Laura Rennie

an imperfect me

Laura R.4 Comments
from here

Last week a woman walked into the newsroom and right away I knew she was going to be trouble. She asked to see a reporter who hadn't come in to work yet. Well, where is he? she wanted know. I DONT KNOW, IM NOT HIS MOTHER I wanted to say back. Where does he get his facts? She practically spat the words at me. I sent her back to speak with the city editor.

The whole newsroom could hear her venomous accusations. She was upset because an article had been written about her son's death. He died in a car crash, and the article said that police suspected alcohol was involved. The woman said, "I hope someone in your family dies and something false is written about them and then you'll know what it's like."

I don't remember exactly what was going through my head, but I remember it being something like this - ughhhh that's such a trashy thing to say! we report the news, that's our job. leave us alone. go home.

And then the next day I read this - written by my coworker.

“Where does he get his facts?”
She’s disheveled. Track pants, a fleece pullover, and a voice full of hot dried tears. She’s pissed, but approaches the city editor’s desk like a visitation, carefully, holding her own hands and a folded newspaper between them.

Her son died a week ago today. He enjoyed restoring cars and snowboarding. He crossed the center line and flipped. A sergeant said alcohol appeared to be a factor. People will remember that part, read it and shake their heads before turning to the sports section.
Less than ten inches of text summed up twenty years of a person. And here comes his mother, slowly walking past us all typing away on our own stories, to defend twenty years of raising him.

“Why? Why would you put the article right next to the obituary? I don’t think you do care.”
The rasp in her words, threats to pull her subscription and make sure others did the same — they always say that. We haven’t had a grieving mother come into the newsroom in a month, but it’s always the same. The paper’s done something to mar the image of her child, and the reporter needs to hear it. The last one broke down in tears.

In a job where the weightiest interview I’ve done was with a cancer survivor, a normal day involves finding the warm-fuzzy soundbites, and the angriest phone call to my editor typically involves a mistake in the crossword, these are the most painful moments I’ve witnessed.
He told her “we’re just here to report the news,” which yes is true, but doesn’t change the reality she’s in. The facts aren’t straight, because her whole world is now crooked.

Beautifully written, right? Such a compassionate outlook on the situation. Such a completely opposite outlook from mine.

It can be said with confidence at the outset, and also at any subsequent stage on the road, that learning to love all the different sorts of people whom God sends across our path, in all the different sorts of situations he shapes up for us and them, is going to prove the hardest discipline we shall ever face.
- Thomas Howard and J. I. Packer, Christianity: The True Humanism

I sat at my desk and cried, staring at the line the fact's aren't straight, because her whole world is now crooked. I was ashamed of myself. I'm still ashamed. I cannot believe that I allowed my thoughts to be so judgmental, calloused and cruel. I cannot believe that I didn't take the time to consider her pain. I cannot believe that my heart didn't go out to her (it does now, but it feels like it's too late). I cannot believe that I've used the word "compassionate" to describe myself. I've even said here before that compassion is my favorite virtue. I cannot believe that I hid from her the very best part of me - the love of Christ within me. 

I didn't think about anything else but that woman - and how terribly I had judged her - for the rest of the week. I don't think I'll ever stop thinking about her. I hope I will never again lack in compassion.

On my list of 25 things that happened to me this weekend, I wrote that I cried because I felt ashamed. This is what I was crying over. I spent the drive to Springfield letting the tears fall, bringing myself before my God. "Have mercy on me, a sinner," I prayed.  And then I rested in the knowledge that God loves me despite my wretchedness, and I cried because I am forgiven.