When “Nothing” Happens — Everything Does

“See me,” read the note in my typewriter.  My news director boss wanted to talk to me in his office, door closed.  That was never a good sign.

Maybe he was going to commend me for my boundless enthusiasm as a TV reporter, my joie de vive on live TV.   Anchoring the early morning news, I had finished writing my script early.  Actually, I hadn’t written enough and had finished reading it on-air two minutes early.  For 20 long seconds, I stared at the camera.

What to do?  Read “Horton Hears a Who?”  No, I simply said, “Okay, let’s review the top stories of the day.”  Then I just read my script again.  How’s that for thinking under pressure?  Yes, my being there mattered—a whole lot.  That’s what drew me to broadcasting in the first place.

The boss was mad at me for another reason.  It was my disappointing performance as a night-side reporter.  I was slacking on the job.  I had failed to submit a story for the 11 o’clock news.  Not a word.

The boss just didn’t get it.  It wasn’t my fault that nothing happened.  No news.  No fires.  No accidents.  No city government.  Nothing.  Not even the lights burning in city hall amounted to anything.  That’s right, I listened to an entire city council-meeting and got nothing.  They hadn’t done anything except bore each other to tears, and me too.

Nothing I could imagine could make their meeting interesting to me or anyone else.  So I had just left and called it a night.

My boss was furious. How could you have a newscast with no news?  “If the city council didn’t doing anything, just report that they didn’t do anything,” he barked.  My response: Dust mites don’t do anything either, but that doesn’t make them newsworthy.

I had missed the point.  My being on the job mattered.  I’d better start writing stuff.

I’ve had reason this year to wonder if my being here matters.  Gone are lots of things that helped remind me of that.  I knew I mattered because Nina told me.  I’d give anything to hear her once again chewing me out for buying another baseball collectible.  Maybe that’s why I bought them—just to hear her voice.  Because now they don’t matter.

Unfortunately, we often rely on artificial things to remind us of our relevance.  We think we matter by our paycheck or the number of our “likes” on Facebook.  In fact, social media is what it is because lots of people want to believe they matter.  It’s the same for jailhouse gangs.

As you read this, I’ll be returning from a place where small things count for a lot.  In the small Caribbean village I visit, it is enough just to be alive.  For a child, a glove and a pair of shoes make life all the sweeter.  Somehow, they are learning on their own.

I will keep going there until I figure out how they do it, and why it is still so much harder for us.  I’ll let you know what I am learning.

It helps to follow the examples of others who know they matter.  Fr. Eric Freed smiles when he hears a baby cry—someone else’s baby.  In its own way, it is reminding him that he matters too.  You don’t need much to know the same thing.

How’s that for a headline?  Film at eleven.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *