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Weekly Newspaper covering Marion, Schley, Chattahoochee, Webster, and Stewart Counties.
71 Webb Lane, Buena Vista, GA 31803 • Phone & Fax: 229-649-6397 • Email: tjournal@windstream.net

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Thanks for the lesson, Latavia

Every now and then we all have one of those days. Sometimes we even have one of those weeks, when instead of surviving a tough day and shaking it off, several of those days turn into one of those weeks and leave us feeling weak.

For me, it started with last Monday, which was, well Monday. I’m sure most of you know what I mean, as it’s not the most popular day of the week. In addition to the run-of-the-mill Monday Blues, mine included learning about a rather newsworthy event that had happened a few days before within sight of my home/office while I was at home. It included multiple emergency vehicles, flashing lights, and a search for a driver who disappeared from a wreck that basically turned a Jaguar into a sardine can ... and I was oblivious to the fact that it had even happened until someone asked me about it the following Monday. Some news guy, huh?

Shortly after that revelation, I learned about a devastating diagnosis of a child I had met two years ago. Latavia Moore was then 8-years-old. She was suffering from ataxia, or so the doctors thought. While it certainly wasn’t pleasant, it was a condition that her family thought they could “handle.” They would do everything in their power to help her deal with it, be supportive, and celebrate as their child overcame obstacles, grew up and fulfilled her dreams.

However, after two years of optimism, they learned that Latavia had been misdiagnosed. She in fact has metachromatic leukodystrophy. The symptoms are similar, but the diagnosis is a steady deterioration leading to death – usually within 10-15 years. The folks at the Make-A-Wish Foundation have already contacted the family. Her wish? To meet Carly of the iCarly television show.

Latavia had stolen my heart two years ago by shrugging off the fact that she was using a walker, grinning from ear to ear and telling me she was going to be a dancer when she grows up. Learning that without a miracle she won’t even grow up put me in a depressed Monday mood that was hard to shake.

Then came Tuesday. It was one of my busiest days of the year with my deadline looming and three special sections scheduled for publication in that week’s paper. It was also the day when one of the neighborhood’s squirrels decided to chew through the negative line on the transformer that regulates our electricity. I’ll spare you the details of me running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out what the problem was before I finally decided to flip the main breaker and shut off all of the power. Of course, that was after losing a copier, flatbed scanner, stove, microwave, television, stereo, etc. Surge protectors had begun to melt and my floor is now decorated with black outlines where they used to lay. That distinctive electric-burn smell was so strong that I toured the attic with a flashlight expecting to find that the house was on fire.

A couple of hours later our power was restored, my computers had somehow survived, and I managed to meet my deadline and include the special sections in the paper on time. I’d like to tell you that I then realized how blessed I was and went through the rest of the week with the proper attitude, but I’ve been told that newspaper guys – even newspaper guys who miss spectacular wrecks that happen a quarter mile from their driveways – are supposed to try their best to print the truth. The truth is that while I was thankful that my house and office didn’t burn to the ground, I was pretty grumpy for the rest of the week.

That is until late Friday afternoon when I once again sat down with Latavia, now 10, and her family. She held on to the wall and pieces of furniture until she got to a chair and sat down and looked at me with eyes full of life, flashed a great big smile, and told me she still plans on being a dancer, but she’s also added artist to the list. She gave me one of her drawings. Actually, she sold it to me for $2 (I think she needs to add businesswoman to her list). She signed it for me. It took her a full minute – and some help from grandma – to make her fingers force the letters out of the pen, but she didn’t seem to mind. She was an artist who had just sold a piece of art. What was there to be grumpy about?

Her grandparents, who are raising her, watched with the knowledge that these special moments will soon come less frequently, and then be gone forever. They fought back tears as I secretly felt guilty for thinking I’d had a bad week.

Two days later, with me thinking I’d learned my lesson, a couple of new friends at church asked about my week. I didn’t mention Latavia. Instead I whined about my “stuff” getting electrocuted. They smiled and said, “Yeah, but you got new stuff, didn’t you? And I bet you got better stuff than you had before! We had the same thing happen to us a while back and it was kind of fun because we upgraded everything.”

OK, Lord, I think I hear you now. The next time my son jumps into my lap and changes the channel of my new plasma TV from ESPN to iCarley, I’ll try to think of the lesson I learned from Latavia and realize just how blessed I am.

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by Richard Harris