Miracles happen now and then.
Eight decades ago, my grandmother convinced me. She used Easter as the example.
On Sunday, April 22, 1984, I used Easter as the Living section front, page 41, of what was then The Knoxville News-Sentinel.
As the relatively new and inexperienced managing editor, I belatedly came up with the idea – Three Faces of Easter. Such projects should have been finished days in advance of publication. My background was sports. I lived on deadline.
Vince Vawter, one of the all-time great professionals in journalism, listened to the concept and did not flee. He added it to his “just do it” list – get the daily paper together, see that all headlines were spelled correctly and that cutlines matched photographs, that the pages were in chronological order and 12 other duties.
Vince gave artist Dan Proctor some ideas for illustrations. We delegated two text blocks. Very talented Tom King would write about Easter fun, bunny rabbits and baskets of colorful eggs. He had experience. Christine Anderson agreed to describe Easter bonnets and fine fashions. She was an expert.
I wrote about faith. I knew enough from the Bible description of the Easter weekend to get the message across. That was my purpose, my motivation.
If I tried to preach a sermon, I risked losing half the potential audience. If I combined faith with fun and fashion, I reasoned that I might catch the entire crowd.
It worked. Back then, the newspaper had maybe 150,000 in Sunday circulation. Everybody apparently thought the page was for them. All feedback was positive. That was a minor miracle.
Editor Ralph Millett got a pleasant surprise. As I recall, the pastor at his church mentioned the page from the pulpit.
King took off on “Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail.”
That led to the dramatic search for Easter eggs, in bushes, flower beds and every clump of grass.
Tom even reported on the history of Easter eggs and the rabbit delivery service.
Christine marched right out with the Easter parade. She described what was “in” for each age group and wrote warmly of corsages and the comparison of women’s hats.
I introduced the page.
“Easter has three faces. It is an inspirational day of worship for millions, a million-dollar showtime for the frock-and-bonnet business and a bouncing playtime for children of all ages.
“The joyous religious message of Easter goes arm and arm with our spectacular East Tennessee collection of delicate dogwood blossoms. What a wonderful time of year for Christians to celebrate the greatest story ever told!
“And what a story … from the despair and consternation of crucifixion to the incredible success of Resurrection … small wonder that we remember, that we keep it alive and pass it on.
“Consider the depth of God’s love to swap His only son for the salvation of mankind.
“Consider the hurt of betrayal by a disciple, the defeat at the hands of the legal system, the horror of a crown of thorns.
“Consider how alone Christ must have felt when he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
“For a time, all seemed lost. It wasn’t.
“Consider the light that did, in fact, penetrate the darkness. Consider the impact it has had and still has on the world. Yes, the thought of the Resurrection is heavy. Some still don’t believe. Christians do. They understand that life after death only sounds impossible.
“Easter in a capsule is ‘He is risen.’”
I said then and now that Christmas is oh, so significant, but Easter is more meaningful – the vacant cross, the empty tomb, the sunrise of a new way of life.
Thirty-seven years ago, I said it is not easy to dismiss the tragedies of our time, poverty, prejudice, disasters, disease. Yet, we are taught to believe that for all things there is a purpose and that right eventually prevails over wrong.
How fitting that the beautiful Easter message combines with this beautiful place and this beautiful time of year.
Miracles really do happen now and then.
Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is email@example.com