Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Faith Works 12-21-19

Faith Works 12-21-19

Jeff Gill


The Package – a story



[This is a piece of fiction, third of four parts, for the Christmas season]


Jerry looked at his rear view mirror at traffic behind him, over the top of a pile of large boxes in the back seat sticking up into his usual field of view.


He'd just been at a lady's house, whose address was on a package inside of gift wrapping, and learned what he'd been fairly sure of but had to check: the package that mysteriously showed up on his doorstep wasn't from her. She'd discarded the box, and someone had carefully marked through (but not obscuring entirely) the mailing information before wrapping up . . . a pair of old but nicely reconditioned boots.


Later, he was going to the shoe repair shop whose tag was still attached to one boot, but first he was delivering a back seat and trunk full of coats to the Salvation Army. The lady he'd interrupted in her day at home needed a hand with coats from her church she was trying to get there, and Jerry was happy to solve her problem in return for her courtesy. He wasn't sure he would have been so cordial with a stranger on his front porch asking about an old box of his, but they'd talked so long they'd decided to exchange phone numbers and continue the conversation another day.


Since her church friend's truck had broken down, he was in an ideal position to help out on his way to the cobbler's, but his sedan wasn't a pickup, and what had been two heavy boxes in her hallway were multiple piles and a stack of smaller boxes she'd offered from the garage. Watching traffic over the coats in the back piled high, he changed lanes and turned off to head for the Salvation Army building.


A few more turns, and then he drove past the front of the building, parked and hoped he could find some help in unloading. His new friend, the lady whose name was on the box, said her coats were expected, and he should just go in and ask where they should be placed. Seeing a few people heading in a door in the back, he shut the car off and slowly got out, thinking his back was really going to need some helpers to get these coats inside.


Jerry walked in the door, and the warmth fogged his glasses, pausing him as he entered. Through the haze, he heard a friendly voice say "you got here just in time, we were starting to shut down the line!" As he wiped clean his lenses, putting his glasses back on Jerry realized it was the soup kitchen door, and the people behind the counter in front of him were setting up a tray of food for him.


"Oh, no, I'm not here to eat, I'm delivering coats?"

"Doesn't matter, we're all going to eat, and then we'll all help you: got many?" the cook asked cheerily? Jerry tried to describe what he had as he shuffled sideways along the line, and was swept into a group coming out from behind the counter, each with their own trays, and then scattering out into places around the long tables.


The soup was good, and mac and cheese, and he realized he was having trouble telling who was a customer (or guest, it sounded like they were saying about the visitors to the soup kitchen) and which were volunteers. They talked about weather, family, two at one end of the table about hunting and three on Jerry's other side about the Browns.


As everyone seemed to finish, the woman who'd greeted him at the door said "Jerry needs some help bringing in donated coats!" and it seemed half the room got up, cleared their trays, and went out into the parking lot to gather in an armload of coats from the back seat and trunk. The job took seconds, and they were done.


"Jerry, we serve here every third Sunday evening; come on back any time to eat or to help!" she said, shaking his hand.

"I can make a mean lasagna," he answered and the host loudly shouted "Yes! There's our plan for next month! Give me your number and I'll get ahold of you for shopping to get the ingredients."


He was making more friends in a day than he had in the last ten years, Jerry reflected, as he got in his car and finally headed for the shoe repair shop. Now it was late enough it would probably be closed. His errand could wait until tomorrow, but since he was out . . . he thought he'd drive by just in case.

Jerry was really getting curious about those boots now, even though they didn't have much to do with everything that had happened to him. They were just a cause, a trigger, of something much bigger that was changing for him. But he wanted to know about the boots.


[to be continued]


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think is up with the boots at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.


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Monday, December 16, 2019

Newark Advocate 2020 for PROUD Magazine

Newark Advocate 2020 for PROUD Magazine

Jeff Gill


In 1820, James Monroe was President of the United States, Ethan Allen Brown was governor of Ohio, and Newark was still six years away from being incorporated as a town.


Native Americans of the Shawnee and Wyandot tribes still lived in the northern and western parts of the state, often traveling through Licking County, which was itself just twelve years old. Five years earlier the original log courthouse was replaced by a modest two story structure, but Courthouse Square around it was still marked by ponds and bogs, surrounded by mostly log structures barely more ornate than pioneer cabins.


