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This is written by John Masters
For many years, I worked in the Records Management industry. This discipline has moved from merely being concerned with what’s in the file room to managing the myriad types of content, both paper and electronic, maintained by every enterprise. It is a fun and challenging industry.
While I’ve always been technical and computer literate, some years ago I realized I needed to become more literate with programming and the internet as my industry moved towards being more technical. As more a “doer” than a “reader,” I started out creating some websites. These turned out OK, and I did learn a lot. I was asked to create a few other sites, some for a small stipend, some as gratis work.
After moving and settling here in Tampa some years ago, I joined a local Methodist Church. Although it’s a reasonably large church, I was fortunate enough to become friends with the two ministers. Subsequently, I assumed the role of redesigning and maintaining the church’s website. It really was lacking, and while I’m not the greatest web designer in the world, I knew I could make it look better.
A few years ago I began to explore blogging as a way to learn other aspects of the web as it moves from static HTML to more interactive types of programming.
After building and spending some time tinkering with my WordPress-run blog, I was feeling confident about my skills. I had an idea for a way to drive traffic to the church website, and make it interactive for the members. I approached the ministers about an idea for something that came to be called “The Barnabas Project.”
The project is named for the friend and colleague in ministry of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Barnabas was a source of support, encouragement, and inspiration to Paul. In fact, the name was interpreted as meaning “son of exhortation” or “consolation”. Barnabas was the person who was Paulâ€™s advocate to the disciples after his conversion. Without Barnabas, what would have happened to Paul? With Barnabas, the world was changed.
The idea for the project was to allow anyone to visit the Barnabas Project Blog and leave a story about the people in their life that had made a differenceâ€¦the people that had inspired and encouraged them along life’s way. For those people not comfortable writing their story on-line, we had arranged to have the youth available to enter hand-written stories. I created an instruction page in both paper format, and on-line and of course installed the blog software and configured the site.
To kick-off the project, the Senior Minister preached a sermon on an early January Sunday in 2004 using the story of Barnabas as the sermon text. I happen to think it was one of the best sermons he had preached in my three years at the church. At the end of the service, he called attention to a bulletin insert with instructions, and announced the blog.
Since this was my idea, I’d written an entry to start things off. I wrote about the person that had been the band director in my hometown in North Carolina. He was something of a legend, and a tough guy, but he was able to start you out in Junior High, and present a high school band that played the highest grade concert music and consistently received “excellent” ratings in the state band competition. I wrote about how it was this man who taught me that I could do most anything I set out to do, and he showed us all the discipline required to do it well. Those lessons have stuck with me throughout my life.
Well, our little project was out there, and after nearly a year I had not given it a lot more thought other than the occasional software upgrade. It never got the attention I’d hoped, but a number people posted some wonderfully touching stories and remembrances.
Just a little over a year after that kickoff, I was sitting in my office on an otherwise rather “blah” day. It was February, and even here in Florida there can be cool gray days. There was nothing special going on, and I was actually rather busy and under some stress. I remember it was a Wednesday.
My phone rang, and a rather deep scratchy voice on the other end of the line quietly asked, “Is this John Masters from Kings Mountain?” I said yes, and from the other end of the line I heard, “well this is Mr. Deal.” Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, as I had no idea why, after over 20 years since last speaking with my old Band Director, he’d be calling me. The blog entry never occurred to me. I’d written that over a year prior.
As the story came out, Mr. Deal’s brother in Arizona had been doing some genealogical research on the web. One of the results he’d come across was the blog entry I’d written. He sent the link to Mr. Deal back in my old home town. Since my mother is also retired as the nurse for the school system there (and it’s a small town besides), it wasn’t hard for him to get in touch with my mother to get my phone number.
He was calling to tell me about reading the story, and about how much it had meant to him. Believe me, it was probably a bit of a shocker, as I was one of the guys that was always pushing the envelope a little. We’d conducted some late night raids of putting realty signs in his yard. (Yeah, I know pretty tame by today’s standards, but we always thought we were rather daring.) We would never miss a chance to get into some mischief during marching band season.
We had a great time reminiscing about the band trip to play at Disney World, and a group of us throwing him, along with some of the other chaperones, into the hotel pool. We talked and laughed about some of the other goings-on and other people that had been in the band at the same time.
Once our conversation was over, I could only sit here at the desk quietly for a few minutes, and I got a bit choked up over how good this experience made me feel.
I couldn’t wait to share it with someone, so I called a good friend to tell him what had just happened. He reminded me of an important life lesson when he said, “Sometimes you don’t know if you are giving or getting.” How true that is. I thought I was creating something to let other people share their stories as a tribute to others, and then, out of nowhere my little blog idea had reached out across all that time and distance to bring back to my life this important person in such a warm way.
I am definitely one of the people that can get wrapped up in the bits and bites of technology, but an important lesson to remember is that these fabulous technologies can also bring great joy and fulfillment.