An old saying goes “If these walls could talk.”
I want to change that just a little, to “If this brown table could talk.”
The brown lunch table at The Beverly Review, about a seven-foot long table that looks like one you’d find in school cafeterias, isn’t glamorous. It’s where a lot of laughs and venting take place, and it’s widely known around the office that if you leave food on the table, it’s up for grabs.
(And it’s also where I was offered the job here at The Review about 18 months ago. So, we got off on the right foot!)
In recent months, however, it’s become an emotional bastion—for me, and several community residents who have visited for 30 minutes, an hour, or two-plus hours for articles published in The Review.
These weren’t lighthearted stories. These were looks into people’s personal lives, with tears shed, and many more likely shed if visitors didn’t pause for a few moments. I’ve gotten a little watery-eyed myself.
When I was younger, the only time I came into The Review was to drop off my NFL picks for the weekly Power Points pool the newspaper has run for years. Probably still in my pre-teens, I excitedly told an employee—who was on the phone—what I was in the office for; she quickly told me to quiet down for a moment, presumably because she was, you know, on the phone.
I didn’t know what stood in the rest of the office—how many people were back there, what everyone’s offices looked like. I just knew it was this little facility that churned out a thick paper every week.
Of course, I’ve learned a little more on how it operates these past 18 months—and in recent months, at that brown lunch table, a few residents have sat down for long talks that turned into stories that ran in the paper.
Here’s to Ryan Rusch, a 24-year-old from Beverly who visited with his mom, Joanne, in April. Ryan’s been through a lot. Born with a congenital heart defect, he’s had six surgeries. In 2006, he was assaulted and robbed at Beverly Park, which led to more health problems. Every time he has surgery, he says, he doesn’t know if that light above the operating table will be the last thing he sees.
For two and a half hours, we, along with his mom, sat at the brown table to talk about his life and getting more support for a Roar and Walk for Little Hearts fundraiser to benefit Mended Little Hearts of Chicago last month. His story appeared in the May 4 issue.
Here’s to Janet Howard-Moore, also of Beverly, who brought her Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to the brown lunch table in March. She received it February for her actions 51 years ago, when, as 14-year-old, she participated in “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., a violent interaction between civil rights marchers and police. Howard-Moore was injured—how, exactly, she doesn’t know—but she is a part of history. And that heavy medal she allowed me to hold is impressive proof of that. Her story appeared in the March 16 issue.
Here’s to Crystal Brown-Lewis, another Beverly resident, who visited to share her children’s book “My Mama is Angel,” based on how her close friend, Tracey Hayes, helped her children cope with her death from breast cancer. Her story appeared in our “Power of Pink” section for the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk on May 4.
Here’s to Rick Conners. Rick lost his wife, Sandra, a longtime Beverly resident, on May 9. The next day, he visited the office to see if we could run some information on her passing. I was stunned when, after I asked when she died, he answered, “Yesterday.” About a month later, he visited for an hour-long discussion at the brown table about his wife. Her story appeared in the June 8 issue.
To all of them, I send my support, admiration and condolences. I invited you into the office, and you welcomed me into your lives. Maybe telling your stories was therapeutic for you—as Conners said in regards to his wife, “I like talking about her.” But it was certainly healthy for me to sit down at and just talk—to visitors who went from strangers to people pouring their souls out.
I suppose I could go on some lecture about the need for people to put down their cell phones and just have a good, one-on-one conversation once in a while. At the kitchen table. Around a coffee table. Or even in the car. But maybe we don’t need to lecture right now.
Instead, I just want to send a small thank-you to those people who have sat down for discussions at the brown lunch table at The Beverly Review. I hope our articles helped—and did you justice.
I know I’m better off having heard your stories. And if that brown table a few feet away from my desk could talk, it would say the same thing.