This morning, just before I started writing this, one of the employees of the paper carried in a muffin with a sparkler on it, lit it and we all sang Happy Birthday to another employee. It was touching. We at the newspaper, are a family. Sometimes a dysfunctional one, but one nonetheless.
Ever since I was a kid I have worked with my family. For the first two decades of my life, I worked on the family farm with my dad and my two uncles. Later I had businesses where my wife worked with me and one of my sons was involved as well.
But that is only my blood family. I have also had a lot of adopted families to work with. Some of those I still cling to in some little way; others I have forsaken; some I have divorced. In a sense we adopt a family (or they adopt us) when we go to work anywhere. I have been places where we were so close to one another that we knew every flaw, every tribulation of those in the group.
At other workplaces distance was the order of the day. We were civil and polite, but the family was not as close. My wife always says that in my early life I led a Leave It To Beaver kind of existence. My family seemed perfect to her from all I have said about them. Well I doubt Ward Cleaver ever hiked a bale of hay onto a wagon or cleaned out the corral in the spring when it was wet and there was two feet deep in muck in it. My father was not Ward Cleaver; he was better than that. I wish I could have become as good a man as he was, but I have never quite lived up to that level.
However a lot of the things he instilled in me have lived on, particularly in my work life. I like to think him making me work all those summers when my friends were out having fun did something for me. One thing he taught me was that family, even a work family, is very important.
Work families should take care of one another. Sure there will always be that bad brother or sister. But we need to care for one another just the same. This group I work with here at the newspaper has all the attributes of greatness. Dedication, hard work, loyalty, I could go on and on.
But like all groups we are not perfect either. We squabble once in awhile, just like kids at home. Sometimes I'm the parent that has to get things under control; sometimes I am one of the kids that throws a fit.
Putting together a newspaper a couple of times a week is somewhat like an assembly line job. However, not all of the pieces fit together as neatly as they do when you put together a piece of furniture or an automobile. And sometimes we are missing pieces too. At times pieces that were due earlier in the day come in late and we have to bolt them up, while tearing other things down. And you thought things probably always went together so smoothly at the newspaper. Unfortunately anyone who wants a clean and tidy process operation to work in would find this to be anything but that.
Yet somehow through all the stress, all the hang ups, all the changes in the middle of a production day, in the end we are still all alive with most of our limbs (and sanity) intact.
Last week we had a party honoring our employees.
We sell and design hundreds of ads, take thousands of photos and write dozens of stories to fill the pages of the paper. We crank out information that is important to the community and the world. We write both counties histories every time we publish the papers. Unlike much of the electronic media we see and hear each day, ours is enshrined on the white stuff made from wood fibers, that lasts longer than most people realize when it is taken care of. Our photos and stories linger in peoples minds, in peoples diaries, scrapbooks and on their refrigerator doors.
I am always amazed at what this group of people can do.
These people I call my family.