Thursday, February 2, 2017

Things We Would Never Know Without Facebook

Before I close my eyes for the last time to go to sleep at the end of a long day, I'm usually squinting at my favorite blue and white website, Facebook. It's the supreme source of knowledge I always wanted as a child. (Facebook didn't even exist until I was in high school, I think.) We all love Facebook. Why? Because our lives would be so sadly misinformed without it. We'd know so little. We'd miss so much.

Without further ado, take note of what we'd never know if we didn't have Facebook:

1. What Brittany ate for lunch.
You know Brittany. She's always trying some new diet, and this week it's probably the "I don't eat anything with a face" diet that unfortunately not only means no chicken but also no Teddy Grahams. But what exactly did she eat today? We'd never know without Facebook.

Brittany: "Just had spinach grilled over oiled peach pits with a petrified sweet potato and eight and one half green beans. This new diet is so rad."

Praise be to God for Facebook.

2. How much Ian and Sharon love each other.
They've been dating for eight years, but that doesn't stop them from posting a picture on Facebook every time they leave the house together.

Ian: "Oh, you know, just going to the podiatrist with my WOMAN CRUSH WEDNESDAY FOREVER! I <3 you, baby, thank you for supporting me through my difficult time with this foot fungus."

Sharon: "Ian bought be flowers for our 2,975th day together. He knew that was my favorite number. He's soooo super duper cute and I love him to the moon and back and then, like, to the moon again!"

Thanks, Facebook.

3. What freshman liberal arts major Brenden thinks about politics.
Brenden has been to college. That's right. That means he's educated, and he's about to share all of his inconceivably intelligent opinions with you, and, like, blow your poor inadequate brain out of your head.

Brenden: "That giant pumpkin doesn't know anything about foreign policy. If he just read the Huffington Post like I do, he'd know the best way to spread world peace is to put all of the guns into a spaceship and send them to space and then blow them up so people can't shoot each other anymore. Then we can just open more money factories to create jobs, and print extra money for all the people who don't have enough."

Wow, Brenden, I wish I'd thought of that. If only I were 19 again. Then perhaps I'd know everything like you.

4. Where Sheila went on vacation.
Sheila doesn't seem to have a job. You'll be sitting in your cubicle scrolling through spreadsheets and trying not to hyperventilate when you decide to check Facebook. Then there's a picture of Sheila scaling a pyramid in Egypt. Is Sheila even allowed to do that? Since when do they let you climb the pyramids?

Sheila: "Does anyone have suggestions for where I should go for my next vacation? Not somewhere typical. I've already been to all the average spots like Iceland, Paris, Australia, Alaska, Sweden, India, Pluto, the Bahamas and every single country in Africa. And my budget is only $47,000 for the three weeks I'll be gone, so keep that in mind."


5. How terrible Bob's boss is.
You know what's worse than unemployment? Having a job. At least, according to Bob. He has the worst boss EVER, if his constant whiny Facebook statuses are any indication. Doesn't he know that companies check social media now? How has he been posting about his boss's halitosis and toupee for four years and still not gotten fired?

Bob: "Today my boss told me I'm working 114 hours this week. He's such a loser. And you know what else? He has a toupee. And he's 28. Beginning to suspect the eyebrows are fake, too."

Bob: "My boss ate all the donuts. Like, he literally brought in three dozen, called us all in for a meeting, and then the whole meeting was just sitting there and watching him eat all 36 donuts. THIRTY-SIX donuts. What did I do to deserve this hell?"

Bob, you were designed for another world.

6. What Spencer did at the gym.
Spencer lives at the gym and occasionally goes home to sleep for four hours, guzzle 11 raw eggs and feed his pet bull dog. He literally can only wear cutoffs because no shirt in existence has big enough arm holes to, you know, fit his arms through.

Spencer: "Just beat my pr (personal record, for anypeoples who dunno) for the third time this week. Eight-two reps with the 450 pound weight using only my thumbs."

Spencer: "I'm like the Michael Phelps of weight lifting. I just lift things instead of swimming because I don't want to drown. I've heard that swimming is hard. #GuysWhoLift #GymRat #Gymdays #HelloLadies"

I couldn't possibly make an exhaustive list. We simply have too much to be thankful for to properly express in one post. So let me just say on behalf of all of us: Thank you, Facebook. Thank you.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Andreus and the Stone

The elbows and shoulders and hands of the angry crowd surrounding me propelled me forward as if I were caught in a current of the sea. I was aware of three things: my robe swishing around my body, which was sweating profusely, despite the mild weather; the large stone that seemed to burn in my left hand; and the heavy pressure of guilt that weighed on me as if I were carrying a mule on my shoulders.

