Knabb: Real news comes straight from the heart

Justin Runquist

I can’t wait for the day I read about myself on the cover of USA Today.

“Knabb mentors a young boy in inner-city Philly,” the headline might say.

Even more exciting, I would like to read something like, “Justin scores big date; falls in love with cute brunette.”

I think this is exciting stuff, but it’s too bad the front pages are reserved for better-looking men and women, such as Yasser Arafat, Ben Affleck and J. Lo.

It’s easy to think sometimes that these people are more important than we are. If we, the common people, ever do make the papers, we’ll know to turn to section D, page 22. These are the pages where we’d find the biggest news about our lives: birth proclamations, marriage announcements, job promotions and obituaries.

The good deeds and most magical moments in the common man’s world often go unnoticed. And that’s OK.

I’m convinced that for every murder story we read about in the papers or see on television, there are at least five more stories about people who are being cured of cancer. For every story about a corrupt businessman on Wall Street, there must certainly be stories about 10 more laypeople who spend their time serving the needy at a soup kitchen.

I don’t disagree with the business of the media – that is, putting global policy and celebrity gossip before the mushy everyday stuff.

I just try not to take world events too seriously. If I did, I’m convinced I’d walk through life like a spectator.

After cancer claimed my mother’s life this summer, I decided to look at the world my own way. No one else will ever tell me again what’s important and what’s not. Sometimes important lessons like this can only be learned in a hospital room or at a cemetery.

I’ll share with you an important story. I had an extraordinary experience last Sunday afternoon. I sat at my mom’s grave and took advantage of a rare chance to truly be alone.

First, I realized that her spot offered one of the most beautiful views in my hometown. The valley opened up to a mosaic of cornfields and large, stunning trees. The sun shined on my back and the wind blew through my hair. Birds sang and crickets chirped amid the quiet countryside. I felt my mother’s presence.

All of this reminded me of the gift of being alive.

That’s my new idea of what important news is. It consists of nothing but observations. It doesn’t step on anyone’s toes. And it makes me happy.

It wasn’t until my mother’s passing that I’ve truly learned to appreciate the sound of gentle rain on a Saturday morning, the laughter among friends over lunch and the talk with a girl under the stars.

Yes, I am selling you that old cliché, “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” Those roses are the reason you should get up every day and “fight the good fight,” as my buddy Steve says.

I like the advice U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas offered as he retired after learning he had cancer. In his book “Heading Home,” he wrote, “No man ever said on his deathbed, ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office.'”

In the last moments with my mother, I’m proud to say we spent our time singing our favorite songs and talking about the best vacations.

My mom and I recalled our drive down the most crooked street in San Francisco, the times we conquered the black diamonds in Aspen, the day my brother was born and the countless conversations we had over her overcooked dinners.

Everything we spoke about pertained to either God, love or happiness: perhaps the only truly important topics when it’s time for the summation of life.

Put your books down for a while this weekend. Walk through the Grotto. Party with friends. Listen to cars cruise down Lancaster Avenue. Call your parents. Celebrate at Mass on Sunday.

The best things in life really are free. They’re the small things that remind us of the privilege of being alive.