You never know what kinds of interesting and inspiring individuals you’ll meet when you get out of the office and into our region.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. — Philippians 4:8
It’s really good for an editor to get out of the office now and then. When I stare at a computer too long, I start to droop like a neglected plant. That’s when I know I need to assign myself some stories and wander some back roads of our beautiful region. Even more than the familiar landscape that I love, I crave the opportunity to meet some real-life interesting people, face-to-face, in the flesh – no phones, computers or digital devices, of any kind, between us.
And so, for this magazine cycle, I set off for places north and south of our Rockford office, to see what I could see. I’m fortunate, among editors, to be tasked with seeking out the good in the places and people we write about. I feel sorry for editors mired each day in the important but heartbreaking work of sorting out bad news. I used to be one, and I know it takes a toll on the soul. It’s difficult to resist becoming cynical. And once we start expecting the worst behavior from people, we seem to always get it.
Our mission is to provide a counterbalance to the disproportionately negative buzz about our region. We celebrate all that’s good in our corner of the world, and we never seem to run out of subjects.
Wildlife photographer David C. Olson said something a few weeks ago that has stayed with me. When I asked him why he braves such danger to photograph wildlife and bring the images back home to people, he answered, “People won’t love and protect what they don’t know about.” It’s his mission.
And so it is with our mission. We’re here to remind you there is much to know and love about your home, and plenty of reason to protect and nurture it.
This love of our region is the subject of our cover story, and the theme of every issue we’ve published for 7 years now. But sometimes, even this editor gets complacent, and needs an enthusiasm jolt.
Boy, did I ever get that jolt, and more, when I visited Dixon, Ill., earlier this winter. As if to whack me over the head with a reminder of how great our citizens can be, fate led me, quite randomly, to two amazing women – Trein’s Jewelry owner Linda Brantley and The Next Picture Show director Bonnie Kime. Wow. Talk about marvelous human beings, who’ve made up their minds to lead interesting lives, push their boundaries, overcome hardships and do the impossible! Both are strong leaders, whose warmth and openness quickly explain the success of their very different organizations.
As mentioned earlier, I also had the privilege of talking with wonderful photographer David C. Olson, whose insights about wildlife always hold me spellbound. He explained how much it meant to him that a wild brown bear mother allowed him to photograph her as she nursed her 2-year-old cub, a very vulnerable position for a bear. She’d never met a human before, and David’s gentle manner earned her trust. It’s only after encounters with badly behaved humans that bears become hostile toward people, says David. (I think there must be a foreign policy lesson in there somewhere.) How fascinating is this man’s life?
I was also inspired by my conversation with a Girl Scout and her mom, 7-year-old Annika Waldron and her mom, Angelina Waldron. I know what it’s like to be a single mom and sole supporter to small children. Angelina works two jobs, but has missed only one troop meeting with her daughter in three years. To me, this is a big deal – on par with swimming the English Channel, in my book. She also keeps an eye out for children whose home lives are not stable. It does take a village.
This season, I also enjoyed talking with many local business owners about their joys and challenges. How frustrating is it when someone comes to you looking for a charitable handout, then tells you, in the next breath, that he’s purchasing his widget from a big-box store, not your widget store. Next time you’re at a Little League game, look around at the tee shirts the kids are wearing. The sponsors are seldom big-box stores. We all need to start seeing the connection between our shopping habits and local prosperity, before we have nothing left but chain stores.
You don’t have to be a writer to go jump in your car and find a road less traveled. May we have eyes to see and appreciate them. ❚