Touching the void - Shawn Loughlin editorial
As part of a continuing, self-indulgent, self-centred (and all the other self-hyphenated terms) series, I am here again to write something self-serving on my 41st birthday - May 19, 2023.
This time I wanted to take a second to reflect on what it is I’ve been lucky enough to do for now for 17 years and that’s write for a living. Sure I grumble (in these pages and elsewhere) and I complain (in these pages and elsewhere) about the hard bits of the job, from intolerant mouth-breathers to robust workloads to elected officials spreading hate. But, when push comes to shove, I get to be creative for a living. I get to write and tell your stories in the pages of this fine newspaper and even spin some of my own in this very space.
Listening to a podcast about the 2014 movie Chef the other day, which is a favourite of Keith’s, I know, the hosts singled out this quote, spoken in the movie by the character of chef Carl Casper, who is speaking to his son about his passion for cooking. “I might not do everything great in my life. I’m not perfect. I’m not the best husband, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t the best father, but I’m good at this. And I want to share this with you. I want to teach you what I learned. I get to touch people’s lives with what I do, and it keeps me going and I love it. And I think if you give it a shot, you might love it too.”
That sent the hosts - media visionary Bill Simmons and chef David Chang - on a sidebar about the few professions one can have and touch people’s lives by doing well. There aren’t many, they figured. Writers, artists, chefs, producers of film, television and theatre and wellness professionals and teachers would all be on the short list, but it’s not a long list.
As someone with a job that, at least according to those two guys, falls on the list, I thought about it for a bit and I know that I’ve been able to touch people’s lives with writing.
Not always, of course. With all apologies to my friends Joe Ryan and Barry Mills in Huron East’s public works department, lives may not necessarily be touched with a story about a new grader or an impending gravel purchase. But, there have been other times that I’ve been able to make a real difference, and that’s rare.
I think back just a few weeks ago writing an editorial about Keith that Publisher Deb said nearly brought her to tears. That, in addition to being part of a tribute to Keith written by Scott that surely meant a lot to him after so many years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice.
I still have people talk to me about Ernie Phillips’ obituary that I wrote for him at the request of his family years ago. To be able to honour such a great person in that way really made me feel like I was doing something special.
There are other examples, but just last week, speaking with Jolande Oudshoorn and Jean Bennett about the bear Jean had created years ago for the Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario, I know that story will mean a lot to Jean, as someone who had gathered books and photo albums full of her creations to remember all of the bears she had made over the years.
Not everyone gets to touch people’s lives with their work. I’m one of the lucky ones. It can all be challenging at times and certainly not without its frustrations, but there are plenty of other jobs I could be doing that would be a lot less fulfilling, both for me and for others.
So, for this week at least, I’ll focus on the amazing twists and turns my life has taken and all that’s fallen into place to afford me this opportunity - to make money doing something I love, touching the lives of you fine people.