Life According to Heather

Life According to Heather

Each profession carries with it its own lessons and community reporting is no different. I recently had to do a talk for members of the ABC Networking Club of Bedfordview on community journalism (see page 4) and chose to reflect on the powerful lessons the community has taught me in my time working on community newspapers.

Firstly, you’ve heard it said time and time again, to get there, you must know where you are going. In the past year, in writing for the tame TIMES, I have had the privilege of crossing paths with two of my past school friends – Daniel Barker and Marco Broccardo.

I have known Daniel since primary school. Since he was small, Daniel had a dream of becoming an animation artist. In primary school, he used to make his own cartoons. He would draw the same picture over and over, each time drawing the characters in a slightly different position, and then film these pictures shot by shot using his dad’s video camera. Today, he works for Walt Disney Animation. Daniel knew where he was going from a young age – he knew what his dream was. Today he is living this dream.

Marco went to high school with me and after school chose a path of drugs and destruction. When he hit rock bottom, he had two choices – to succumb to his addiction and die, or to begin to climb up the mountain of recovery to healing. This would be a difficult climb but Marco made a choice and chose a new path. He now climbs actual mountains and works with addicts helping them to overcome their addiction. He told me in an interview, “I know straight away whether someone will succeed in climbing the mountain of addiction or not. Only a person who isn’t double minded but clearly sees the summit of his personal mountain will make it.”

To be a success, you must have an unshaking vision, and a singlefocused knowing of where your personal summit lies, as Daniel and Marco did. But while it’s good to embrace the big picture – the little things matter just as much. As a writer, while it’s good to get excited about the bigger story, you continually have to ask, have I checked the spelling of that name? Have I checked my facts?

We once did an exciting feature for a magazine I was working on, called something along the lines of ‘A Day in Portugal’, which included a recipe for an almond tart supplied by local chef Mimi Jardim. We had a great layout team and the page looked fantastic… bright photos, exciting ideas, and the recipe – a ‘must-bake for the reader’, according to the blurb I had written.

It’s just that in all the excitement, I forgot to add an ingredient. Flour. This, however, did not stop a few readers from making the almond tart.

I still remember the phone call, “Heather, I read your article on a Day in Portugal.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“And I made the tart.”

“Great! It’s a super recipe. I tried Mimi’s version but I’m sure yours was just as lovely.”

“It might have been,” said the reader, “Had all the ingredients been there.”

There was an awkward silence. “Do you think there was flour in the recipe?” she asked

I already knew the answer was no.

And so I listened as the lady explained that she and a group of her friends got together in a retirement village for a ladies’ tea each month and it had been her turn to have the girls around. She had decided to bake something special. The almond tart.

Sometimes we can be so vision-minded, we forget to take care of the little things. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but it’s not just the first step and the final step that matter… each step towards the goal matters and should be celebrated.

Do you have an exciting profession that you want to tell readers about? Email me at heather.djunga@tametimes.co.za