Now it’s time to say goodbye


By Gary Abernathy - gabernathy@timesgazette.com



Some parting thoughts…

My final day here is Friday, having taken on a new challenge in county government.

I’m glad I was able to be here for The Times-Gazette’s 200th anniversary. It was a milestone I’m proud to be part of, as is the rest of our staff.

I know the plans for The Times-Gazette going forward which have been put into place by our regional publisher, Bud Hunt, and the paper will be in good hands, guided by local people who love our community.

Jeff, Sharon, Brenda, Ann, Chuck, David, Tracie, Ryan, Nola, carry on. Thanks to each of you and the other staff members who came and went over the past seven years. You’re the best.

I’ve had a series of interesting adventures in life, some good, some great, some bad, all informative. I’m blessed by the support of my family – my wife, Lora, my children, Chrissy, Scott, Jonathan and David, along with my parents and my sister, Ann. That’s my core support group.

I’ve been blessed with longtime friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, many going back to school days at Lynchburg-Clay. My longtime friend Anthony Conchel, a fellow scribe and ink-stained wretch, is always there to commiserate or celebrate, whichever is called for. Thanks AC.

And I thank God — for his mercy, for his grace, and for answering prayers, even if sometimes the answer is no.

Every word of kindness or support from readers has meant a lot, whether in a note in the mail, an email, a text, a passing comment at the grocery store or stopping in the office for a brief visit.

In my first column when I came back here in September of 2011, I wrote of some differences since my first tenure here from 1983-1991, noting, “I don’t know how much people really change over the course of a lifetime, but I do know that at age 55, I’m not the same person I was at 35. I’m not as sure that I know everything that I was once convinced I knew.”

I’m 62 now, and that sentiment remains as true as ever.

In case you’re not completely worn out with my columns and commentary, you can visit my new website at www.garyabernathymedia.com, where I’ll keep writing and add some other fun stuff as time goes by.

It’s impossible to look back on the last seven years without acknowledging the issue that has dominated local news during that period to one extent or the other — Drew Hastings.

In September 2011, I was getting my feet wet here while Drew was running for his first term as mayor. I didn’t know Drew, but after interviewing him a few times and getting to know him better, I saw in him a flawed but well-intentioned person, an opinion that hasn’t fluctuated much.

In a November 2011 column shortly after his first election, I wrote that the attacks, sometimes vicious, that Drew experienced were not representative of Hillsboro.

“Despite our temperance movement background, our town as a whole is not overly judgmental,” I wrote, adding, “I know very well our citizens’ willingness to overlook faults, being a beneficiary of it.”

As I’ve written many times, Drew brings on some of his own problems. He didn’t really learn the art of consensus building, and he too often takes a bull-in-a-china-shop approach. But he’s also a creative thinker and a visionary, and his outsider status freed him from local family, political and business loyalties. He has undoubtedly improved the city, both as a private citizen and as mayor.

But his main strength was also his main fault in the eyes of many, which often made it almost impossible for him to build consensus even when he tried — he’s not from here, not part of the club. Rest easy. Only a year-and-a-half to go.

I still think the majority of people in Highland County are more loving, forgiving and understanding than they are judgmental, condemning and accusatory. The majority just doesn’t make as much noise.

We need to do a better job across our nation, and locally, too, of letting go of old grudges and being able to disagree without being disagreeable. We need to be able to maintain friendships and respect even if we hold polar opposite views on officeholders, ideologies and issues.

A reader of my Washington Post columns recently sent me a lengthy and thoughtful email on that subject. I can’t do any better than to close with her final paragraph.

She wrote, “We are each only here for a short time. Let’s make this world as hospitable, harmonious and righteous as possible for each other, and not appoint ourselves judges of everyone else until we truly understand what burdens they carry.”

Amen.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456, or follow on Twitter @AbernathyGary.

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By Gary Abernathy

gabernathy@timesgazette.com