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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 23, 2009

From the editor
We can make our own happiness

A Buddhist nun e-mailed my sister “a bit of delight for your day” with a link to a video filmed in an Antwerp train station.

My sister forwarded the e-mail to my father with the words “Let’s dance!”

On a recent visit to my parents’ in the Adirondacks, I stood with my family, crowded in my father’s study around his computer — transfixed.

The camera pans the vast train station. Travelers are hurrying, heads down, not smiling, not really looking at each other as various departures and arrivals are announced. There’s the everyday rush, the importance of getting somewhere that we’ve come to expect and accept as normal.

Then a remarkable thing occurs.

The sound of music. A song used to teach children how to sing, written for the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, begins to play: “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start....”

Heads turn. Travelers look up — puzzled, expectant.

It’s a familiar song to many, a song sung by a novice nun in Austria as the evil of the big black spider, the Nazi swastika, was descending on the country. It’s a song of harmony and happiness and hope in hard times. Learning to make music together becomes a metaphor in the play that provides an escape from the oppressive.

In the center of the vast train station, a single man begins to dance — expertly, energetically — to the sounds of “do, re, mi.” He is joined by another dancer, then another, and another from a troupe of guerrilla dancers.

Soon scores are dancing. Onlookers are smiling, clapping their hands, moving to the music. An ordinary scene has been transformed.

This week, I thought of that video as I worked in our newsroom — a place where we often deal with death, as mourners come to talk to us for obituaries, or with ugliness as those arrested for crimes threaten us if we print the news.

But in the midst of the everyday rush of deadlines and work that has to be done, if we pause and look around us, we can find the joy in our midst. On Monday, it came in the form of a letter to the editor. Last week, our newest reporter, Anne Hayden, had ridden with a Guilderland paramedic crew to write a story about the town’s emergency medical services.

She came back shaken. A patient had been unable to breathe. He was treated, stabilized, and rushed to the hospital. Hayden didn’t know if he had lived or died. She worried about him as she wrote her story.

“We’ve heard from your patient,” I called out as I read Monday’s mail.

“Is it an obit?” asked Hayden, quietly.

“No, it’s a letter to the editor. He says the sunrises this week have been the most beautiful he’s ever seen.”

The guerrilla dancers might as well have been in the newsroom. Hayden’s face lit with joy.

Later, as I talked to Bob Haines to confirm his letter, I felt grateful for that raspy voice.

Other bright spots dotted the week, too. Ginny Stewart brought in a picture of Genevieve Jutzi who will turn 95 next week. She is holding a bouquet of daffodils from Stewart and standing by a Model T that was manufactured the year she was born — 1914. The thrill Stewart conveyed in arranging a ride for her friend gave us a smile in the midst of a harried day.

Soon after, a man who’s battling cancer climbed the steep steps to our newsroom though his feet are now mostly numb. He wanted to tell us some splendid news: He’s going to write a book. He’s almost 60 and has wanted to write this book since he was a young man.

He crossed paths in our newsroom with Jen Staub. They shared notes on a disease that can be devastating. Cancer took Staub’s husband and now her two daughters are battling it, too, she said.

But Staub had come to our newsroom because of her three sons — all veterans. One served in the Army during the Korean War; the other two served during the Vietnam War — one in the Air Force and the other in the Navy.

She had just taken her son, Ed Staub, the Korean War vet, and his wife, Kathy, to breakfast at Cindy Pollard’s Home Front Café.  Pollard’s café is like a living room for the village and also acts as a memorial to those who served in the military. It’s decorated like her mother’s World War II-era kitchen and Pollard frequently has old soldiers in to tell students about their experiences.

“He was so amazed to see the tank and the soldier on Cindy’s lawn. It brought back a lot of memories,” Staub said. “The tank is just like the one he drove. His wife had never seen it.”

Ed Staub wanted to see a notice about it in our paper, said his mother, so that, back home in Pennsylvania, “He could show all the people that we are not forgotten,” she said.

She wrote in the note to Pollard, “Thanks, Cindy, for giving the chance for my son and many more of our boys to know they are not forgotten.

“You made our day,” concluded her handwritten note of thanks.

You made our day, Mrs. Staub.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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