When I was growing up people told me I was a good writer. I’d write my grandma poems and compose silly songs but I never dreamed I’d end up making a career out of it. After I graduated college I accepted the position as Community Editor for the Champlin Dayton Press — that was eight weeks after graduation. I look back on some of my first works and thank God my readers were so patient and forgiving. Early on I wrote a story about the dog park on the border of Champlin and Dayton and I meant to write, “The park features fenced and unfenced areas.” Instead I wrote, “The park features feces and unfenced areas.” Yep. Feces. Man, I hope someone had a good laugh about that. I laugh about it still.
On a serious note, I’m also thankful you allowed me in — into your homes, your minds, your hearts.
Every year around this time our company gears up for a statewide newspaper contest. The competition provides an opportunity for a years worth of work to be reviewed and potentially commemorated by other professional writers. I was looking back over the work I had written over the last year and came across a story I wrote about a Champlin man who served as a combat medic in Iraq. As a baby he almost died. As a child he endured his parent’s divorce. As a young man he was thrown into the violence of war. When he returned home he suffered chronic pain and PTSD. His family fell apart as he struggled to return to civilian life. He was a man of faith and told me that it was by God’s grace that he endured such trauma and pain. In sharing his story, I remember he said to me, “If my story can change one life, it’s worth it.”
I’ll never forget his story and I’ll never forget those words. As I write my final column for The Press his words resonate in mind because I have only ever wanted the same in sharing all of your stories. Though inexperienced and naive at first, I remember diving into this role with such excitement. I thought if, through my writing, I could change the life of one I have done my job and I have done it well. I suppose that’s been my motivation all along — since the day I called my dad from a vestibule at UMD and told him I was switching my major to journalism — to change a life through my writing.
Over the years I hope I’ve inspired, informed, motivated and guided. I’ve told many stories; they belong to all of you. Thank you for your honesty, for your patience and for the memories. There’s no doubt I have learned something from all of you – whether that’s explaining the implementation of a franchise fee, to gently delivering the news of a crime against a child, to colorfully illustrating the process of maple syrup making, to realizing the importance of telling a story no matter how difficult the circumstances. I learned to love many parts of each city and many of you. I hope you continue to be courageous because, in sharing your stories, that’s exactly what you are.
Remember, I’m a Rebel through and through. My parents still reside in a little, yellow house on the east side and I visit often. Mom and I garden together and my dad and I usually sing our favorite songs loudly together in the house (sorry neighbors Mike and Denice!). And yet. I’ll be around. You might see me at Target or getting my hair colored at Fantastic Sams (shout out to Steph and Sarah P.) or grabbing a donut at Cafe Donuts because, let’s face it, their breakfast pastries are downright sinful.
Change is sometimes sad, but I know that a new editor with a fresh set of eyes will find stories I might have missed. I hope you meet him or her with the same patience and kindness you’ve shown me over the last four years. I’ll take with me the memories. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share some of the most intimate parts of your lives and for giving me a chance to grow, to learn and make lasting memories of my own.