By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
Jell-O is brain food. As a kid I had heard this not even knowing what it meant. Later in life I realized it was a joke but a joke I like to hear. I never thought I would hear it used in a way to express someone’s opinion of one’s writing ability.
A Christmas party was held in our small city and among the attendees was our small town newspaper editor, William. William was an easy target when it came to typos or any incorrect information. After all William was the only guy in town with that kind of exposure. No one else would dare step forward and put themselves on the line like that. It was much easier to do nothing, play it safe and look for reasons to ridicule the one that does. William was even made fun of for the Chinese Proverb he used as a statement of his endeavors; “It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” In this case “the darkness” obviously represented ignorance.
At some point during the party one of our citizens had enjoyed the eggnog a bit too much and decided to strike up a conversation with the Editor. He told William that each night before he goes to bed he eats a bowl of Jell-O and reads Williams weekly newspaper. William found that interesting and asked him why. His answer was, “That way I have nothing in my stomach and nothing on my mind.”
Over the years I have thought how funny that was and how many applications it could be used in. But I also know how painful that must have been to William. The newspaper was his livelihood and, as the editor and creator of the weekly editions, his baby.
The truth is each citizen of our little city knew how important this newspaper was to our community. It brought the news of the birth, education and marriage of our children. It brought to us the news of the heroics of our school teams and the beauty of our pageants. It brought us the deaths of our family, friends and acquaintances. I also know many times the patron delivering the joke had rushed to see his name, the name of his child, wife or his championship walking horse there in print along with a photo. He wanted his endeavors shared with the world and expected William to do the honors.
William knew they joked about him but he also knew they bought his papers and more importantly he knew why. I suppose as a writer we all feel unappreciated at times. I have thought how lucky William was to know that his work was read every night before this patron went to bed. As a writer that may be enough.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Enjoy your Jell-O.