Saturday, January 13, 2001

Farewell


A mission, a journey, a last word

map
        There are, for all of us, those few, startling moments in life when Providence shows its hand, and the direction of our lives becomes clear. Mine came 14 years ago, in a little restaurant on Seventh Street.

        Black and white tile on the floor. Table for four in the middle of the room. I remember it in great detail because, all around me, time was standing still.

        I was a brand-new copy editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer having lunch with then-news editor Jim Smith and another editor. I said I wanted to write. The other editor asked, “About what?” and I realized, in one utterly humbling moment, that I hadn't a clue.

        “She was a teacher,” Jim Smith said, without missing a beat. “She wants to write about education.”

        I smiled what I hoped was a self-assured smile, too dumbstruck to speak. A major piece of my life's puzzle had come flying into place. I had nothing to do with it.

        I still smile when I think of that day. Jim Smith died last May, a good man we lost far too early. I believe, down through the years, he understood the gift he gave me.

        How one says thank you for finding one's life work and purpose is not an easy thing to do, and I attempt it now only because it is time for me to embark on the next step of my journey, leaving this happy and fulfilling time at the Enquirer.

        I am venturing out into a wonderful position that, once again, seems providential and, once again, connected to schools and children.

        But it is not fun saying goodbye.

        So I will just say thank you. Thank you to the Enquirer for letting me write this column in my own fashion, and to readers for finding a place for it in their hearts.

        One of the sad and puzzling truths I have noticed over the years is that reporters are often hesitant to write about children. They will write about tax levies, school board elections, parents protesting some school action, any imbroglio where they can hide safely behind dollar signs and statistics. But they will rarely venture into the mind or heart of a child.

        So it is with a clear understanding of how much you all tolerated, and how daring you and I actually were, to make “news” out of average children and shy children, kids who moved too much and lived too fast, kids who fought tremendous battles to survive physically and emotionally, and did it with dignity.

        I will never forget gutsy Brendan McPhillips, who, despite cerebral palsy, competed in marathons from a running stroller, pushed along by his wonderful teacher, Mary Lutkewitte. Or Eric Michael Sharp, who kept cleaning up a River Road bus stop that other kids vandalized. Or Sammi Moss, a 6-year-old who lost her battle with cancer but won an eternal place in the hearts and minds of Guardian Angels School staff and families. Their love - and especially that of her parents, Debbie and Bill Moss - epitomize the hope and light I have observed from this spot.

        I leave you with words I only wish I had written. They come from Trevor Babcock, who graduated from Sycamore High School last year. “One final message to Mom and Dad. We love you. We really do. Yeah, we're constantly screwing up. No secret there. But deep inside every student is a desire to please you two. Encourage that in an environment of love, and you will see just what we can do.”

        Thanks, Trevor. I couldn't have said it better.

        This is Krista Ramsey's final column for the Enquirer.

       



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