As a teen in the mid-1950s I began to develop the vague notion there may be more to life than hotrods and Friday nights at the drive-in. The revelation was, as we said back then, a real drag, daddy-o.
So what to do with one's life? Since high school essay writing was always fun, and since I am nosey by nature, a newspaper career path made some sense.
There was this, too. I came of age with the outstanding Los Angeles Times where I discovered Jim Murray, the late Pulitzer Prize winning sports columnist.
I wasn't a sports nut then or now, but I was drawn to Murray's writing style. He was the first to teach me you can tell a story or drive home a point with irreverence and humor.
One day I opened the Times to read his nail-it-to-the-wall summary of Indy 500 Memorial Day racing. "Gentlemen," he wrote, "start your coffins."
It was at that moment I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
It led to a life of newspapering, mostly in New Mexico, and a lifetime of column writing, mostly weekly, but more recently every two weeks. I'm no Murray but I have had some success with the theory that news can be a heavy and serious business and that weary readers — some, not all — occasionally like a little sweetener in their morning coffee.
Each deadline has produced some offbeat idea, occasionally well-received, some borderline, some duds. This week though, nothing. This week, funny doesn't feel good. So I turn this over now to Max Lucado, an almost New Mexican.
Max grew up just across the border in Andrews, Texas. We call Max a local boy.
He preaches at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio and, in my opinion, is as good a Christian writer as you will find. Lucado spoon feeds spirituality and the reader leaves his table knowing he has had a full meal.
He writes books faster than I write columns.
Here, then, a poignant Lucado take on the madness clouding and confusing our minds.
"It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
"These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
"The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
"Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
"Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
"Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won't you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
"This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
(Ned Cantwell — firstname.lastname@example.org — thanks Max Lucado for his inspiration and hopes his readers celebrate a Christmas of peace and love.)