I was a young man, not quite 20. My father had stopped calling me Rus in favor of my given name, Andreus, just six months prior. I sold fish at a nearby market and made a decent living because I'd been working under my former master, Josiah, for nearly 8 years.

"Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery," I heard the Pharisee say. I'd seen this one at the temple many times, and his wardrobe choices were always as excessive as his lengthy prayers. "The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?"

I stood on tip-toe to get a better look at the scene. I couldn't quite see who the Pharisee was talking to. As if I'd actually spoken up, the crowd formed a circle. First I looked to my left and followed the arc of men—there were probably 30—all the way around to my other side. They all had two things in common: they looked indignant, even angry, and they each held a stone. Most of the stones were large, gripped in a white-fingered right hand.

My breath caught in my throat when I finally got a clear view of the three individuals at the center of the circle. First was the Pharisee, whom I already knew. His expression was one of pride, and his sharp eyes wordlessly judged the two people before him: the woman about whom the question had been asked and the man who was expected to answer it. I shifted my gaze to the woman, who knelt in the dirt, her eyes on downcast. Seeing her again sent a stabbing pain through my gut. The mule on my shoulders got heavier.

I'd first seen her at the market a month ago. She showed up almost every morning to purchase fresh vegetables and fish. I'd noticed her immediately because she had long, perfect dark hair and haunting eyes, brownish purple like the sea during a storm at dusk. She was always polite, asking how sales were going or commenting on how delightful the weather had been. I soon learned she was married—to one of the fishermen whose wares we sold at the market. He was gone sometimes for long periods of time, so I guessed she came to the market to talk to the merchants as often as she did because she was lonely.

I always looked forward to seeing her and didn't see any harm in exchanging pleasantries when she showed up to buy fish, but I couldn't ignore how pretty she was. One day she came to the market as always, but she accidentally paid too much for the fish. This had happened before, with other customers, and to my shame, I'd kept the change unless they had later questioned me about it. But she had been so kind to me that I didn't want to cheat her. I knew where she lived, so I went to her house after work to return the extra money.

She couldn't let me into the house when her husband wasn't home, so she came outside to see what I wanted. It was raining and after supper, though, so no one was around. She shifted the dishes she was holding into one hand and looked at me quizzically. I explained about the excess money and held it out to her. She took it, and I couldn't tell if it was my imagination or not, but her hand seemed to linger on mine longer than necessary. The spell was broken when the dishes in her hands shifted and fell into the dirt, some of them shattering.

I instantly squatted down to help her clean up the mess, and she did, too. She started to say it had been her mistake, and I didn't have to help, but she looked up the same instant I did, and her words were cut off because we found ourselves nose to nose. In one impulsive motion I'd regret forever, I leaned forward and pressed my mouth against hers. She did not resist, and it even seemed that she kissed me back, but I hardly had time to tell. If there were an award for the world's worst timing, I'd get it. A neighbor happened to be passing by and saw it, and before I knew it, I'd been ushered back to my house after a few sharp words from a Pharisee, while a teacher of the religious law took her away, hissing only one word in her direction: "Adulteress."

The next morning, I'd been dragged from my bed by my next-door neighbor, who told me to come outside immediately if I wanted to spare myself embarrassment. That's how I found myself here in this circle of angry men, a sharp rock gripped in my shaking hand. I was here to help stone to death the woman whose place I deserved to take. I looked away from the woman, the kiss I shouldn't have stolen burning on my lips in my memory. The mule grew impossibly heavy on my shoulders, and I stood there in the dirt like the coward I was.

The third and final person in the circle was a pleasant-faced man with a long brown beard and kind eyes. He was a full six inches shorter than the towering Pharisee, but he somehow seemed completely confident, as if he could call and army to his aid at any moment if he wished. He sank to his haunches and drew with his finger in the dirt, seemingly oblivious to the Pharisee's impatience for an answer to his question. He drew three big letters: "R U S." My throat felt like it was closing. This must be some kind of coincidence. Maybe he was going to add something. Maybe—

He looked up and met my petrified gaze, drilling me with his piercing hazel eyes. I heard a voice in my mind that said, "Repent, and be forgiven, my son." My mouth fell open. Who was this man, who knew my sin and could speak to me without opening his mouth?

The pharisee literally kicked the dirt in impatience. "Well?!" he demanded, as if he had other important crowds to stand before and other young women to stone to death. "She is an adulterous woman. Shall we stone her now?"

