Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The smallest gifts...

I have been encouraged about the state of the world lately, and it's all due to the horrific earthquake tragedy in Haiti. One of the things about crises of this magnitude is that they tend to bring out the best in people. Sometimes the worst, too, but for now I'm happy to focus on the world's generosity.

Here in Miami with our very large Haitian community, the earthquake, its victims and its miracles have been front page news and top-of-the newscast stories ever since it happened on January 12. For us, it's not just an international story, it's local. Almost everyone I know has been touched in one way or another by what happened. My favorite security guard where I live, though born here himself, still has family living in Haiti. Talking to him has brought the tragedy home for me. Even without that connection, though, the stark images on TV would have been shattering.

And what those images have done is mobilize a level of giving that awes and amazes me. Thousands, if not millions, have used text messaging to make a Red Cross donation of $10, proving that no amount of money is too small to make a difference. Celebrities have come together for a telethon that raised millions. Companies have looked for ways to generate donations. In fact, the other day as I was ordering Valentine's cookies from www.flourpotcookies.com, I discovered that they have "Hearts for Haiti" cookies, and will donate 20% of the proceeds for those to the cause. I ordered some of those in addition to the varieties I was already ordering as gifts. Their cookies, by the way, are fabulous. Someone sent me some for Christmas and I can only thank heaven that they have to be ordered, rather than bought at a neighborhood store, or I'd be addicted. But I digress...

One of the best examples of giving that I've heard or read about, though, came on ABC News the other night. A little boy in England decided to ride his bike around a park to raise money for Haiti. As of the news report, he'd raised something like 160,000 pounds, which by my not-necessarily-accurate calculations is in the $300,000 range. Questioned about his little neighborhood project, he said with a sense of awe, "It's gone mad." And isn't it wonderful that it has?

Because the truth is that the best kind of charity comes from individuals who want desperately to help others, whether they're in their neighborhood or around the world. When tragedy strikes, the best among us want to do something to reach out. Whether the gift is large or small, whether it's cash or time or lies in the abilities of some of the volunteer rescuers who flew in on their own dime to aid in survival miracles, it's the outstretched hand that matters...and gives us all hope.

If you've done nothing up till now, it's not too late. It will take years and most likely billions of dollars to repair the damage done by this earthquake, and that's not even considering the human suffering in this very, very poor country not far from our shores. Whether your donation is a dollar, ten dollars, or more, do what you can to make a difference. Most newspaper and TV websites have lists of all the legitimate organizations who would welcome your help. You may even have local churches or charities which are giving aid. One small gift, whatever it may be, serves as a reminder that no matter where we live or how dire our own situation, we can always hold out a helping hand to others in need.

Sherryl Woods

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reunited at last!

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this to you, but contrary to all physical and statistical evidence, I still think I'm young! Somehow I've managed to avoid all those undeniable things, such as growing children, who are rock-solid proof that time has passed. Let's not talk about the wrinkles for now.

At any rate, this past weekend some 150 alumni and spouses of the Miami News, the newspaper for which I worked at the end of my journalism career, gathered in Miami for a reunion and a chance to mourn the passing of the paper, which closed its doors back in 1989 -- nine years after I'd left. Now, if you're doing the math, that means it's been 30 years since I have seen some of these folks. I'm still reeling from that discovery, since I don't think anything significant in my life should have occurred that long ago.

This was also the first reunion of any kind I've ever attended. I've skipped my high school reunions and, to the best of my knowledge the School of Journalism at Ohio State (now the School of Communications, I think) hasn't held a reunion of people from my era. Of course, there are people from both places that I've seen through the years, but there are many others I have not. So, this was the first time I've gone to anything, looked around and discovered -- oh, sweet heaven -- I might be old!

Two of my friends from way back when stayed with me over the weekend -- a couple who actually wed in the gazebo by the ocean at my condo. We all agreed after it was over that we haven't had so much fun in years. Not only did we see old friends, there were so many, many stories of days gone by. The memories kept tumbling out about the characters who made our newsroom a very special place to work, the grit and determination with which many of us did our best to beat the competition, the much larger Miami Herald, and the way we all played together on the softball field, on tennis courts, and at some wildly outrageous parties. No other place I've ever worked had that kind of camaraderie and it was so wonderful to have a chance to remember it.

Sadly, with traditional newspapers changing dramatically and fading away, very few of those at the reunion still work in the industry. Some have retired. Some, like me, have gone on to other things. But our hearts and souls are still in journalism, the old-fashioned, gritty kind that made sure our readers were informed accurately and objectively. So even as we celebrated being together, we mourned that change.

I hope all of you have a chance from time to time to renew old acquaintances like this. If the opportunity arises, take advantage of it before it's too late. And if you already have and would like to share some of the memories it stirred for you, click on comments below or send me an email at Sherryl703@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.

Sherryl Woods

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Post-holiday blues

How many of you suffer from a serious let-down once the holidays are over? For me, I think it goes back to childhood when the minute the holidays ended, it was back to the routine of school and studying. Now, of course, we head back to work -- and dieting -- after days, if not weeks, of celebrating, parties, family gatherings and all the special foods we indulge in during this time of the year.

I've also discovered over the years, that I feel a similar let-down when I wrap up a book and send it off to my editor. It's the creative version of post-partum depression, I think. And the best thing for that, I discovered a long time ago, was to be ready to dive right into the next book.

Similarly, the best thing for curing the post-holiday blues, it seems to me, is to plan new activities for the new year. Schedule visits with friends. Order tickets for an upcoming event. Plan anything that will have you looking forward, rather than backward to all the excitement that's now behind you.

I'm lucky this year. Not only do I have old friends visiting next week, but there's to be a reunion of many of the people I worked with years ago at the Miami News. I've kept in touch with quite a few of these now scattered and, in some cases, now retired journalists and photographers, but there are many others I haven't seen in ages. I'm really looking forward to reminiscing and catching up.

And I've just made plans for another friend's visit in March. One thing about spending winter in Florida, there's no shortage of people anxious to escape the cold for a bit. One thing I know for sure we'll do is to attend the Sony-Ericcson tennis tournament. I've already ordered the tickets and have my fingers crossed that this time I'll get to see Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer play, though no matter who's on court, it's bound to be exciting.

There are obviously still a lot of gaps in my winter calendar, but just having these visits to look forward to has cheered me up considerably now that the holiday season is over. And of course, I also need to take out the watercolors I received for Christmas and start trying them out. I doubt I'll become a great artist at this stage of my life, but if I can get one single painting to look anything like what I see in my head, I'll consider it a coup.

So, get busy. Start making plans with your friends. Take up a new hobby. Make sure that 2010 gets off to the best start ever.

Happy new year!
Sherryl Woods

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