Working at The Newton Kansan is special. You get to be a journalist, meaning long hours, low pay and at least half the people you meet are mad at you or just don't like you. That, however, is not what makes it great. Working in this field is very unique — you provide a community service, meet hundreds if not thousands of new people every year and tell stories for a living.
That, however, is not what makes it so special. At least not to me. What makes it so special is spending my days with truly special people who are very observant. And they can offer wonderful, amazing advice on both professional and personal levels.
I have known this about the people I work with for a long, long time. I have worked with those kinds of people pretty much my entire adult/post-college life as I have dedicated my professional life to this trade — 20 years of it to the Kansan and the Newton community. But it was driven home pretty well this week as I sat in my van, brooding because the darn thing would not start.
I had spent about two hours or more freezing my keister at the scene of a fire in Hesston. For much of that time my spirits were low as I kept thinking of the Burkhart and Dreier families who were watching their livelihood go up in smoke. I wondered if their futures were as dark as the smoke pouring out of their offices. And what of the folks like Elbert Swartzendruber who work for them?
Realizing that I needed to charge my phone, I got into the van. Realizing I needed a cord to charge said phone, I figured I'd run to Casey's and get one. But try as she might, that van did not start. The starter would crank, but nothing else.
First, I picked up my nearly dead phone to call my wife. I started to stew as I listened to ring after ring, and I began to wonder if she would pick up.
Then came the real fun of the call. I told her where I was, complete with a couple of landmarks. I figured since she delivers papers in Hesston it would be easy. It was not. She doesn't deliver to the part of town I was in. She, however, did get the kids around and into our second vehicle to come and get me.
I sat and brooded.
Then came the next call. She was at the fire, but could not find me. Problem was she was on the north side of it, I was on the south and the street between us was blocked. She needed to go around the block, but this particular around the block was a bit confusing. I gave her more directions.
It was at this point that I started to think about a recent conversation I had with Patricia Middleton, a reporter here. She had been sick, and she felt like she hadn't been doing her job all that well for a few days. Truth is, she was still working and still meeting expectations. We had a conversation that was pretty amazing, and one I hope I don't forget.
"Thanks for being patient with me," she said to me.
"You're welcome. Not sure I would describe myself as patient, and my wife and kids definitely would not."
"You are more patient with me than you are with them," Patricia replied.
That one cut a little. An observation, both professional and personal, offered by one of those special people who are very observant — at just the right time.
Yeah, working here is special. My family is pretty special too. I may not be wealthy, and really never will be as long as I write news stories for a living, but I am pretty darn rich. Might just be the richest person I know. Seriously, could I ask for much more? A special job, lots of special people around me at work and at home.
As to the van, I called AAA and had it towed to my mechanic — another one of those special people in this world — and he took a look. It started right up, it is not clear what was or is wrong with the thing. Right now my guess is it was serving as a vehicle for someone other than me that day. I hope I can remember the lesson.
— Chad Frey is managing editor of the Newton Kansan. He lives in Newton with four generations of his family. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org