At a Dollar Dinner not too long ago I was bussing tables. Dollar Dinners are a ministry of the Urban Mission where churches provide very good food for a dollar. This was a Dollar Dinner at First Presbyterian.
Bussing a table, I overheard a husband say to his wife, That is Bob Gorman. You know, the guy from the paper. Bob had just brought the couple their dinners. I smiled wondering if I should tell the man, the editor of the paper brings out the dinner, but the publisher plated it as John Johnson Jr. was serving in the kitchen.
Is it true to say all of the north country has been served in this way?
My relationship with the Watertown Daily Times began with an article 10 years ago rebutting the image of pastors as pacifists. It was a bit controversial and did result in two pastors coming to my office to see if I needed medication. It was quite a thrill seeing the article in the paper. So I wrote another one.
I sent the article to Bob Gorman, who promptly gave me a call. The article was good, he said, but it was not a North Country Perspective. For the next 20 minutes, I enjoyed one of the best instructions in writing I have ever received. From this instruction I gained two things: a greater appreciation for journalism, and a powerful interest in what would make a point of view a North Country Perspective.
In many ways John Johnson Jr. did the same thing. Instead of a lecture, though, he took me to see a maple syrup farm. John and his wife, Susan, took my wife and I and our two youngest out into the wilds of Croghan to see how they make maple syrup, and then we stopped for hot chocolate at a local diner. Let it suffice to say they both made the point. No offense to Bob, but all advice is better with food.
For the last 10 years I have loved where this has led. Yet, things change.
Bob Gorman will no longer be holding the feet of school superintendents to the flame or infuriating the mayor; he will be organizing campaigns to benefit children. Instead of reporting about what is broken in Jefferson County, he will be looking for ways to mend what is broken. John Johnson will step aside from one of the most fascinating places in the world: the helm of a small daily where senators come to call and governors do call. I trust they will still call him; yet, I hope most of his calls come from his grandchildren.
I cannot begin to imagine how much these two have brought the north country in the last 20 years together. I can, though, estimate what they brought to me. I gained a sense of place, the confluence of factors leveraging decisions, and a clear understanding of what is most important for our life together in the north country.
There is an old saying, after changes upon changes we are more or less the same. And this is certainly true of my faults. Yet, I want to recognize the real change I have found, the value and blessing I have received, having been changed. My life is much better now I have gained a North Country Perspective.
The Rev. Mr. Garry is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Watertown.