We pulled the U-Haul into my in-laws’ driveway 20 years ago this Sunday. My wife’s whole family helped unload our stuff on that warm August night, and a new journey began. I still joke that we’ve lived here in Knoxville 20 years, so we’re new here!
What’s not new to me is newspapering. I am the new managing editor of the Journal-Express, and began work on Tuesday, Aug. 22, in this new position. But, my “news” journey began a long time ago at a young age.
My newspaper story began when I was 6-years-old and my dad, following his dream, began printing a monthly trade paper. I’d help him with paste-up (back in the day when cut-and-paste was done with scissors and wax), and the roar of a printing press would send chills through me. When I grew up, I chased newspaper jobs across the country and wound up in Florida. The greatest blessing of that journey was meeting an Iowa girl and, long story short, here I am.
Enough about me! Or at least, let’s connect your story to mine. You see, while I never joined the newspaper my Dad began, I did get into what I call our “family business.” My parents raised me and my six siblings to be like them, other-centered. That means that we, like so many good neighbors here in Knoxville, try to put the needs of other folks before our own.
For me, that’s meant helping to coordinate the twice-monthly food distribution days at Helping Hands, or helping publicize the high school band’s efforts to buy the new uniforms you’ll see at Ken Locke Stadium in a few weeks. It’s meant helping to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, or helping social workers at The Well as they walk alongside people on a journey back to wholeness.
And I’ll help you do the math. I used the word “helping” five times in that last paragraph. That’s where our stories connect. We help each other help each other. I’ve never umpired a softball game or worked the Knoxville High School concession stand alone. What makes Knoxville strong is our ability and willingness to come together for something bigger and better than ourselves.
Great signs of hope are all around us. I was inspired by calls to community action earlier this summer, and even more impressed by the volunteer fair on the square it helped inspire last Thursday, Aug. 17. I found hope in the seats of the Knoxville Performing Arts Center on Sunday, Aug. 20, as Will Bowen spoke about living in a complaint-free world.
As I write this, my purple complaint-free wristband marks Day 3 of struggling not to complain. On my desk sits a simple wooden car carved from Habitat scrap wood, reminds me of great things that can be done with the simplest of resources. The wonder of such symbols is that they mean nothing if we don’t step up and share our gifts to make the best of our challenges.
On Day 1 of this newest challenge — being the managing editor of our community newspaper — may I invite you to join in the business of covering the process of building a better community? Help make us aware of news. Join us in conversations, some which will have to involve constructive criticism, that will make our community a nest that our kids will return to someday.
If you have a news tip, an idea for an article, or even a complaint about the Journal-Express, please call me at (641) 842-2155.
I’m excited and humbled as I start down this newest path. Above all, though, I’m hopeful of where we might go, together.