Monday, February 27, 2006

Wonderful 'Town'

God willing and the Creek don't rise, then at about 4 a.m. today, a new feature will debut on the Daily News' Web site: "Big Town, Big Heart: Celebrating New Yorkers Who Make a Difference." That same feature will appear Monday through Thursday in the New York City editions of the Daily News (and on Mondays only in the national edition). It's hitting the streets now. Chances are you'll see it before I do, as I've got to grab some z's before awakening at the unearthly hour of 10 a.m. to meet a pal in the city.

All of which is a rather pedestrian way of saying that today is the most important day of my working life.

"Big Town, Big Heart" (there's that link again in case you didn't click the first time) is what I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember — really, since childhood, if I had been able to articulate it back then. Four days a week, the News will publish a full-page article that I've assigned and edited about a person who goes above and beyond the call of duty for others.

These stories, as I envision them, are not sappy, sentimentalized hagiographies, but simple, factual portraits of everyday heroes. They take a person like yourself — one who, whether he or she realizes it or not, has a positive mission in life — and show what that person does that touches others' lives. In the course of reading it, perhaps you'll be attracted to that person's goodness, and it'll make you want to take your light out from under a bushel. Or perhaps it'll make you feel glad that, even if your good deeds aren't always recognized, someone who shares your heart is appreciated. Either way, I don't think you'll read anything quite like it anywhere else.

What I really love about editing this feature is what it has taught me already, and continues to teach me, about what's really important in life. As you know if you're a regular reader (or if you just know me from Gawker), I am a Christian, soon to be a Catholic, who strives to live out her faith. I have strong opinions about many issues, religious and political, and I am glad for the opportunity to express them on my blog. But one of the main tenets of my faith is something that's very hard to keep in mind from day to day: Neither Christians, nor people of any one faith or political bent, have a lock on goodness.

Jesus said that no one is good except God, and the Psalms likewise say that there is not one who does good — that is, no one who does it of his or her own volition. The motivation to do good can only come from God. Therefore, while good deeds alone cannot bring salvation, they do indicate that the doer in some way hears God's voice. In that sense, everyone who does good is connected, through that good action, by a silver thread to everyone else who does good. As God's children, we're supposed to look for those connections — and when we find it, we will find agape, brotherly love.

To that end, as I research and assign subjects for "Big Town," I'm finding myself fascinated by the variety. Every week — and I've already assigned the first three weeks of stories — there are people who come from different sides of the political spectrum, who may have strong faith or no faith. Yet, I believe that readers who might disagree with the subjects' views will find themselves, like me, touched by their stories.

Good works unite people, and better yet, they unite us at the highest level of our humanity. I'm enormously excited, as well as gratified, to be involved in something that, on any given day, will be read by people from all walks of life and affect each of them in much the same uplifting way.

Now, I should really get those z's — especially since I'm working two jobs these days. (I'm still at the News' national edition as well.) Apologies to all to whom I owe e-mails — hopefully you'll agree when you read "Big Town" that I have a good excuse for wanting to give my typing fingers a rest at the end of the day. Thanks very much to everyone (including Max, whom I have no doubt reads this) for your prayers over the past year. If you like "Big Town," please let the News know.