About an inspiration

[F]or the second time in four days, Kentucky flies by me in a blur of white lines and road signs.

Road trips are another story for another day, though, because today is someone’s birthday.It’s actually several people’s birthday, but this one is a twin. Her brother and I had a lot of conversations about Alabama football, and I’d like to wish them both a happy birthday before I tell you more about her.

She and I go way back, probably even before the story you’re about to read.

I was a 6-year-old kid who’d had a new surgery called something I can still barely pronounce and won’t attempt to spell.

I was a poster child for United Way. I walked with a walker, and I played tee ball with a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” glove.

It was the peak of my athleticism.

Somebody figured people would want to know all of this for some reason so somebody else wrote a story about it.

The story is in my baby book.

It ran beside her picture of my sister and I on our swing set, in the same newspaper I interned for in college. She happened to be my first editor.

I learned a lot about journalism in school, but I learned more from her.

I used to say nobody in the cities she covered could open an umbrella without her knowing about it.

It was a good-natured joke, of course.

The truth is if something happened it seemed like she was always on the scene ready to let people know in her award-winning way.

I’m still amazed by all she was able to cover and the way she covered it.

She earned my respect not just because she was my editor, but because she led by example.

While she showed how hard work paid off, she taught me how to be better.

She sat me down and told me how to correct each of my stories, no matter how many she still had to write.

She put a lot of red marks on a lot of my stories, but the important thing was she never let me simply correct my mistakes and move on to the next article.

She took the time to teach me why she put those red marks on my papers, because she wanted me to learn how to write the right way.

Because of her patience, my mistakes dwindled and so did her red marks on my stories.

When I finally turned in one she returned without a mark, I wanted to frame it.

I feel sorry for people who don’t have someone in their lives who won’t dwell on their mistakes, but will take the time to teach them why mistakes are mistakes in hopes they don’t make them again.

The world needs more people like my former editor, and I will always consider her my friend.

She invested in me, and I appreciate her.

After she left the paper to take another job, I went to her office to interview her for a story.

I also told her about how life was going, because I knew she’d understand. She wouldn’t let me leave before she told me she knew I’d move on to bigger things one day.

We had several conversations about life, about what should and should not define a person.

She told me she admired me. I told her I admired her. I tried to tell her all of the reasons why, but I don’t think I did a good enough job.

She’s one of those rare people who can see the potential in a college student and teach him to believe in his abilities because she believed in him from the start.

I know I’m far from the only one who admires her, and now I hope she knows why.

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