Small stories make up a life

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I think I will remember his hands the most, how they felt so rough from years of working as a mason contractor, yet seemed so soft as he tended a garden.

They were calloused hands that saw a lifetime of hard work — but they were also hands that taught his grandchildren to bait a hook, helped fight fires in his small town, raised a gavel at the Elks lodge meetings.

He seemed a study in contrasts. He was imposing, but his jowly face was quick to break into a smile. He loved animals, adopting one after another from a local shelter but favoring the same name for his dogs. He was quiet, yet everyone knew him — and not only because my mother’s family stretched for miles along the north fork of Long Island.

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He lived his entire life in a small town, where a cousin ran his favorite restaurant and the hospice nurses who helped him care for my grandmother became good friends.

I think his love for that sense of community helped inspire my own career at small newspapers. I have always believed, as I heard someone say once, that the “small stories are the big stories.”

My grandfather’s life was a long string of the sort of vignettes that would fill a small-town newspaper — he was a volunteer firefighter, a leader in his church, president of the Elks lodge. I still have a framed photo from the year he took my grandmother on a cruise, a gift from the club when he was named Elk of the Year.

I think of him, and others like him, anytime we publish an awards photo or attend a fundraising event or write about volunteers or take a photo of a giant vegetable.

Those are the stories that make up a life — our lives, our community’s life.

They may not matter to everyone, but they matter to those who mean the most.

Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at