Back at home and finding grace

Published 9:39 pm Thursday, October 9, 2008

The peculiarity of my current situation didn’t really hit home until Thursday, when my high school librarian called to ask me to speak to her literary club.

Perhaps the passage of time (more than a quarter-century by now) caused her to forget just what a pain I was way back when. Maybe she just has an especially forgiving heart. Who knows?

It’s easier for me to believe that she read about my new position with the Suffolk News-Herald, saw the tiny photo that ran with the article and was unable to make the connection between the middle-aged, round, bald guy with a hat who stared from the page and the young, good-looking (in my own memory, at least) brat she watched trying to stoke the coals of his love life in her library.

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Still, we recognized each other by name on the phone and had a nice conversation that apparently only one of us thought must have come from an old episode of The Twilight Zone.

It’s the kind of thing I thought I was prepared for when I accepted the position here as managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. I even expected to encounter a minor skeleton or two escaping from my old closets. But I didn’t think I’d encounter the goodwill I’ve been shown.

Having spent my teenage years and a short time in my 20s living in Suffolk, I came to know a long list of people in the area whom I utterly left behind as I carried on with life after college. I was my own man, out to make my own way in the world, and I had no real use for the things of my “childhood.”

Oh, the arrogance of youth.

But then there’s grace.

The prodigal son returns home and finds the welcoming committee chaired by the same people he’d treated with such disdain back in the days when he’d thought the world was so big he could afford to squander relationships.

It turns out, of course, that the world shrinks as we get older, and we sometimes find ourselves at the mercy of those we’ve treated poorly in the past. It’s the old adage all over again: Be careful whose hands you step on while you’re on the way up the ladder, for you may need them to pick you up when you fall from the heights.

Back in Suffolk after my own sort of prodigal trip, it’s good to know there are such gracious people ready to welcome me home. It’s a blessing to be back in Surprising Suffolk.

RES SPEARS is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at 757.934.9616 or at