I’m not sure if skepticism precedes old age or causes it, but I often find it more and more difficult to find the good news in a world that sometimes seems to wallow in the depressing events of the day.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of good news out there for those willing to look. It just seems easier or more acceptable these days to dwell on the negative or dive deeper into the tragedy of the day.
While searching through an archive of old columns, I quickly realized there are amazing stories out there that emphasize the kindness and compassion that, despite the headlines, is still present in most of us.
Through 20 years column writing, I’ve searched in every corner of humanity to discover stories worth telling and that list of archives reveals that no subject was too obscure or seemingly unimportant to capture my attention.
Each one was special in its own way, and no one is more importance than another. They all jolt special memories for me, not just their stories but the people touched by the telling.
There was the story of the Circuit Rider, who came on as the television channel and signed off each night sitting proudly upon his magnificent horse.
“Justice is the name of a grand old horse,” Reverend William Livermon would begin as he preached a late night sermonette to all who would listen across the South.
When I wrote the column, I knew the local country preacher from Cobbs Creek who hosted the show had preached in various communities across the Commonwealth.
One reader anxiously told me that the Circuit Rider had married him and his wife years earlier.
And there was the story of Pastor Manley. Down around the southwestern tip of Grand Cayman Island, they call him the marryin’ man. He’s sealed the deal for more than 400 couples in his years of providing nuptials for eager tourists who flock to the island to tie the knot.
He takes the job seriously and meets with each and every couple, telling the story of how he met his wife and reflections of the many decades they had spent together since.
“Marriage is not a vacation,” he laughed as I sat in his study.
After I wrote the column, I received an email from a reader who had stood in front of Pastor Manley with his bride years earlier.
Among the archives also was a column about four chaplains who gave up their life preservers to other soldiers as a ship carrying troops during World War II sank.
It was the ultimate sacrifice for four men related only by faith, and a sad reminder of the cost of conflict and the bravery of mankind.
I traced my devotion to the story to a childhood memory at the old Wax Museum in Washington, D.C. The final display in that old building — long since demolished — was a scene that depicted the four soldiers helping a soldier into a life jacket as water flooded the decks.
I was pleasantly surprised when a reader told me that she had stood in that same spot as a young girl and also had been enthralled with the story.
Point is, some columns mean more to some than others, and the most obscure tidbit of a story means something to somebody.
Even more importantly, the long list of columns reflect the goodwill of human nature and living proof that life is not filled with only negative stories, but vignettes of kindness, compassion and bravery.
I’ll keep looking for those stories for a column that is entering its third decade of publication. For years, it ran under the title “America, My Kind of Place”.
Hundreds of thousands of words later, it still is.