During this past February break I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer for a communication's class at Onondaga Community College. I was invited about this time last year, so months prior to the media attention initiated this past summer. The topic, "Impact of Media on the Family", to share a different perspective of the interview process. In the past, this class's guest speakers are typically journalist, editors, producers, film makers, reporters, camera person, and other media related career paths. I'm sure I used the wrong "title" and missed some important roles unintentionally. It's a big team with many players, working together to deliver a story people want to watch and/or read.
This is a dual professor class, the newest addition to this team was intrigued when researching the class because the exposure to "real life" players was limited to the media aspect, leaving the victim and the reason for the story in the background, if not omitted completely. When first asked, I responded with "Of course, if you think I can help." Only God knew that a year from this conversation, my sister's kidnapping wouldn't be media coverage of the past but current events for the students sitting in the classroom.
I wasn't sure how to start or what to share with such a minimal amount of time to share from one family's perspective. With only thirty-five minutes to plant a seed of compassion, understanding, and empathy in the hearts of America's future media personnel. I prayed, prepared, and invited a friend. The day was more than I could have imagined. With only four students absent on this early Monday class, many stayed after class to ask more questions. This encouraged me so much.
I shared about my sister, Heidi M Allen's kidnapping, and asked how many had seen or read recent news coverage about her case. With inquisitive, solemn, and sad faces...every hand raised. Of course, they had assigned reading prior to my guest lecture but in addition, due to the intense coverage of the hearing...a cold case was fresh in their mind. This also opened the door to share about how media reporting has changed over the past couple decades, from my perspective.
Thankfully our family doesn't have this tragic of an experience with the media yet most families you watch or read about on the news have a less than positive experience they could share with you. I asked a few families of the missing to share a positive and negative interaction, or interview question with me that I could share with the class.
Sadly, not a single family could think of a positive experience off the top of their head but the negative and heart breaking ones were plentiful. So how do I express this in a way that reaches both the traditional and non-traditional college student?
The only way I could think of, to encourage them to put themselves in the shoes of the person they are filming, interviewing, and reporting on.
"Imagine you are interviewing your spouse, parent, sibling, neighbor, best friend, grandparent, or whoever that close person to you is." If you're like me, you've heard the "Put yourself in someone else's shoes." at least once in your lifetime.
To me, this will help you be better at whatever career you pursue in life. When we can empathize and put ourselves in the situation of another, we tend to respond instead of react. I ended our time together with a quote and a picture of Winnie the Pooh. I introduced the notion that the person they are interviewing could be them or a loved one since anything could happen while walking across campus, on the way home, or while we were sitting in the classroom. I was glad to see so many head nods in agreement.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to share with these future news media. If my short message helps even one person interview with grace, compassion, and empathy then our time together was a success. While "breaking news" is news, it's also someone's loved one, possibly still in shock, or twenty years later, thrust back into the shock with new discussions and information. If there was a way to receive feedback from the students, I'd ask, "How did our brief time together confirm or change your way of thinking, preparing, and interviewing?"
“You catch more flies with honey
Think of a difficult situation you've been in...
Two are better than one,
With this definition in mind, I realized I have a testimony and if the Holy Spirit placed my sharing on the hearts of these women and this church, then the least I could do was accept the invitation. Even after our meeting, I didn't have confidence yet in my heart but at the same time, I felt God's peace about the opportunity. I spent weeks in preparation, looking up verses I'd read many times before and seeking out new ones. I prayed and sought God's words to share with the women to attend. I prayed for strength to share and open hearts to receive.
One prayer I have each time I speak is for people to leave talking about Jesus and all that God did and continues to do in my life. This is my journey yet it's God's mission working through me.
We need God yet we also need others. I demonstrated this by having a few volunteers braid three different colors of flagging tape together. Two were of the same thickness and the other, white and an even thicker quality. The two colors represented us and the people in our lives with the white representing God. Do you remember the Bible verse I started with earlier in the blog, "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." After my guest braiders finished, I asked them to pull as I shared about the trials life might bring us. It took them a bit but eventually the braid broke.
Have you ever had a "squirrel" moment?
What were you doing that triggered a memory or thought about something very off topic?
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