Yellow Farmhouse, White Rocking Chair
By Kayleigh Rahn
I recently had the opportunity to present to a local civic organization regarding our newspapers’ progress over the last year.
I love talking about newspapers, specifically ours. We don’t always get it right, but I’m proud of what we do.
After speaking on circulation numbers, upcoming projects, and big stories on the horizon I asked for questions.
A downtown business neighbor asked what story has stuck with me above all others.
The first person who came to mind was a young man who was killed out of the blue while bartending in downtown Mattoon in April 2013.
In the days following the shooting, the murderer fell off the radar before he was spotted again in Missouri and then Georgia where his life ended during a shoot out with police.
That event stuck with me, not because of the cinematic ending, but because of the man who he killed–Ben.
Part of my job is to talk to people when it the hurts the most.
I spoke with Ben’s parents two days after their grown son was murdered, and I learned about a fun-loving, reliable man who cared for his nieces and nephews dearly. He was a former bartender who became a fulltime insurance salesman at his father’s company. He was at the bar that night to cover a friend’s shift.
I cried with them and held his mother’s hand.
I walked out the front door of their beautiful home after an extended hug and headed to the newsroom to attempt to capture the essence of this man’s soul with 26 black letters on white paper.
I chatted with his family again when they found the strength to pick up the pieces and carry on his name for good with a benefit in his honor.
Ben’s story hurts and sticks with me always.
However, there are so many stories that I carry with me.
My worldview shifted entirely when I found myself covering a KKK and Neo Nazi rally on the steps of the Kentucky state capitol in April 2012 while working for The State Journal in Frankfort, Ky. I had seen the photos, studied my history books, and watched the movies; however, nothing prepared me for the sight of a man in full KKK garb spewing hatred into a microphone on the steps of the picturesque capitol lawn.
Without warning tears streamed down my cheeks and my face grew hot as I attempted to pull my thoughts together to find a way to share this story.
Our newsroom knew the rally was planned weeks in advance as we’d gotten our hands on the petition filed by the Franklin County resident who served as host of the event.
I was shocked to find out that I had been to her farm about a month prior to learn about her work in rescuing horses in the hollers of rural Kentucky.
I found her to be a kind, soft-spoken person. I could not conceive that this was the same woman who had anger in her eyes and hate in her voice as her words echoed through my neighborhood.
Hate is real.
But so is love.
On Feb. 14, 2014 William and I were just over four months from our wedding day.
That Valentine’s Day I covered a vow renewal at a Charleston nursing home. That day seven couples renewed their wedding vows after decades side by side, hand in hand. I interviewed a couple who was working on 60 years of marriage. After six decades together, the wife told me that marriage works for no one; you work for marriage.
I was floored. No wedding–excuse me–marriage advice had ever hit me so boldly. That quote made me realize the gravity of my wedding day and what that meant–I was going to work for someone else for the rest of my life, but he was going to work for me too. That’s life changing, and that is love.
Every day I am afforded the opportunity to have these moments. I have spoken with brilliant children building robots and a 93-year-old Senior Olympics gold medalist. I’ve heard the life stories of 11 World War II veterans and people who have worked throughout their lives to bring fresh water to every corner of the world. I spoke with a crew riding horseback across the country and man running across the country–each with their own message of positivity to share.
For all the horror there is so much more good.
Beautiful things happen each and every day at the hands of imperfect but selfless people. People who mend hearts and put down roots; who keep friendships alive and feed those who cannot feed themselves. People who work, volunteer, give, build, grow, and love every single day.
And those are the stories that keep me returning to work every day.
Each week we have the privilege of celebrating the best life has to offer–the good, the passionate, and the important.
Bad things happen. Bad people exist. Bad times will come again.
But so will the good.