And it was in 1820 that "The Newark Advocate" was first published, in a simple sturdy brick building on the square. This intrepid business venture was the brainchild of Benjamin Briggs, a native of Pennsylvania who arrived in Newark's earliest days to make his mark, find a career, and start a newspaper: one that is today the county's oldest continuously operated business.


Briggs owned and edited "The Advocate" for thirty-six years, and as a sign of different times and journalistic expectations, he was elected mayor of Newark twice, and was voted at different times to both the Ohio House and Senate, as well as postmaster. His was a vigorous and partisan editorship, advocating for development projects like the Ohio & Erie Canal or the National Road through Licking County, as well as local efforts such as new church buildings and improved streets downtown.


In the early 1800s down through the first part of the 1900s, newspapers were almost without exception partisan, and "The Advocate" was a Democratic Party paper. Through the decades, other party and constituency publications flourished – at one point Newark had over twenty newspapers with names like "The Rasp" or "The Constitutionalist" or "The Reveille and Woolgrower"  – but after World War I the rise of a more dispassionate journalistic ethic led to a bipartisan "Advocate" overshadowing the other party-oriented papers, like the "Newark North American" or "Newark Express."


"The Advocate" has outlived its competition in most cases by outworking it: the paper was the first in the county to go from monthly to weekly to daily, and has been a daily for a majority of its publication history. An early adopter of electronic media tools, the news now arrives by email and on browser windows as much as it does on doorsteps or in driveways. Social media and online reading make the entire news environment a constant, never-ending opportunity for readers to connect and advertisers to reach audiences, even as the Advocate's ongoing record of events becomes a public resource in its own right.


"The value of having the paper in the area for so many years to the Licking County Library Veterans project is priceless," says Doug Stout, the library's project coordinator. "Through the years many service records, letters and names have been lost to family members and the community. The Advocate archives are one source we use daily for this information. If the Advocate hadn't been around this long, I'd say 40 percent of the information we have wouldn't exist."


Advertising along with subscriptions has been the heart of the "Advocate" business model since Briggs' days as editor and owner. After many decades of private ownership, the formation of the Advocate Printing Company saw the business into the Twentieth Century, and "The Newark Advocate" is now part of the USA Today Network. Whether in the print product or the online version, newspaper ads are still a major part of each page, and looking back through the two hundred years of history you learn almost as much from those ads as you do the articles about who we are as a county.


The first hundred years you see many advertisements for horses and carriages and the equipment and services that go with them; in the second hundred years, cars and trucks are well represented in the ad sections, while you have trouble finding a livery stable. Through the 1800s, clothiers and haberdashers and milliners are common in the corners of each page promoting their wares; today, banner ads online and sidebars are focused on very different retail angles, from electronics to home delivered groceries.


But in the editorial content itself, you hear the spirit of each era speaking both to their subscribers, and also as that "first rough draft of history" credited to journalism. Sometimes that voice is cracked and flawed – The Advocate sadly did not endorse Abraham Lincoln in either 1860 or in 1864 – but you can also hear calls for justice in the 1960s through Op-Eds, and editorial invitations to renewal and re-invigoration as Newark has navigated the end of one industrial era and the beginnings of our information age.


Benjamin Briggs, the first editor (and reporter, and circulation manager, and advertising executive, and pressman), was said in Hill's 1881 "History of Licking County" to have been "a clear, forcible writer, much given to the use of strong Saxon words that vigorously expressed his ideas, and he never wrote without having ideas to convey. . . When he chose to be vituperative he generally succeeded." But he was also "identified with every project that tended to the advancement and welfare of the place and its people," and left for Washington an honored representative of Licking County's interests. Today's editor, Benjamin Lanka, wouldn't expect to run for political office while still holding a position of journalistic trust, but he and his staff still honor clear and concrete writing, condemnation when called for, and praise whenever possible. With a volunteer community Editorial Board, "The Newark Advocate" still has strong words and straightforward suggestions about what can improve and enhance the everyday lives of people around today's Courthouse Square and across the county.


"Despite the numerous changes in our industry, the staff of The Advocate remains solely focused on telling the stories that matter to Newark and Licking County," says Lanka. "It's easy to say we don't do things like we used to, and that is true. Technology has dramatically changed people's media consumption habits. But what remains true is that we will always be curious about what is going with our local government, with our high school sports teams or with our neighbors. Our mission for our past and our future is to tell those stories the best we can to give people a sense of the community in which they live."


From the Briggs era to the present day, you can't help but notice how the interests of "The Advocate" have always "tended to the advancement and welfare of the place and its people."