(Blogger’s Note: John Troutt Jr., grew up in the family business delivering newspapers on a bike, ultimately serving as editor and publisher of The Jonesboro Sun for many decades. He was my boss for eight years. Retired now, he lives in Jonesboro.)
Dear Mr. Troutt:
There are so many things you want to share with someone who had such a profound effect on your life’s direction.
I could tell you how much it meant in all the years after our time together at The Jonesboro Sun that you’d welcome me to drop by for a visit and pick your brain for wisdom in the publishing world. And it did.
I could tell you it shaped me to watch you publish a daily newspaper, adhere to admirable journalistic standards and ethics, but also understand the role and impact you could have on community development because of what, and who, you knew. And it did that, too.
And I could tell you there never before was, or never will again, be another workplace that felt so much like home. To this day, that newsroom – its sounds and smells and all those wonderful people who put ink on paper – well, it’s a fond remembrance of home. All those things are true enough.
But for old time’s sake, what I’d rather tell you, Mr. Troutt, (I could’ve never called you anything else) is a story – a story about a safety net. You gave me this story, and I’ll bet you never thought a thing about it.
After eight years working for you, one day the phone rang. It was the phone call I’d imagined since I was 14. It was my dream job calling. A political campaign called and needed a press secretary, and they needed one yesterday. The election was six months away. Career-wise, it was both the opportunity, and the risk of a lifetime. Success could mean landing exactly where I’d always imagined my life’s calling. Failure would put me abruptly on the street without a paycheck. The thought of hungry children is frightening when you’re 29 years old – any time, I guess, really.
It was scary, but I walked in to your office to explain my honest dilemma. You sat there listening without much expression smoking a Camel as you’d normally do. You were never an easy read, Mr. Troutt. I think it’s just part of why I liked and respected you so much.
“A leave of absence is something we could do, if it’s something you really want to try. Your job will be here, if you even need a job,” you said, so matter of factly, and resolving my huge burden in the blink of an eye. “We’re not going anywhere.”
All of a sudden the burden was lifted and the freedom to try something potentially rewarding but incredibly scary was mine. You’d made it both possible AND safe in an instant. In the event I fell, you’d handed me a safety net.
There’s no doubt how grateful I was as the time. The mere thought of risking a single week without a paycheck back in those days was enough to make me break out in hives. But as the many years have passed, I’ve reflected on that kind gesture so many times, and I’ve realized the invaluable impact it had on my future direction. It’s one of a handful of defining moments for which I’m so thankful. And I want you to know I’ve always tried to pay that lesson forward, Mr. Troutt, creating a safety net for others, when I could, and when it seemed the right thing.
In a search for some personal wisdom just the other day I listened to a man talk about achievement. He talked about the reward that comes from achievement in really difficult circumstances, and he said this:
“We can’t accomplish anything real without the possibility of failure.”
I know what he means, and I agree so much, but it sure was nice that one time early on when a wise man who’d been in my shoes gave me a safety net in case I fell. Everyone should be so lucky to feel the exhilarating freedom of walking a high wire with a safety net that protects and reassures.
Thank you so much for the gesture and the lesson, Mr. Troutt. I’m grateful beyond the words this keyboard will create.
Very sincerely yours,