In a small town the juiciest news rarely comes from the newspaper, radio or television. It’s spoken and spread in huddled circles of people drinking coffee, getting their hair cut, or sitting at a sporting event. It’s even whispered among groupings of devout churchgoers attending weekly services and grocery shoppers conversing over the produce. And these days, it’s most certainly spread in the form of texts on smart phones and Facebook pages.
That’s really where the headlines of a small society are published.
Local law enforcement agencies have released minimal information about a recent tragedy in Moab that involves several notable, longtime Moab family members, all of whom have contributed of themselves in service to this community over dozens of years. But on the street it’s all the talk.
Scuttlebutt about my personal life has at times been the headline in these same circles; it’s not fun to be the focus of conversation when a judging village finds an incident to be socially unacceptable or embarrassing. I find it interesting as a point of societal study that many topics are too sensitive to print in the newspapers, but they are the main focus of conversation elsewhere. Laws governing libel, slander and I hope journalistic restraint restrict the printed word to a much greater degree than the human tongue.
There are times when a single event can over-cloud other pertinent news. My heart has hurt when friends have been the topic of gossip circles and group activities, because the public eye is a much harsher judge in a small town than any court of law might be. And when sensitive incidents do occur, we as citizens have to hope that our law enforcement and courts will handle the cases fairly or pass them on to other jurisdictions.
Can we as individuals and community members take a moment for restraint when tragedies wrack our town – not just now, but as we move forward? In reality, we are all just within a wrong move, an accidental occurrence, or a poorly planned action that keeps us from being on the wrong side of the law, whether in the public’s eye or in terms of judicial rules.
There is a fine line between acceptance and rejection, loss and gain, ill will and public admiration, and most of us don’t consider that delicate balance until we experience it ourselves or through another person.