Keep the Beasts Away

As a senior in college, my journalism classes were peppered with visits from real-life reporters.

One of them was a top crime reporter from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, whose name I’ve long forgotten. He showed up for our 9:00 class with rumpled hair, wrinkled shirt and unshaven face, holding a cup of coffee and looking too sleepy to be nervous. We weren’t shy about asking him questions, but it was when we allowed him to talk freely about his career that the most interesting information poured forth.

An earlier reporting job had been for the major daily paper in Chicago, where he worked the overnight shift. Most of the time he covered accidents and drunken brawls; if he was lucky, someone with some degree of fame was involved. One night, while playing cards with a colleague, he heard a call come over the police scanner. A woman had reported a foul odor emanating from her next-door neighbor’s home.

This kind of report was common and rarely went anywhere, but the two men figured since nothing else was going on, they might as well see what was up. Not expecting anything serious, they were intrigued by the growing number of emergency vehicles surrounding the house in question. Police weren’t talking and had roped off any access to the premises, so the reporters checked in on the neighbor who’d made the call.

A kind woman who’d lived in the same home for decades, she poured them some coffee and began talking about the man next door. Pleasant and polite, she said, but there was one strange thing. Young men, boys, really, would show up at his place on a regular basis. She’d seen plenty of them going in, but none ever came out.

That caught the attention of these reporters. They called their editor, and continued to investigate this increasingly harrowing story.

They broke the news to the world about John Wayne Gacy.

For those of you who don’t know, Gacy was one of the most notorious American serial killers of the 20th century.  Convicted in 1980 of the rape and murder of 33 young men he’d lured to his home and buried in the crawl space, he eventually was put to death by lethal injection.

The point of sharing his experience with a wide-eyed audience of journalism students was to remind us you never knew when or in what form opportunity would present itself. This horrifying story catapulted the career of these two reporters. Always seeking  information the hordes of other reporters missed, they helped fill out the tale of a gruesome tragedy.

They weren’t voyeurs, nor were the opportunists playing on the despair of others. This crime changed them in ways they were reluctant to discuss. As reporters, however, they called upon their training, formal and informal, to relay the full story. Much of what they reported is long forgotten, but a significant portion of it informed the world of the danger that could lurk in their neighborhood. If one boy heeded the lesson from their reports and saved himself from degradation and death, their work yielded the desired results.

Doctors prepare for the disaster they pray never happens; schools practice for the terror they never want to see. In our own way, preparing ourselves personally and professionally for the darkest parts of our society helps make our lives and the lives of those we care about safer.

No, we can’t live with a fatalistic attitude, nor can we worry ceaselessly about unseen events. We prepare, and go on with the joys and expectations of our lives. No better preparation can be made than that of cultivating a compassionate and caring heart, one that is grieved by tragedy but never hardened.

May you never face the worst of man or nature, and for those who do or will, may God carry you through it. And may all of us do what we can to keep the beasts away.


Image Credit:  ©Algol — stock.adobe.com

 

Know the Truth

On my way home from work, I heard the news. Another shooting, unknown numbers dead.

My first thought was a prayer for those whose hearts are breaking tonight, and I think most of you probably responded in a similar way.

Hot on the heels of this rapidly evolving news story was the comment by one politician: “we’ve got to get serious about mental health.” A statement made before anything is known about the shooter’s state of mind, his motive, facts we can seek our teeth into. The assumption was this eighteen-year-old was mentally ill. Maybe. I don’t have the story, and neither did that nitwit congressman.

I’ll agree, we’ve got to get serious about mental health. And here’s where you start: know the facts.

  • Mental illness does NOT make you violent.
  • The majority of violent crimes are committed by people with NO mental illness. NONE.
  • People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse is far more likely to lead to violent crime than the most severe mental illness.
  • One of the strongest indicators of potential violent behavior is being a young male with a troubled childhood.

So let’s get serious about child abuse, domestic violence, and drug & alcohol abuse. I’m not saying don’t pour money into caring for the mentally ill. I’m saying, when you do, know what your money can accomplish. A better life for a highly stigmatized population, but probably not a serious reduction in the kinds of horrible events that flood the news.

In the next few days, countless reporters and politicians are going to contribute to the ignorance of the American people by going in front of the camera with trite words and misleading information. Take it upon yourself to dig deep for the truth. Write to those who spread the lies. Post, tweet, and cry out for fairness.

At work, at school, at church, you may be sitting next to someone with mental illness and never know it. They aren’t crazy, and there are a lot of options for those who seek treatment.

So let’s get serious. Let’s tell the truth.

And peace to those who suffer tonight — and all the nights to follow.


Image Credit: © babaroga — stock.adobe.com

Quote Challenge Day Three! “This Is My Father’s World”

child-hugging-world-small

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

I came across this draft from last fall… Oops, look like I never posted Quote Three! However, it remains relevant.

About the Quote Challenge (you’re invited!):

Thank you, Dede, for including me in this challenge. I encourage anyone who’s looking for hope in challenging times to visit her blog and read her heartfelt posts.

Thank you also to those of you who have taken on the quote challenge and made it work for your specialized blogs. Blogging is about creativity and communication, among other things, and seeing how all of you manage your blogs is inspiring to me.

Anybody who wants to accept this challenge is welcome to do so!

Three quotes over three days. Thank the person who nominated you, and nominate three new people each day. The rules aren’t hard and fast. Make this challenge work for you!


Lyrics from “This is My Father’s World”
The United Methodist Hymnal Number 144
Text: Maltbie D. Babcock
Music: Trad. English melody; adapt. by Franklin L. Sheppard
Tune: TERRA BEATA, Meter: SMD


Image Credit: © cirodelia — Fotolia

Danger, There’s a Breakthrough Straight Ahead

I want change in my life. And I want it now.

Problem is, some of the changes I want don’t come that easily. I look at where I am today compared to where I was three years ago, and there are some remarkable differences. There are also, annoyingly, some things that have stayed the same, and I’m uncertain how to move forward with those.

I’ve written before I believe in the power of subtle changes, and I maintain that thought. Those are the changes that can lead to the opportunities for a flash of major turnover in your life, opportunities that don’t present themselves often, but when they do, it’s so important to be prepared.

Blue Sky

It’s also critical to be open to the pain involved sometimes with moving forward. I’m facing a moment like that right now, and I don’t know how to approach it. I don’t know how to measure the problem, and therefore how to address the solution. I’m asking for help, but I don’t know if I trust those who have offered to provide me with that assistance.

So I rely on prayer and wisdom from others. Asking myself what I would say to someone if they presented me with the same questions I’m asking of those who I believe can guide me.

And putting my confusion in writing, and leaving it behind.

 


Breakthrough


Photo Credit — © Bigstock.com


With thanks to Boz Scaggs for inspiring the title…and for a darn good song, too

To Whom Shall I Turn

Emotionally drained. When will this end?

Unfair is unfair. I’m being treated like less than I am because of the vile ego of others.

I face moments of great stress and fear because others wouldn’t let go when the facts said, “you are wrong.” Make this right.

I’m tired, fragile. I thought it was past me, but it lingers.

God grant me the strength to survive this hell.

And God, rain fire on those who abuse their authority.

And grant me the strength, and desire, to forgive.


Photo Credit: dariazu — Bigstock