In many respects, my job has helped me to develop a pretty thick skin. As many newspaper editors know, regardless of the size or quality of the paper, people like to hurl insults at you.
I've had callers tell me I was heartless over a news obituary for a man who used to be a town's only doctor... and who happened to be indicted and convicted for drug trafficking. I've had a member of a fire department, now a decade ago, accuse me of damaging the departments potential for fund raising because of a picture the newspaper ran.
They're particularly vitriolic via e-mail, where they don't actually have to speak to you, though some are bold enough to insult you via voice-mail and/or while actually speaking to you over the phone.
Some of them are pretty colorful. I've always considered insults via e-mail particularly cowardly, and such e-mails tell me a lot about the person sending them.
My recent offenses earning such colorful insults are: not printing what team raised the most money for Relay For Life in Henry County (never mind that we've not done that since I've been here), not printing who won the team camp judging at Relay for Life (again, something we haven't done since I've been here), accidentally flipping the results on a web poll question (an honest mistake for which we'll run a correction next week), and not responding to an email that, unbeknown to the original sender and myself, I never received.
The web poll generated the most phone calls, and some of the most colorful conversations — and no matter how many times I said it, they just didn't seem to believe me: It was an accident, an honest mistake, and we'll run a correction in the July 7 issue. But the callers seemed to think it was because I had some vendetta against the subject (a member of the planning and zoning commission who had been asked by Fiscal Court to resign after being served with a notice of violation by the state for operating an illegal landfill... thus violating the very law he was supposed to help enforce).
After those phone calls, I vented with my soul-sister Julie. You see, even though I can let these calls bounce off, I still have to vent (which in itself helps me to bounce them away). I wasn't surprised by the calls, just the amount of energy that people put in to them, and the things they assume (it's often said that the things you assume are simply a projection of what you would do. And what you would do, the other person might not).
Really? Of all things they could complain about? I figured the most calls I would receive last week would have been about the state of the reconstruction of the Campbellsburg Fire Department (a long, winding commentary in its own right) — something about which the residents of Campbellsburg ought to be in a right, foul tizzy. Not a peep.
Julie had just returned from a Rotary meeting and heard something that really brought it all into perspective. "You have $1 worth of energy to use every day. How are you going to use it?"
It's not about oil or coal or other forms of energy, it's about personal energy. What's worth that $1? How are you spending your personal energy, which is incredibly valuable, today?
Are you helping others or looking out for No. 1? Are you being constructive or destructive? Are you taking care of yourself, your family and those who are important to you, or are you tearing down others?
How are you using your dollar today?