The day had been going well until a reader entered the Roundup's lobby, demanding to speak to me. He held in his hand a copy of the paper's Christmas Day issue, which featured a front-page story I'd written about an unmarried 20-year-old girl who'd given birth to her baby in a friend's house, as the wholly unprepared friend improvised the role of midwife.
Despite all the things that could have gone wrong and led to the baby's harm or death, everything went perfectly. The baby was happy and healthy. So what was wrong?
"This is immoral!" the reader raged. "It tells teenagers that if they have babies out of wedlock, they'll get their picture on the front page of the local newspaper! What would you tell young people who read this story?" he demanded.
I thought for a moment, then came up with this: "Judge not, lest ye be judged?"
"Don't preach to me!" the man said, his jugular vein threatening to explode. "I'm not judging anyone! I'm just saying these kids are immoral!"
"You're not judging them, yet you say they're immoral?" I asked.
You're not listening to me!" he blustered. "Your newspaper is immoral for putting this story on the front page! I'm not a judgmental person! But this is immoral!"
This reader leads me to suggest a New Year's resolution for us all: Throughout history, humans have tried directing anger and hatred and judgment at others sometimes, as in this case, at complete strangers. To my knowledge, this approach has never brought any two souls closer together or solved a single problem.
In the year 2002, let's give tolerance and love and compassion a try, even toward those of whom we may not approve. Let's remember that our judgments of others reveals nothing except our own need to judge.
Mike Burkett, reporter