Friday, December 29, 2006

Uncle Jimmy - thanks for the lives you touched

A few weeks ago, our family lost Jimmy, my mother's baby brother, to post-stroke complications.

His stroke happened a few years ago, and he's never been the same. His speech coherency would come and go. He'd get lost. For his own safety and health, he moved to a nursing home back in October. Several days later, a heart attack took him from us.

Family members gathered in Texas for his funeral services, and we all heard different stories about how he affected their families and lives.

That made me consider how he touched my own life. The photograph accompanying this entry was taken during a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Beyond the fence, where civilians are not allowed, is the Freedom Train railroad, providing transportation to and from the last South Korean stop. At this spot, visitors have placed notes and mementos, including the cross.

Without Uncle Jimmy, chances are I would never have been there.

Business took me to Seoul, where I did some journalism training for a large news organization. My background is newspaper work, which started in 1976 as a lowly darkroom technician. That interest was sparked when Uncle Jimmy gave my family some hand-me-down darkroom equipment and books. I was hooked on photography, which led me to that part-time job, which led later to full-time newspaper work, a move to reporting and editing, and finally to a position where I conduct training for professional journalists across the United States and beyond.

Funny how lives can be touched -- Uncle Jimmy helped me awaken an interest in journalism. Others continued that interest in countless ways. How many lives do we touch every day -- intentionally or unintentionally? My prayer is that the lives I touch professionally or personally benefit and reach out for other lives.

The cross in the above photograph seems strangely at home surrounded by razor wire. It reminds us of the suffering Christ endured for you. And it reminds me of Uncle Jimmy, too, with his suffering lifted and, thanks to his influence, the photo taken.