A simple stack of thank you notes help get me through the hard times.
It may seem silly to some people, but I have kept each and every thank you card, note or email I have received since I started working at the Crossville Chronicle.
I started part-time in 1996 doing feature stories here and there in my spare time, which wasn't much back then, until a full-time staffwriter position opened in 1998. I left a full-time job with benefits at Flowers Bakery, which I had been working at for eight years, to come work for the Chronicle. I took a considerable cut in pay in order to do what I loved and what I studied in college. I had six years of prior experience working for both daily and non-daily newspapers in the Chicago area before moving to Crossville.
I won't deny that there have been many times I have asked myself over the past 14 years, "What were you thinking?"
I guess the main thing was that, back in 1998, I knew everything wasn't about money and, more importantly, I had my mental health to consider, as well as my family's well being. When I came to work for the Chronicle, I had a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. Now they are 20 and 18.
I am ever so thankful that I have been able to devote so much time to them and my wife over the past 14 years, time that I wouldn't have had if I stayed at Flowers. I was so thankful for that job at Flowers and I won't ever forget my time there and the life-long friendships I made with several people there.
Leaving the security of that job and coming to work at the Chronicle was a huge leap of faith for me and my wife, but we felt it was necessary.
A dear family member, who was gravely ill and who lived out of state, was happy to hear I would be writing again. In the last conversation I ever had with her, she told me over the phone, "never pass up an opportunity in life that could make a significant difference in your future. Especially if it's something you love."
Believe me when I say I don't take lightly the responsibility I have of writing and reporting the news. Whether it's covering a county government meeting, grandma's 100th birthday, a holiday parade, beauty pageant, a criminal court case, or anything in between — I take it very seriously and I am honored to be able to do this for a living in our community.
Sharing your stories, and the stories of the people and events in our community in a simple voice is a gift from God. It's something you really can't put a price on.
It isn't always easy, though.
Many times there are long, boring meetings that run well into the night. There are complaints on occasion. Even when you are only representing both sides of what happened at a particular event, there are some people who think their view is the right view and anything else is just absurd. Sometimes people just want to call the newspaper and yell at somebody.
Sometimes there are hard assignments to cover. Fatalities, wrecks with serious injury, fires, or even murders are often very disturbing to those of us who have to go and observe the scene, gather the factual information and present it to the public in a professional manner.
My parents taught me a long time ago that when things in life seem awful, there is always hope, God, love and family.
Sometimes, after a long day that's full of stress, I get those old thank you cards and notes out and re-read them and remind myself why I choose to work in this field and how lucky I am to be doing what I love.
The ones that mean the most are the cards from ordinary people, who live extraordinary lives and appreciate seeing their story in the paper. The hand written thank you letters from the folks who have since passed away are very special to me. Having the opportunity to share the story of someone's special, significant day or event means a lot to me. It's something that I truly am thankful for.
I am thankful for our readers.
Each year, the Crossville Chronicle publishes a Reader's Choice Poll and special section. The results were published in Wednesday's March 28 Chronicle. For the past three or four years in a row, I have been honored to be voted Best Newspaper Columnist in Cumberland County. I don't know how to explain this result, but I am seriously honored. I mean, all of our staffwriters, Dorothy Copus Brush, Heather Mullinix, Michael R. Moser, Jan Boston Sellers and Caroline Selby, write great columns.
I don't write elaborate columns about big adventures or spectacular events — I write from the heart and from experience, whether it's funny, sad or mundane. So, to any and all who voted for me, I sincerely thank you. It really means a lot to me and I am truly blessed to be doing what I love.
• • •
Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A simple stack of thank you notes help get me through the hard times.
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