The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Finding the sacred in everyday life
What gifts are important enough to keep?
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Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. \x34I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. ...
Simply Faithful
Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. Every day I got to listen as people told me about the things that were most important to them, the things that were sacred. But the newspaper industry was changing and few papers could afford to have an army of speciality reporters. So, I moved to cover the suburbs where, as luck would have it, they have plenty of religion, too. Eventually, children came into the picture. One by birth and another two months later by foster care/adoption. I struggled to chase breaking news and be home at a decent hour, so I made the move to what we journalists call the dark side: I took a job in public relations. (Don't worry. I work for a great non-profit, so it's not dark at all.) When I gave my notice at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, the executive editor asked me to consider writing a column on a freelance basis. She didn't want the newspaper to lose touch with its religious sources, and she still wanted consistent faith coverage. I was terrified. It took me about 10 months to get back to her with a solid plan and some sample columns. And so it began, this journey of opening up my heart to strangers.
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By simplyfaithful
Dec. 3, 2012 4:36 p.m.

ChristmasOrn4For several years now I’ve talked about simplifying my gift-giving, buying fewer pieces of plastic and providing more memories. And each year, I stumble and fall back into that great feeling of having piles of presents to open.
I doubt I find that perfect balance this Christmas either, but a book out by Susan Mullally has me thinking – in a new way – about the gifts I give and their meaningfulness. Mullally is an assistant professor of art at Baylor University and she spent three years photographing people who are homeless, or on the edge of homelessness, with an item they treasure, an item they’ve kept with them through life’s upsets.
There, under a bridge, stands a former plumber holding a wheat-back penny from 1945, the year his mother was born. A man with four college degrees poses with his chess and backgammon set. A retired cosmetologist proudly shows her great-grandmother’s antique 7UP bottle.
I read the book, “What I Keep: Photographs of the New Face of Homelessness and Poverty” ($34.95, Baylor University Press), in one short sitting. I’d look first at the portrait and then read the short interview. With the turn of each page, I wondered what item I would have chosen for my portrait, and I wondered if I had ever given anything of real value.
Am I the kind of mother whose son will remember her birth year and treasure our relationship? Are any of the gifts I’ll be wrapping destined to be remembered years from now, or will they be donated to charity before I pull out the lights and the tinsel next year?
Usually Mullally’s photographs are printed so large that it’s as if the people in the pictures are standing next to you. I can only imagine how powerful those art exhibits are when you stand eye to eye with veterans, cancer patients, former air traffic controllers and recovering drug addicts. People who probably had lives full of stuff at one time. People who have had to make that choice of what to carry with them and what to leave behind.
I think I’ll take another look at my gift list.

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