Ending my love affair with the city

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tearful goodbyes annoy me, and so do people with Napoleon complexes.

With that said, I’m not going to cry, and I’m not going to say anything to make myself appear bigger than I really am. I’m 6-foot-4, by the way. I’m kidding. I’m really not.

Of the many phenomena in a small town, the speed at which news travels is not the least among them.

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As many of you know, this is my last week at the Selma Times-Journal, a newspaper that has been a major part of my life for the past three years. I showed up to work here for the first time a few weeks before my birthday, and I’m leaving about a week after.

I have enjoyed speaking to you all through my columns, and I hope that was evident each time you finished reading.

It has come to my attention from several lifelong readers of the Times-Journal that they have become used to people writing farewell columns. People come and go. They move up and move out, and that won’t change any time soon.

So then I got to thinking …

There’s really no reason for me to write some bleeding heart monologue about how much I’ve come to enjoy the city, how I’ll never live and work in a place like this, how I’ll always care about what happens here — even though all of that is true.

I would like to ask a favor. For a day or even for five minutes, I would like each person here to put on a different set of glasses and look at what’s around them. And I’ll tell you how.

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to walk into Wal-Mart or the Selma Mall or anywhere there is a big crowd and just watch. I’m amazed at what I notice.

There’s always a woman pushing hair out of her face, shuffling through her purse and looking straight ahead with hollow eyes. I know a bill will be late or she’ll do without something so her family can have a meal every night this week.

I always see men in suits, sitting around tables and laughing. Then I see everyone in a 10-foot radius wondering what the hell those guys are so happy about and if they’re willing to share. Probably not.

I see children with no idea that 10 years from now is closer than they think. There are some adults nearby that know exactly what is in store for those kids, but I wonder if they’ll say anything in time enough to make a difference.

I see colors that seem to go on forever. I see sadness in happy people. I see contentment in poor people. I see regret in secure people. And I try as hard as possible to see myself in everyone.

You’re probably wondering if anyone notices me and looks back. Once in a while, yeah. But otherwise, why should they? They, like me most days, are far too busy.

I have absolutely no idea if people will indulge me this request. I could ask some random folks, “Hey, have you stared at any random people today and tried to empathize with them?” But that would be slightly tacky.

Even if this is a good idea (and I’m not even really sure I’m not crazy for suggesting it), people will most likely say how touching it sounds and then do nothing about it. I mean, it’s not like you can save people just by feeling for them, right?

But I always have and always will believe people come first. If you don’t have them, nothing else moves.

I don’t believe in trying to change how people think because I’m not that powerful. But if I can just get people to think about the way they think, that has to be a start. I welcome anyone to challenge me to do the same.

And above all else, I’m going to find a way to laugh at everything. It irritates some people, but it has always worked for me.