Posted on July 25, 2016
By Liz Paulson, Copywriter
My journalism career was over before it began. In 2002 as the associate news editor for the Boston College newspaper, I was assigned the task of reaching out to families of the BC alums who had died in the 9/11 attacks for the first anniversary of the tragedy. The paper was going to do a spread on it.
"Ask them to tell us what their kid liked about BC," instructed the managing editor.
"How do I know if I have the right family?" I asked.
"Ask them if they're missing anyone this time of year," the managing editor snickered.
I nodded. And then I spent the next week ignoring the assignment, yet thinking about it constantly. Who was I, a 20 year-old girl from Wisconsin, to call up grieving parents and ask them if their dead child had fond memories of tailgating at football games or throwing keggers in the Mods?
It didn't take my swift and subsequent dismissal from the newspaper staff to tell me what I already knew: I didn't have the stomach to be a journalist.
So, a decade and a half later, I was a little apprehensive about just one part of my new job at Legato: interviewing people who have suffered or faced challenges I knew nothing about for the publications that we help clients produce.
But, lucky for me, everyone I get to talk to for my job actually wants to talk to me. They want to share their stories of triumphing over an unlucky blow to their health. I also get to speak with featured hospital employees for each publication. They are always so gracious and pleased to share with me how much they love what they do. It's now my favorite part of my job: talking to regular people who have amazing attitudes and plenty of life experience to share.
Although it may not always make it into their articles, I've made it a habit to ask everyone I speak with what their secret is. If they're in love with their job, I ask why. If they're still happily married after 60 years, I ask how. If they have every right to be really mad at life for the situation they're in, but aren't, I ask why not. Here are some of my all-time favorite "secrets to life":
A woman who has been married for almost sixty years, whose husband takes her hand wherever they go, even if it's to cardiac rehab, told me this:
gentleman who was the oldest resident at his nursing home said faith was key:
"I can do all things though Christ," he said. "I try to be a blessing to others because the Lord has blessed me."
A nurse who works in the emergency room of a critical access hospital said that it was easy to have a good attitude at her job:
"Every day I see firsthand that every day is a gift. How could I possibly be negative when I know that life is so fragile and precious? I'm blessed to be able to do the work that I do."
The head housekeeper at a hospital admitted that changing linens wasn't the most glamorous part of her job, but that it was her privilege to interact with the patients:
"We might be the only people a patient sees all day who isn't there to poke them or give them bad news. It's our duty to do whatever we can to make their experience as comforting and comfortable as possible."
I have yet to speak to a bitter elderly person. I have yet to hear a featured staff member complain. I don't think it's a coincidence. I am convinced you don't get to be old if you don't have the good sense and the good humor to be grateful for your time on earth. And you don't become an outstanding employee by complaining about problems. You do so by solving them.
I'm so glad I never became a proper journalist. I know I'll never win a Pulitzer for the work I do on hospital publications, but I'm really, really proud of it. I have the honor of telling the remarkable stories of everyday people-people who, even though they may never get a better 15 minutes of fame than having their pictures printed in a local publication, have as much to teach the world as anyone on the cover of Time or the homepage of The Wall Street Journal. Maybe even more so.