The bearded man looked up at the Pharisee patiently, as if he'd forgotten he was there. "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" Then he stooped again and underlined the three letters he had written before.

The stone in my hand dropped to the ground, and I looked around at the bewildered men who, one at a time, dropped their rocks and backed away, almost as if they were frightened. One by one, beginning with the oldest, they slipped away until I was all that was left of the circle. Somehow the Pharisee had disappeared as well. I turned away but walked slowly so I could hear what the strange man would say to the woman. "Where are your accusers?" he asked. "Didn't even one of them condemn you?"

"No, Lord," she answered.

Lord, I repeated in my mind. How stupid I had been not to recognize Him. This man was Jesus, the one who claimed to be God's Son, the one who claimed to be able to forgive sins. And now, since He'd spoken in my mind, I knew it was true.

Faintly, even as I walked away, I heard Him say to her, "Neither do I. Go, and sin no more."

I repented of my sin before God that night and fasted for 30 days. I haven't seen Jesus in person since then, but I think I will someday.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why I Enjoy Being a Reporter

I'm an editor, so most of my work involves reading through other writers' pieces and correcting them for clarity, grammar and content. Sometimes I get to write my own articles, but they are often aggregate pieces. Every once in a while, I get to attend an actual event and report on it. One might think that I enjoy being a reporter just because I like to write. However, I have other reasons. If you're considering a career as a journalist or are just curious about what it can be like, read on to find out why I enjoy being a reporter.

1. I get to go to a different place for each assignment. My journalism adventures have taken me to hospitals, schools, hotels, libraries and even a nursing home. These places might not sound too fascinating, but they are often populated by interesting people and events. One time for a story about education innovation, I drove to a school in Owsley County that my GPS couldn't even locate. I drove in that general direction and made a 2-hour trip, somehow finding the school with some vague directions from the school secretary. Finding the locations can be stressful sometimes. You may wonder why such a geographically and directionally challenged individual would enjoy new places so much. Besides the excitement of seeing new things, I also enjoy entering a new environment because doing so allows me to ask questions without feeling dumb. I just show up at the right address and ask the first person I find where I'm supposed to go.

2. I get to learn about a variety of topics. A few weeks ago I reported on a panel discussion about local foods, which I previously knew nothing about, and today I attended a conference about how to stop bullying. The speaker said that the cause of bullying is not low self-esteem as previously thought. Instead, the bully often is the jock or the cheerleader or the lawyer's kid. Instead of a lack of self-esteem, there is often a power imbalance. The true cause of most bullying is narcissism, which is getting worse in today's children. Knowing stuff is cool. I thoroughly enjoyed learning throughout my education, so it's awesome to continue learning for my job.

3. I get to interrogate people. I used to think that everyone held conversations by rapidly exchanging question after question—until I spent a significant amount of time with someone who rarely—if ever—asked questions. I've discovered that most people patiently exchange remarks and do not ask tons of direct questions. I like questions and always have a lot of them, even for strangers. As a reporter, my name tag, camera and anything else that labels me as a journalist give me free reign to randomly approach pretty much anyone at an event and ask whatever bizarre queries I need for my story. It's great.

4. I often get free coffee and food. They say that a college student's favorite word is free. I think my favorite word will always be free. At many of the events I cover, I get free coffee, free lunch, free donuts and even free pens. One time I even ate an $80 plate at a dinner party. Like, you know, I ate the food on the plate, not the actual plate. Anyway, when I attend events, I eat while gleefully striking up weird conversations with people I'll probably never see again or just sit alone and shovel the food into my mouth. Everyone knows I'm a reporter and don't know anyone. For all they know, I'm observing the way the attendees eat their food, watching, waiting, pondering my story.

5. No one expects me to behave like everyone else at the event. Or if they do, they never show it. I think it's because people are so used to seeing movies with scenes featuring jittery, loud-mouthed reporters who skitter after the poor protagonist, shoving microphones in his face, asking rude questions and taking obnoxious photos. In comparison, I seem well-behaved. Sometimes I come late or leave early. I sit wherever I want. I get up and take pictures with my giant camera. I'm usually the only person in the room with a laptop; of course, I'm using it to take notes. Usually I'm the youngest person in attendance. Unlike the rest of the attendees, I generally don't talk to anyone unless I'm interrogating someone for my story. And that's OK. I'm a reporter, and I'm working. They understand I don't have time to socialize.

Journalism is cool. I really had no idea what it was when I declared it as a major. It's so much more than writing newspaper articles. I don't even write for a newspaper because both publications to which I contribute are online. Any questions? I like questions.