Today, I’ve decided to let you in on a little secret.
My decision to go into journalism has not made me a rich man.
It has, however, provided me with opportunities I never would have had otherwise.
I was reminded of that the other day by a simple text message from a friend.
When I got the text, I realized something.
I don’t think the way I took it was what my friend meant, but it dawned on me I rarely have just another work day.
Throughout nearly five years at the newspaper, I have learned something about a lot of things.
I’ve talked to a lot of people and helped them tell a lot of stories.
When I got the text, some of those stories were replayed in my mind’s eye.
I thought of Mr. Snead. His name is Bill, but his family calls him Papa.
The story was one of the early ones I wrote when I started at the paper.
Father’s Day was approaching, and my editor wanted a feature. She gave me Papa’s name and I went to his house.
Papa was in his 90s then. He told me the story of how he sat under a tree as a boy on the family farm at his sister’s wake and listened to his father read from the Bible.
Papa said his father’s example helped foster his own faith, and later helped him provide an example for his children and their children.
He’s a father, and he’s a hero.
Papa served as a pilot in World War II. He flew a P-47 above Iwo Jima, and was in the air above the U.S.S. Missouri when the Japanese surrendered to bring an end to the war.
I’ve gotten to hear a lot of history from those who lived it.
One of the best memories I have in my career so far is the day I was assigned to interview Walter “Speed” Nichols.
Our paper’s photographer and I found the Nichols’ house, and by the time I made it to the porch I was sweating in the summer heat.
I knocked on the door, and Mr. Nichols opened it a little while later.
When he did, he used his booming voice to tell me it was nice to see me but he couldn’t talk because he had an appointment to talk to the newspaper in a few minutes.
Then he shut the door, and we were still standing on the porch.
I heard Mrs. Nichols yell, “That IS your appointment!”
She quickly opened the door again and ushered us to their table.
There, I learned Mr. Nichols had a hard time hearing because he was also in his 90s, and he’d been close to a lot of shells during several battles in WWII when he was younger.
We were there to watch him receive a signed letter from David Eisenhower, and soon I knew the reason why.
For about two hours that day, I sat across the table from one of the men who memorized the plans for D-Day and parachuted into Normandy before the troop surge to help turn the tide of the conflict.
I’ve been honored to talk to generals and proud to talk to prisoners of war. I’ve felt small in the presence of Wounded Warriors and Purple Heart recipients.
Once, I got to hear from a student who was having a hard time in school.
He was way too young to be losing his hair, but it was falling out. Small bare spots appeared at first, but bigger ones followed.
The doctors knew why and he knew why, but his classmates didn’t understand.
He decided to share his story.
We talked about things a lot of kids know a lot about, like video games.
We talked about things no kid wants to know about, like balding and bullying.
He didn’t want sympathy. He wanted empathy.
He wanted to be an average kid, but he was too admirable.
He had class, he had courage and I learned a lot from him.
I’ve been able to talk to NFL football players, guys who blocked for Emmitt Smith, Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson.
I’ve met the NFL’s senior vice president and chief information officer. I found out she is from my hometown and went to my high school.
I’ve had my name in front of a press box seat in a college stadium in Troy.
I’ve covered games at Alabama and Auburn, which in this neck of the woods is a dream come true for many people who grew up watching them on television.
I’ve watched from the press box as Auburn’s eagle flew around Jordan-Hare before kickoff.
I’ve been on the sidelines at Bryant-Denny during the final seconds of an Alabama win.
I’ve been in press conferences with Larry Blakeney and Nick Saban.
I’ve drank Dr. Pepper and asked some of the country’s most notable football coaches questions during the football extravaganza called SEC Media Days.
Recently, I was privileged to talk to another great athlete.
Autism isn’t keeping her out of the water. In fact, she just came back from New Jersey where she won three silver medals in swimming events at the USA Special Olympic Games.
I suppose I could go on about more things I’ve experienced and more people I’ve encountered during my time at the paper, but I’d never sleep if I did.
I complain a lot about the long, odd hours in my line of work — as well as some other things — but now I want to take the time count some of the blessings my work has given me.
I am blessed to have a job and a steady paycheck.
I’m blessed to be able to listen to and learn from each one of the people I’ve met.
I’m blessed because there’s hardly ever just another work day.