Friday, October 21, 2011

I know how that feels

I recently sat in awe and amazement at Roswell (Ga.) United Methodist Church as they threw open the doors to hundreds of hurting people who are caught in the misery of being unemployed. This church near Atlanta holds a job-networking ministry every second and fourth Monday and unfortunately, it is really needed.
I sat at the table for young adults and heard the heartbreaking story of one young man who thought he had a job that would be starting that very day. He got a call at the last minute and the company retracted their offer. I really know how that feels. A travel agency once hired me and after my first day, they called me early the next morning and said they were taking it back. It wasn’t my dream job, but it still felt like a punch to the stomach.
But the worst was yet to come.
Among all the people without jobs these days are many newspaper editors, reporters and photographers. My husband and I were way ahead of the trend: The Louisiana newspaper we worked at closed down their afternoon edition years ago.
We didn’t see it coming. I still can’t really let myself think about that day. It wasn’t just us; it was many of our best friends. I remember one of the women who didn’t get laid off crying just as hard as we were. “Well, just remember it wasn’t their intention but they just did you a big favor,” she said. It took a few years for that prediction to come true, but it has.
I was lost for a long time. We lived down the street from our two best friends, we had just bought our first home and I never really wanted to leave my home state. I’d never even thought about it.
Emily, my daughter, had just graduated from kindergarten. Ethan was 3. My husband found a job in Nashville, a whole world away from the place I loved and felt comfortable.
Luckily, things have worked out. We both have good jobs at the moment, but we have watched a few rounds of layoffs come and go at our places of employment. There is always that feeling of an ax hanging over our heads, just a little out of our line of vision.
My heart aches for those who are suffering and are out there every day looking, looking for a job.
May God bless and bring comfort to us all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Congratulations President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf!

Covering the inauguration of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in January 2006 was an awesome experience and a highlight of my career as a journalist.
Johnson Sirleaf is a longtime United Methodist who loves her church. Bishop John Innis, the United Methodist bishop in Liberia, is a good friend of hers and he invited a delegation of U.S. United Methodists to attend her inauguration. He arranged for me to have an interview with her just three days after she took office. I will always be grateful to him for that.
I won’t go into detail but just getting to Monrovia, Liberia, in time to be at the inauguration was a nightmare. It seemed the whole world was trying to get to that remote location in a city without electricity, paved roads, limited numbers of hotels and restaurants, and very sketchy Internet service.
I got to my hotel sometime after midnight and was visited by two people (and not at the same time) from the Liberian Conference to tell me I needed to be ready to leave at 3 a.m.
The press had to be at the site at 4 a.m. to be counted and verified for entry into the press area. Two buses were on hand to transport us to another site for a quick breakfast before letting us into the “pit.”
The more experienced members of the media rushed to be on the first bus. I didn’t understand at the time why they were rushing but it became painfully apparent after I boarded the second bus and got to the “pit” a few minutes later: They had all the seats and all the good spots.
Laura Bush, then first lady, and Condoleezza Rice were among the dignitaries from around the world that came to see the first woman elected head of state in Africa. The White House press corps had reserved all the front and center seats.
I staked out my small spot next to the fence where I could stand on my tiptoes and have an almost clear angle on the proceedings as long as no one stepped in front of me or pushed my elbow. And let me tell you, I had to fight to keep my spot. As the day wore on, I got meaner. I would not be moved.
From 5 a.m. until I think around 2 p.m., I stood in that spot. No food, no water, no bathroom breaks. To this day I really don’t know how I did it except by the grace of God.
Of course now I wouldn’t give anything for the experience and the memories. I am so thrilled today that she is receiving the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. I am as proud of her as if she were a close friend. In my heart, I think she is.