Today, right now, in this moment is why I love being a reporter.
I went out to a fire this morning. It wasn’t a big fire. It’s not going to make A1; it’s probably not going to make the local front. That doesn’t matter.
Here’s my lede: “A 4-year-old firebug lit a mattress on fire Monday morning, sparking a blaze that did some $75,000 in damage and displaced her family from their two-story house in Clinton.”
The family is black, poor, probably uneducated and lives in a not-so-great part of town.
I’m white, educated, live in an OK part of town and while I’m (sorta) poor, (1) I’m not as poor as they are; (2) I don’t have kids; and (3) me being poor is largely a choice. I could easily get a job that pays way more than what I make now.
I be slummin’, yo!
This is all to say: I don’t hang out with these people, and I’d probably go a million years without coming across them. I’m white; they’re black. They’re poor; I’m fake poor. I hang out with self-deprecating hipsters; I’m pretty sure they don’t. Our paths just aren’t going to cross very much.
Except today, cause my job is to talk to people on their worst day, and for this family, it was a bad one. Everyone got out; no one was injured, so it’s probably not their worst day. In fact, 26-year-old Toya told me she feels pretty lucky, but still, not a humdinger.
And they didn’t really want to talk about it. I totally understand, I told them. And I do. I left them my card, and I hung around as they watched firefighters toss all their earthly possessions out of a charred second story window.
And then Toya’s little boy came up to me. Well, waddled. He’s probably 1 or 1 1/2 years old. He’s got the walking thing down, and he thought I was interesting, probably because I was skipping rocks across the street and trying to throw twigs on top of other twigs I’d already thrown onto a patch of grass.
I gave him the piece of bark in my hand. He took it. Then he walked closer — uncomfortably close — and put his tiny little foot in the doughnut hole-like space between my crossed legs.
I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything for 10 seconds. Then I picked him up and put him by my side. He sat down, his little legs dangling over the curb, not quite reaching the street. He put his tiny hand on my thigh and his head on my arm.
My heart just brokemelted into a thousandmillionpieces rightthenandthere and ohmygodIlovethisjob!