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Sarah Campbell: Thanks for the memories

Moving to Salisbury was never part of my life plan.

I had never even been here until the day I arrived for my interview almost four years ago to the day.

I never intended to take a job working for the Post, figuring I wasn’t going to move to an area where I knew absolutely no one. I thought the interview would be good practice.

But after spending a little time here, Salisbury felt like home.

My family and friends thought I was nuts after I accepted the job when Editor Elizabeth Cook called two days later. They thought I was even crazier when I packed my tiny Toyota Yaris with as many belongings as it would hold and moved in with a total stranger.

That stranger was former Post reporter Sarah Hall, someone I now consider a dear friend. I trusted it was safe to live with her since she worked at the paper. Luckily, I was right.

When life throws unexpected opportunities our way, it’s best to embrace them.

I’m in a similar situation now. I’ll be moving to Fayetteville next week to start a new position as a features writer. My final day at the Post is Wednesday.

When I accepted the job here I couldn’t fathom the people I would meet.

Candace Daugherty, a single mother of two who wiped tears from her eyes as she described the emotional toll homelessness took on her family. She was living in one of Rowan Helping Ministries’ transitional housing units at the time, making just $275 a month while she finished up a degree at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

I joined her family for her son’s birthday celebration – a moment I often think back to. His eyes lit up as Candace showed off the Oreo ice cream cake she had purchased at the grocery store, but she was disappointed she couldn’t afford the ground beef to make the hamburgers he requested.

A few months later, I spent more than three hours talking to 12-year-old Ethan Matthews and his family.

The boy had been a victim of bullying for years. He had trouble sleeping at night because he was so worried about what might happen the next day at school.

One of his stories still haunts me. He wet his pants after arriving home from school because he didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. The bullying had gotten so bad he decided to hold it instead of risk a confrontation in the bathroom.

These stories were hard to write, but by doing so I felt I was giving a face to an issue. At the heart, that’s what journalism is all about.

I didn’t become a journalist for the thrill of seeing my name in the paper every day or because I expected it to lead to a life of fortune and fame.

I was always drawn to journalism because I’m a storyteller. If you walk into the newsroom on any given day you’ll likely see my hands flying through the air as I share a story with a co-worker.

By finding human connections to stories, I hope I’ve become more human. The media often gets a bad rap as being heartless and cutthroat, but most of us aren’t like that.

There’s a quote in one of my favorite books that perfectly describes why I got into journalism.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it,” said Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Being a reporter has given me the chance to be a witness to some of the best and worst days of people’s lives.

I still vividly remember talking to Paul Bernhardt a day after his wife, Naomi, died in a car accident. He laughed as he recalled how he used to visit her father’s store to buy a loaf of bread so he could talk to her. The bed of his truck was filled with bread.

There was also Emily Snider, a woman who has driven a bus at Faith Elementary for more than 27 years. The children love her so much they board the bus with smiles on their faces and it’s not unusual for them to pick flowers while they are waiting for her to arrive.

Being a reporter at the Post has also led me down a number of unexpected paths.

I’ve learned to cook through my series “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Sarah.” I’ve done boot camp at the Salisbury Y. I’ve played table tennis with Senior Games champion Hazel Trexler-Campbell. I’ve gotten a lesson in how to play the bathtub bass from Foster Dionne during a trip to Trinity Oaks.

As I wind down my final days at the Post, it’s the people who keep popping up in my mind.

Just like my move to Salisbury, there’s no crystal ball telling me what’s going to happen in Fayetteville, but I’m sure the road ahead will be filled with people sharing their stories. That’s good enough for me.

Sarah Campbell is the Post’s lifestyle editor. Reach her in the future at contactsarahcampbell@gmail.com.

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