My mother always loved to tell me the story of the farmer and the jack.
Remember that one? A guy's car breaks down, and as he's trudging to a nearby farmhouse to ask to borrow a jack, he gets it in his head that the farmer will not take kindly to being disturbed. So when he finally reaches the house and knocks on the door, he's presuming the worst. The farmer answers the door, and immediately the man yells, "I don't want your (stupid) jack."
Her point: Don't assume the worst about people, be they family members, loved ones, romantic partners or even strangers.
I was reminded of the farmer and the jack story this week, reading some comments on the newspaper's Facebook page. A member of our Web team kindly put up a source request for me, and while the query didn't actually lead me to any viable sources, it did result in a fair amount of vitriol from one reader.
"You guys disappoint me!! Why are y'all always looking for the drama??? Stop!!!" she wrote. "Promote the good in people!!"
The fact that a reporter's job is not to "promote" aside, I wonder whether this woman took a moment to consider that perhaps we were seeking to write a story about healing, or coming out on the other side of trauma, or handling crises before she started spewing punctuation marks.
The news is how people find out what's going on in the world. How they meet those who are affected. How they learn they're not alone. Sometimes it's not pretty. But it's vital.
It's why a woman in Texas emailed me after reading one of my stories to ask how she could help with an effort to collect prom dresses to donate to local girls. And it's because of the news that a dear friend in Buffalo reached out to ask if I'd fared OK in the storm.
Suffice to say a number of unprintable words came to mind and mouth when I read the comments accusing the paper, and by extension me, of seeking to do nothing more than exploit people's pain. Perhaps this person might care to read the story before jumping to that conclusion. Hopefully, that's not too much to ask. If it is, I'd be happy to tell her the story of the farmer and the jack.
I know it well.
Contact Holly Leber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber.