I just got this email from a man named Jim Helm, who used to read my Copley Newspapers columns in the Springfield Journal-Register:
Mike-Springfield Journal-Register/Nov. 3, 1999. Your column “There’s No Time Like Today to Give Thanks.” I have had that article on the wall in my office ever since. I read it again today. Thanks for writing it. It has made me a better person. Best regards-Jim
Wow. That didn't just make my day ... it also made my week and month and year. And maybe my decade, too.
That column, which I wrote after Walter Payton died at 45 from liver disease and cancer, was about embracing life every day because we are promised nothing in this world. That this reader thought to display it prominently and read it regularly -- and then thought to send me a note about it nearly 13 years later -- reminds me of some of the reasons I wanted to become a journalist in the first place.
Nowadays, many folks all but sneer when they make references to "the media." I admit that I sometimes am exasperated by some of the things my former colleagues do, too. Still, I continue to believe fervently that a strong press is vital to our democracy.
And, on a smaller scale, the media has the unique opportunity to make a difference by putting everyday occurrences into proper perspective. I tried to do that as often as I could during my career, and it pleases that a reader such as Jim Helm thinks I occasionally succeeded.