Covering high school sports some years ago, I made it a point to reward good play by mentioning the athlete’s name in the story. “Marie Gonzalez made a diving attempt in goal thwarting an effort to score by the Cyclones” would describe a successful effort by a student/athlete. The next day’s newspaper story with Marie’s name in it would be cherished by her forever. “Hey, Marie, I saw your name in the newspaper today. Nice going,” would be spoken to her with pride by many.
But when Johnny Jones dropped a fly ball letting in the winning run, my story would read “an outfield error proved costly for the Pirates.” Better for a child to have no mention rather than dismissive comments that stay in print forever. The last thing kids need in high school are negative words said about them. To wit, even though yellowed news clippings will fade, critical mention on the Internet is forever. Colleagues differed with my approach by saying reporting on both the good and the bad was necessary. I would counter, “After high school, yes, but not with children.”
“Life Link” is an organ donor agency in Tampa that does wonderful work in restoring hope and care to people in need of a transplant. There were a number of guests at an annual luncheon of “Life-Link” which I recently attended who had been recipients of those transplants.
One such guest was Willie, a forty-three-year old father who told a heartwarming story of how a recent organ transplant changed his life in ways both large and small.
Unable to even play catch with his only son, he had watched the child grow up without ever being able to say to him, “Hey, son, wanna have a catch?”
That simple right of passage that has so often over the years bonded fathers and sons, and daughters, had been denied both of them. “I couldn’t even walk two feet…that’s how tired I was,” Willie recalled. “I so much wanted to be a part of his learning and playing sports. I never thought I’d have that experience.”
The father finally got to the top of that organ waiting list and successfully received the transplant. His whole life changed as he was able to not only cheer on his young son, but strong enough to finally have that catch with him.
Emotionally expressing himself, he spoke of his pride and joy in watching his son take part in a local baseball tournament recently. Describing the thrill, he said that even though the boy’s team lost in the final game, the excitement of being a part of it was a wonderful moment for both him and his family.
And his final words to the audience, as he walked from the podium, smiling and proudly waving his arm in the air, were, “And, hey, you know what? My son got his name in the newspaper!”
The positive power of the press had added to a family’s joy, forever.