By Susan Knight
I don’t consider myself a good enough writer to give tidbits about writing here on this blog. I mean, I used to be a journalist, but even that was “used to be.”
Looking back, I know I have lived a very good and fulfilled life. I confess I’m a “has been” in many areas, but, in writing, I’m also a “wanna’ be.” Striving to write and finish my first book is a challenge. I’m tired when I come home from work and writing takes more brain power than I possess, most nights. But I press on.
I recently waxed nostalgic and read over the article I wrote which won me the Keystone award for feature story writing in 2005. Meh. I didn’t think it was my best writing, but perhaps the article content did the trick and touched the judges.
It was about a Christian family in my home town. My home town area is very religious, being filled with Mennonites and Calvary Baptists. This one family I covered was very large. The wife was expecting her 10th child. She found out she was pregnant in January, and found out in February she had inoperable cancer.
She was a nurse and the hospital where she worked took up a collection to send her—and her very large family—to DisneyWorld in March. It’s a 24-hour drive by car and about two hours by air from Pennsylvania. The family flew.
What a fundraising feat that must have been, to be able to send a family of twelve to Florida. Astronomical. But the good nurses said she, this undaunted mother with cancer, was always the first to help people in any way needed. They did have help from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
But, it didn’t stop there. While the family was in Orlando, the woman’s friends from the hospital and the couple’s friends from their Baptist church, gathered up their own friends and family to do a home makeover on the family’s rundown house. It’s a nice house, but needed some refurbishing.
These community members were called upon to paint walls, lay carpet, fix plumbing, and landscape the home. Even little things like repairing a toilet paper holder weren’t overlooked. The person who switched out the carpet didn’t even know the family, yet donated his time—and the carpeting. He said it was the easiest job he ever did because there were so many helping hands.
One artist, a friend of a friend, painted a cartoon mural in the small, closet bedroom of the family’s Down Syndrome, eight-year-old son. Those working in the home became fast friends, even though most of them had never met before.
While caught up in the interviewing process and photo snapping of the couple, after the fact, I remember thinking what great people they all were, especially the couple. I don’t mean just great. I mean great. Like saving the world great. Like going straight to heaven great. This couple never gave up hope and they had abundant faith that their lives were in the Lord’s hands. They said that phrase many times, like a mantra.
That wife and mother of ten died after delivering a very premature baby boy in July.
I was privileged to do a follow-up story in November, Thanksgiving, when they brought baby Andrew home. I waited, with my photographer, at the home and was entertained by the antics of the small children. Those in school took off and were also home, the oldest, a senior in high school.
After four, long months in a rehab home for babies, Andrew was carried over the threshold by his proud father and fawned over by nine, happy siblings. He was still on oxygen and needed a lot of care. The church stepped in for that, providing a nanny service of volunteer stay-at-home moms.
One woman, in particular, decided to devote herself to taking care of the baby, coming every day with her own young daughter. Others made meals or taxied children to music lessons and band practice.
There are good folks everywhere. It was a pleasure to be a small town reporter and to cover stories of ordinary, yet extraordinary, individuals —heroes who lived right near me.
I know there are more out there, too, in every small home town. Some other lucky reporter is getting to find that out. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.