Friday, November 13, 2009

News, nonprofits and grand garb

So, I’m new to this blog. But instead of hellos, let’s talk about news vs. volunteerism, eh?

This story has meaning. Promise. It starts with a tidbit about Commodore Wilbert Longfellow, a pertinent man with an awesome name.

Do not confuse him with that lame linguist of the 19th century. Longfellow was an ex-newsman who began teaching water safety classes in the early 1900s. Alarmed by the nation’s high drowning rate, he quit his reporting gig. He revolutionized water safety by teaching water skills in water instead of on land. Makes sense, right?

He also had some sweet swimming garb. I, for one, think we should bring back fashion trends of early Red Crossers.

Anyway, I relate to Mr. Longfellow because I, too, am an ex-wordsmith of the news variety. I was an overnight crime reporter in Lawrence, Kansas before taking on an AmeriCorps gig at the Red Cross. Fires, shootings, robberies, chickens in the road, more fires. It was as exciting as it was … well, sort of depressing.

Do you know what the worst feeling in the world is? Standing on the sidelines of major events, completely unable to influence the situation. The helpless sentiment gnaws and chomps at your disposition. But at the Red Cross, I’m teaching CPR, fire safety, first aid, even water safety a la the admirable Mr. Longfellow. It’s a great trade-off, and I don't think Longfellow and I are the only ones to have made the shift.

Has anybody else switched from news sector to nonprofit? Pray tell.

Anyway, happy Friday the 13th. Don't forget your first aid kits.


Joa said...

Thanks for the introduction to the root of the character, Brian. I like how you pieced together the web of connections!

Joa said...

Also, I don't think you were merely on the sidelines as a reporter. I think that awareness is motivation and information is power, and those are two things you most definitely provided the community with.

Brian Lewis-Jones said...

Quite true, Joa. It was just kind of a ... helpless feeling. Some mornings (I worked from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.) I'd get home, reek of smoke and be in complete disbelief of what I had witnessed. It was weird thinking of the people who were affected by tragedy, and how rarely their situations were understood by the public.

Megan McCarthy said...


I think it's admirable to step outside of your own box and see a greater need. You've helped a lot of people and I can't wait to see what you do with the rest of your volunteer year!