On Point by Andrew Holota
Most journalists in the mainstream media are exposed to a daily diet of public input, including face-to-face exchanges, telephone calls, email and social media.
As such, we experience a wide range of dialogue, from intellectual and insightful, through emotion-based venting, to downright ugly, personalized vitriol.
Social media is king when it comes to that last category.
It’s not difficult to become cynical about people’s capacity to examine an issue and respond without resorting to derision.
Yet occasionally, an exchange occurs that restores my deepest faith in people and their conviction in upholding values I believe most of us hold dear.
I’d like to share with you such a scenario, which has unfolded since my column last week detailing my recent encounter with drinking and driving laws.
In writing and publishing the piece, I was anticipating some harsh (and deserved) criticism.
The response was overwhelmingly the opposite. A sampling of the emails I received:
“Your column this past week was greatly appreciated and well received. It has caused many of us to reflect on our own behaviour and smarten up.”
“… you will probably never know the positive impact that it will have on other dads who may be in the same boat! There was a time in my own life when something similar could have happened.”
“I wanted to commend you for the courage that it took to write your column this week. I hope a lot of people read it and learn from your mistake.”
“Thank you for … accepting responsibility. You may have started people thinking and that could be the start of some change.”
“Well done. Mistakes happen, it is what we do after that matters … you clearly already know this.”
“I hope that many others will take your words seriously and look “at the moment” before making a decision that may make an impact in changing their lives.”
“I honour your courage and integrity to tell your truth in such a public way.”
“I’m sorry to hear what seemed like a good idea at the time turned into a life lesson but am sure your daughter hasn’t lost her admiration for her dad. I bet she respects you for owning up and, like all of us, has a reminder of how lucky you were that no one was physically hurt.”
“Just wanted to say that it was a very brave and admirable thing that you did. We all make mistakes… what we do after demonstrates our character.”
I am extremely humbled.
I am uplifted and inspired.
Within those comments, and there were many more, lies another important lesson for others who may be facing a situation in which there is a decision to step up, or stay in the safety of shadows.
As much as it may be frightening to tell the truth, or to do what is right, please seize the opportunity.
Have faith that many, many people in our society have not lost the compassion and capacity to reach out and offer support.
Take strength in the fact that the basic social tenets of honesty and accountability have not deteriorated in these days of social media and a maelstrom of mixed messaging.
There may be judgment, yes, but this experience has convinced me that the principle of restorative justice remains alive and strong.
To those who took the time to communicate, my sincere thanks.
And thank you on behalf of everyone who may one day find themselves weighing the value of responsibility.
As the expression goes, it’s priceless.
Andrew Holota is the editor of The Abbotsford News