
One of my first memories of Rick was almost 24 years ago when, as the county’s undersheriff, he was named The Daily World’s Officer of the Year shortly after I began working for the Aberdeen newspaper. Much later, after I went to work for The Vidette in 2006, Scott, still undersheriff, was the point person for almost anything I needed to know while reporting on news that involved his office.
Always professional, Rick was also not only informative, but he also never made me feel like I was asking a stupid question, although I’m almost certain I probably must have. Then, after 10-year-old Lindsey Baum vanished walking to her McCleary home the evening of June 26, 2009, my job was to cover the story — which still, sadly, has had no end.
Temperatures soared day after heart-breaking day, as scores of officers, rescue workers and others from various departments across the county, state and even country, searched ceaselessly for the missing child. Scott, sunburned and almost certainly exhausted, was the person reporters needed to talk with for information on the case.
As the months, even years, continued to pass without Lindsey returning home, I once asked Rick how those in law enforcement were coping with the frustration of not being able to learn what had become of the little girl.
Everyone in his department had children in their own lives, he said, trying to express how hard it was for them. And they would never “throw in the towel,” he emphasized.
Plenty of other folks, many of whom wouldn’t be considered “prominent,” have also touched my life through my work. I recall one woman whose name came up when The Vidette was publishing a short profile each month on one of our subscribers.
All were chosen at random before we called them to propose writing about them. Some agreed; others flatly refused. Then there was the Elma subscriber who was certain that nothing about her life was worth a story. As I tried to convince her otherwise, she kept saying, “I don’t know …; I don’t know.”
I was sure she was going to turn me down. But at last she consented to let me come to her home and interview her, as well as take photos. “Just think of me as a neighbor,” I told her.
Though the lady was obviously really nervous, she was also very gracious. It also quickly became obvious that she was a nurturing person in a wide variety of ways. She cared for people of many ages, as well as animals. It wasn’t difficult to write about someone who cared so much for others.
After the interview was done and the photos were taken, the experience hadn’t been so bad, she told me — it was just like talking with a neighbor.
I’m also sure that, but for my job, I would never have had the opportunity last year to write about Lauren Bruner, a 1938 Elma High School graduate and former McCleary resident who survived the bombing of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
And that story came to me through another person I met through my job and am now happy also to call a friend, Bill Wickwire, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Elma. They are all treasures — so many folks who have trusted me with their stories.
Of course, I’ve also written about folks who have broken the law or appeared in the news for other reasons they’ve not been happy about. But there were good reasons for printing those stories, and the people involved were far fewer in number than those in the former category.
It is also true that my work has been about much more than the joy of knowing so many people I might have missed. It has involved, well … work, which Spanish-born painter and sculptor, Pablo Picasso, once called “a necessity for man,” who “invented the alarm clock.”
Ah, now that brings me to one of the great joys of retirement …
Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Contact her by emailing the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org