On May 4 as I finished my devotionals, praying for others and myself, I asked the Lord for something personal. I asked God to give me my joy back.
I had been working for the Lexington Herald-Leader since November 1983, and had watched as my life as a journalist had gone from being filled with excitement and expectation to being just another job.
Until my joy returned, I didn't feel I would be faithfully representing the God I serve. The last thing God wants is a sour-puss calling herself a Christian.
I had already told my boss I planned to retire in January, when I will turn 65. I just didn't want to represent God for the next eight months as a journalist who was simply filling my allotted space in the newspaper. I wanted to once again champion the forgotten, reveal the hypocritical, highlight wrongs, encourage right, and to do that with enthusiasm.
At work that day, the editor sent out an email saying we all were to meet in the center of the newsroom. He had information to share. That information was that the company was offering voluntary buyouts to everyone.
All I remember is that I danced clumsily with arms raised to the roof. That was not how I thought I would get my joy back, but God always knows best.
So this column is to let all my readers know that May 29 is my last day as a columnist for the Herald-Leader.
I hear the shouts of joy from those folks whose toes I might have stepped on whenever I've written about racial problems as well as other problems they would prefer to keep hidden. They have blamed me for highlighting racial inequities they assumed no one else had noticed.
If I would just shut up, they often said to me, everything would be fine.
Well, now we'll see. My voice will be silent — in this venue at least. Let's see if the problems go away.
I also hear the silence of those who came to count on me to publicize programs that offer relief to people who didn't know where else to turn. What will they do now?
Don't worry. There are still good people at this paper willing to do what they can to improve this community. Get to know them as you've gotten to know me. They are willing to help if they can.
I must thank readers who have allowed me to share a glimpse into the life of a black woman they might not have otherwise seen.
You have been with me when I adopted our older son and when I was surprised by the premature birth of my youngest son. You voted to allow my daughter to date despite my hesitation, and you prayed with me during two battles with lung cancer.
You laughed when I humorously jabbed at the maleness of my husband and frustrating antics of my children. Thank you. You kept me off Zoloft.
You encouraged me during days drenched in criticism, telling me not to back down from my beliefs. Your words were a refuge from the fears and doubts often deposited in psyches through the meanness of others.
And you also corrected me, justly, during the days I became too full of myself.
This job helped to educate my children and helped to give my family a very good life. I don't live in poverty any more, and yet I pray I'll never forget how that feels.
I started as a columnist when the editors were looking for local writers willing to share their opinions. D.G. FitzMaurice, a former Herald-Leader sports columnist, was chosen to write two columns. When asked if he knew of someone else, he suggested me.
I had no problem sharing my opinions with anyone. Fitz knew that.
My first column was about how the north and south sides of Lexington existed as separate cities. The needs of the north side were being ignored by city leaders who heaped blessings on the south side. A lot has changed in 30 years, but not that.
The late Lewis Owens, former publisher of this newspaper, former editor John Carroll, and Tim Kelly, former editor and publisher, all took a great deal of heat from townspeople because of things I wrote. To their credit, none of them tried to stop me.
I believe it was Kelly who said what's the point in hiring a minority voice if you're going to shut it down?
It has been suggested that with this farewell column I should burn bridges and drop the mic. A couple of years ago, I might have done just that.
But I'm a bit tired now, weakened by the weight of mirrors I've tried to hold up to politicians, school administrators, conservatives, liberals, Democrats and Republicans, neighbors and friends. I'm running out of ways to say the same thing.
As I've said so often to so many people, it was God who gave me this job, and it will be God who takes it away from me. I prayed for joy on May 4 and God gave it to me.
So, for a few months anyway, church members, friends and family might as well forget adding jobs to my empty to-do list. I'm spending the summer vegetating. Come fall, I'll get back in the swing of things.
Maybe you'll see me marching in front of the Fayette County schools' Central Office, sign in hand, demanding the board and new superintendent to close an achievement gap that wouldn't exist if those on the losing end were whiter or richer.
Maybe you'll see me in Frankfort demanding nonviolent ex-offenders be allowed to vote, ending taxation without representation.
Maybe I'll be a children's advocate in a courtroom, or a volunteer in a classroom or a server in a kitchen.
I really, really don't know. I just know that at the end of my devotionals here lately, I've been asking God to show me what he wants me to do. He will. There has been nothing about my life heretofore that says he won't.