Sunday, October 4, 2009

When Hard News Gets Too . . . Hard

This is Bob's car. It's parked next to his garden and his 100 year old house, which you can't see here but I'll report to you that it's in need of a paint job. Bob—who is 87 years old—lives just around the corner from my husband and me, and only has so much time and energy these days for a couple of things that matter to him. Painting isn't one of them. But his award-winning dahlias are; he grows them every year and enters them in the Topsfield Fair. They're glorious flowers, and it's not hard to figure out why he wins (and why he neglects his house).

Bob also makes time for visits everyday; he climbs into his funny little Chrysler box car, drives about a 150 yards, parks and then hobbles up the steps to visit our neighbor Mary, who's 92. (She insists they're just friends.) Bob's mission is quick and simple: he's delivering bananas that were on sale, or soup he made for Mary and his brother, or a sandwich. She opens the door to greet him, he talks about the news (I can hear them from my porch across the street). They exchange food and health reports and then he turns to his car to drive the 150 yards back to his dahlias and brother. It's a five minute story I watch regularly. I can't help myself.

This past week I also read about other stories: the horrors of Sumatra's earthquake; U.S. unemployment climbing to 10 percent; Samoa's tsunami devastating villages; and young American teens gunned down in 'can't make sense of it' violence. There are health care concerns dividing our country, increasing casualties in Afghanistan, and rising suicides in western countries like France and England linked to economic woes. Maybe there's more than one reason it's called hard news. And you don't have to search very long—on Internet sites or broadcast programs or in the paper—to find it. I'm glad to have such immediate access these days to the events that happen daily beyond my neighborhood.

But some days, I could use more stories like Bob's. I suspect we all could. Not that the others aren't crucial to know. They are. And technology has made news more accessible to us than ever, shaping our roles and responsibilities as global citizens. Still, the view from the porch is equally important. It links me back to the stories around me, to the dahlias which can soften even the hardest of news—especially when they're just around the corner, like this one in Bob's front yard.

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