I missed the memo about NPR.
I didn’t know NPR existed until I was in college. When I finally tuned in (literally), it was a revelation. The news programming kept me well-informed about what was happening in the world and the more creative stuff opened up a whole new world of entertainment to me. It was love at first listen.
NPR has enriched my understanding of just about everything. Whenever a youngster considering law school asks me for advice, the first thing I say is, “Are you nuts?” and the second thing I say is, “Start listening to NPR.” To be a good lawyer, you have to be a good thinker. And to be a good thinker, you have to understand context, nuance, and complexity. NPR is a great place to get that.
And now, living in Los Angeles, NPR is a survival strategy. I’m often stuck in traffic and thanks to NPR, I’m smarter for it. Two hours on the freeway? Fantastic! I’ll get all caught up on the news and maybe get an idea for a book to read or a movie to see.
NPR feeds my head and it also feeds my heart. I’ll always remember this story which was featured as part of the “This I Believe” series. Deirdre Sullivan distilled her belief system down to the simple instruction: “Always Go To The Funeral.” She described it this way:
“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
There was such clarity and kindness in this statement, and it revealed something about human relationships that I hadn’t fully contemplated. I was blown away and was moved to write to Deirdre to thank her. She wrote me back and I was thrilled. Here’s what she said:
Every tax dollar I’ve ever contributed and every penny I’ve ever pledged has been more than repaid by the experience of hearing Deirdre’s essay and having that bit of connection with her. It’s stuck with me and has made me a better person. Memo received.
Gentle reader, I promise not to make a habit of making this blog a political soapbox, but if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you have similar affections for public radio. Funding for public broadcasting is once again threatened and if you want to lend your voice to those who are speaking out against the contemplated cuts, I encourage you to go to http://www.170millionamericans.org to learn more and to get involved.
© 2011 Jamie Walker Ball