Year three - Joel Hall

Last Friday, after much trial and tribulation, I finally turned the ripe old age of three.

By that, I mean to say, last Friday officially marked my third year as a reporter at the Clayton News Daily.

While it was a special occasion for me, there were no bells, whistles, or party hats involved. Aside from the box of office doughnuts that someone was nice enough to bring that day, there wasn't any cake, either.

Friday was a day like any other, in that it was a reminder of why I don't do this job for the bells, whistles, hats, or cake.

At 8:15 a.m., that day, I arrived at a local high school to interview one of the county's star students. Out of all the students of this school, this one student was selected as being the most well-rounded academic achiever among her peers.

It was refreshing to see somebody with so many dreams, so much hope for the future, and so many self-expectations. Like a rose growing from concrete, this person defied peer pressure and humble means to align her future with success, and I respected that.

I returned to the newsroom later that morning after shoveling down a quick breakfast. While my computer was still booting up, I was called to report on a ceremony honoring a man who was retiring after putting his life on the line for Clayton County residents for the last 30 years.

This decorated police officer had done much of that work between the hours of 10 p.m., and 6 a.m., a time when most of us are sleeping, and when many of the things happening are highly suspect. People from near and far came to honor this man, after he completed his final morning watch.

During the ceremony, I had the privilege of seeing strong men with guns and handcuffs show emotions that people outside of the world of law enforcement rarely get to see. I saw grown men embrace, choke up, and shed tears for a friend and mentor who was leaving law enforcement to start the next chapter of his life.

In the late afternoon, I traveled to a local senior center where members of the center were celebrating Mardi Gras. While Fat Tuesday had already passed, these senior citizens weren't letting that dampen their party.

Senior centers can sometimes be sterile environments, but this center, at least for two hours, was transformed into a festive carnival, complete with feather boas, funky costumes and homemade Mardi Gras floats. People, well over 70 years of age, danced, competed for beads, and shared the advice and knowledge that one gains over a lifetime.

In three years of working here, I have covered heartbreaking political meetings, in which citizens get, figuratively, thrown under the bus, murders that destroy entire families, and natural disasters that destroy entire neighborhoods. The thing that keeps me going, however, is that I am still able to find things about this county to smile about.

Friday was one of those days that made me smile. Despite the trials that take place in Clayton County, there are still people out there innovating, protecting, celebrating, and preparing for the future.

While it's a tremendous task to accurately disseminate the thoughts, ideas, and sentiments of other people, I consider it an honor to be there on the front lines, seeing all the county has to offer.

Despite the late nights and skipped meals, it's been a great three years, ones that I can look back on, be proud of, and smile.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.