The press is frequently criticized for its attention to the negative. But many fail to recognize the goodness in genuinely looking at the bad. Without knowledge of what’s wrong, how can people be expected to fix things?
But on the flip side, there’s also a duty to look at the positive. Because if you don’t know what’s good in your community, then how can you appreciate and support it?
We have plenty of both to report in Madison County. There are people hurting financially, people sick, people acting dirty to each other by stealing and stabbing, harming their loved ones in shocking ways. These things often make news. And it’s no fun to gaze upon the sad or the ugly facts, but it is necessary, too. It’s the reality. You can’t avoid it. And it’s important that a community recognize its problems and act maturely in dealing with them.
But we are fortunate to have plenty of brightness, too. And each week, our pages are full of accomplishments and good deeds of local folks. I appreciate the press releases that end up in our mailbox or email inbox that show people working toward positive ends. For instance, we have civic groups, churches, schools, businesses and individuals doing great things for no monetary gain. It’s now a time of the year when many take organized action to help the less fortunate. There are toy drives and fund-raisers, dinners like the Costellos’ annual hot meal for the needy on Thanksgiving. There is a lot of sadness for sure, but there is a strong effort from many folks around here to combat that sadness with generosity and joy. And it often comes from individuals in small ways, too. Phone calls and other small gestures of care aren’t the stuff of news, but they are real and they matter as much or more as the big stuff that gets attention.
Of course, one of the truly good things in this community that has gotten some — but not much — attention in this newspaper over the years is Jubilee Partners, which is celebrating its 30th year of existence in Comer this Thanksgiving.
For three decades, Jubilee has made Madison County a welcoming station for many of the world’s most cruelly treated people. It is a place of refuge for those who have faced the harshest conditions humanity has to offer. Over 3,000 refugees from over 30 countries have come to Jubilee over the past 30 years, finding kindness from people who aren’t strangers for long.
Don Mosley, Jubilee’s director, remembers the first days on the Comer property 30 years ago. The horrible Jim Jones deaths in Jonestown, Guyana, in November 1978 were fresh in people’s minds. And when a Christian community moved in tents to a rural patch of land in Madison County, there were some people who shuddered at the thought of what might happen there. Mosley remembers the early days of sleeping in tents on the property. He said he and his wife, Carolyn, gained a valuable perspective back then, a little taste of what it’s like to live as refugees.
Of course, proof of goodness, proof of motive and purpose is not established in a day. And over time, Jubilee has proved itself, not just to Madison County, but nationally and internationally. Conversely, Mosley said Comer and Madison County, in general, have shown a real gracious spirit toward Jubilee.
It’s something that many people want to be a part of. Though the pay is just $15 a week, there are many people who seek to work at Jubilee, learning about service and fellowship with people from around the world. Visiting the camp Monday, I met staff members from Tennessee, Indiana and Lebanon.
I had my first opportunity to speak at length with Mosley this week. Here is someone who has lived a rich life, passing on the opportunity to carry on his father’s lucrative business to travel the world and help others far away and close to home. For instance, Mosley traveled to North Korea last week and stood amid local farmers, finding them to be just regular folks, as they talked about plans for housing help. His perspective is a little different than what we get via television news. And his view is a testement to the difference between first-hand perspective and stereotype.
Yes, there is plenty of bad to report in this county. But there are numerous great things, too, such as the efforts at Jubilee. We at the paper are fortunate enough to document some really good things people are doing with their lives.
And I am thankful for that.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.