Laura Newberry is from the University of Central Florida. During her time at WWFF11 she spent a considerable amount of time getting to know Ramona, a shelter resident who’s pursuing her dreaming despite having a debilitating disease.
Ramona was itching to tell me her story. I was interviewing her in hopes of snagging the perfect quote to compliment my piece on narcotics, but she would sandwich in random facts about her life that would unravel my investigative direction.
She told me about her daughter, a senior at University of South Florida majoring in health sciences, and sadly admitted that she hadn’t seen her in years. She told me about her debilitating muscular dystrophy, which led her to abandon her artistic ambitions. She told me about her fiancé, her first love, who died four years ago of a drug overdose while sleeping beside her.
She told me to keep focused on my career, that I had my whole life ahead of me, and wished me luck.
Ramona broke me out of my journalistic tunnel-vision. It’s easy to become enveloped in an assignment and completely overlook the experience of meeting unique and inspiring individuals. This time I savored the moment and relished in Ramona’s honesty.
Here was this bright, articulate woman living in a homeless shelter, explaining to me exactly how she got there. She wasn’t embarrassed. She was blatant and clear in her message. She didn’t make excuses for her homelessness. She took responsiblity for her situation. Her place of residence, or lack of one, doesn’t define who she is.
She didn’t give me the award-winning quote I wanted. Nothing especially shocking came out of her mouth, but her enlightened sense of self will stay with me in a way that beats the best of headlines.
I can’t say for sure where this brush with homelessness will lead me, but after today I have a clearer understanding of what it means to be a journalist. I now know that the most rewarding days on the job might not reap the socially significant stories I seek — and I’m OK with that. I could use a few more Ramonas in my life.