One of the things I’m going to miss most about working in TV news is meeting such amazing people everyday. I always joke that when you drive around in this WMC Action News 5 billboard you get a lot of unsolicited visitors. They stop by and want to tell you a story, suggest a story idea and sometimes just talk.
Today reminded why I love it: I had just eaten lunch at Caritas Village in Binghampton when I walked out to my logo’d car. A woman flagged me down and asked me if she could talk. She wanted to know if I ever did a story about a woman in her 50’s trying to get a job and struggling because she didn’t have computer skills. She told me she wants nothing but to work. She’s not ready to sit at home and not contribute to society or make a living. She started crying. She said she has years of retail experience but when she lost her bottom teeth she found it harder to get a job.
As she wiped tears from her eyes I reminded her that she is worth more than she’ll ever know. That she has something to offer to this world. And that she is the only person who can control how she reacts to this struggle.
Then she apologized for crying to me and said it was just hard to feel this way. I told her there was no need to apologize. Her struggles are real. And they remind me how important it is to recognize life’s little blessings; jobs, food on the table, transportation and family.
I’m going to miss moments like these…Moments that never make the news…Stories that go untold.
The opportunity to encounter people like her everyday just because I’m driving around a car with a news logo.
But then I realized I can still have these encounters, perhaps in a less public way. We all can.
My next challenge will be to seek these moments on my own, without the help of a TV station car. Truth is, these moments can happen everyday if we just take the time to notice people around us.
“Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.” Matthew 7:7
I’ve always been taught not to bury the lead so I’m just going to cut to the chase: I am leaving TV news to run my own business. You read that right, I’m officially becoming a full time small business owner, entrepreneur and freelance journalist all in one move. Read on to learn more about how this decision came to be and why I feel it’s so incredibly meant to be.
Three years ago I got an offer that I simply could not resist: to move to Memphis for my dream job as a Reporter at WMC Action News 5. It had been a dream of mine since I interned there in 2007. I said I wanted to come back and work in this market, at this station, with these people in five years. Well I got here in 4 and a half years. And I didn’t think beyond that.
Over the course of three years though, God has slowly revealed new purpose in my life in ways I could have never imagined. It’s why, as of March 1st, I will be leaving television news (after working since I was 17 years old) for a new dream: owning my own company, Forever Ready Productions, LLC.
If you’ve followed my work, you know I have a major passion for telling positive stories and working with non-profits. The good news is that is exactly what I will be doing in this new adventure. Already, in the course of two years, since we created the LLC, we’ve built relationships with so many non-profits and small businesses. I now get to focus on telling their stories.
Our first official client was Volunteer Odyssey. And shortly after that people started contacting us. Since then we’ve produced numerous videos for Catholic Charities (including the John Angotti Christmas Concert that aired on WMC Action News 5), Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, Volio and so many more. You can view all of that work on our website: www.foreverreadyllc.com.
But back to my TV career in Memphis for a moment: over three years I’ve been given some BIG assignments. The Tigers in the NCAA tournament, Grizzlies playoffs, a White House concert, Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes and Ferguson, Missouri riots. But what I’ve really enjoyed most is the stories that called people to action and created change (helping clear Lawrence McKinney’s record, the Kids & Guns story, the impact of WMC’s food and toy drives, empowering people to take back their community). It’s what helped lead me to this new adventure.
Over time, I believe that God began to open my heart to something more. It was actually something Justin Hanson, former reporter, now Covington Mayor, said to me on his last day at WMC Action News 5.
While I was an intern, Justin told me being a reporter at Action News 5 was his dream too. When I asked him how he was able to walk away from his dream job for a new one he said “Lauren, it’s because I have a servants heart and you do too. Sometimes God calls us to something more. I believe he has something big planned for you.”
He was right. At the core of it, I truly do have a servant’s heart. It’s why I got into the business in the first place. But now, that heart is calling me to something else.
The decision hasn’t come easy. It’s hard to think about walking away from your dream job for something new. But I truly believe that now is the time. I don’t want to look back and say “what if.”
I believe strongly that Scott and I were brought to Memphis for a reason. And it’s exciting to see it unfold.
And with that I will say: ONWARD. UPWARD.
NOTE: We found the testimony written below on three pieces of paper with my great grandmother’s things. She passed away on January 10th, 2016. She was a faithful woman and we’ve always known that but the testimony below shows just how faithful she was to God. Eternal rest onto her soul. My favorite part was the ending: “It is not where you’re from but where you’re going that counts.” Read on for more.
Marge Hoffman’s testimony at Valley Baptist Church near Baltimore, MD – 5/4/1997
“Good morning, for you who are visitors, I am Marjorie Hoffman. I was born almost 75 years ago in a farm community in south Alabama near the Gulf of Mexico – the nearest town was Bay Minnette and Diane Foster and husband are probably the only ones in the church who know where that is since they came from Pensacola area.
I was saved at age 13; and baptized in a running creek. I am not one to remember much, that’s my daughters job. What I come to say today is that:
I am free.
I am rich.
And it is forever.
I am free according to Romans 6:22 ‘Everyone who accepts God’s gift of forgiveness is set free.’
‘I have been redeemed not by corruptible things but by the precious blood of Jesus.’ (1 Peter 1:18-19)
‘Sin shall not have dominions over me for I am not under law but under grace.’ (Romans 6:14)
I am rich. ‘For God shall supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phillippians 4:19)
I have never hungry in my life. I was a ‘single parent’ before it was a popular description. God provided me with three jobs to survive and my daughter said ‘I didn’t know we were poor.’
‘I am to be anxious in nothing-but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make my request known to God.’ (Phillippians 4:6)
‘And his piece prevails and guards my heart and my mind through Christ Jesus.’ (Phillipians 4:7)
This is God’s promise and he never fails or goes back on a promise therefore I claim his promise.
I will never die. Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and life. Those who believe in me even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in ME will never die.’ (John 11:25-26)
I have God’s everlasting love as described in Romans 8:38-39 ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
My place of birth, ethnic background, social status, personal achievement and even my church affiliation have no bearing on where I spend eternity. The determining factor is in my faith in Christ as savior from my sin. It is the only way to have our name written in the Lord’s book of life.
It is not where you’re from but where you’re going that counts.”
Last week I wrote a guest blog for the Memphis Young Adults of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. It’s something I do about once a month to help generate content for their website.
This particular blog was about Lent and humility. Here is an excerpt:
I am storytelling, it’s literally what I get paid to do. So naturally, when I see or experience something worth sharing with others, that calls people to action, I share it. For the most part the posts are uplifting or informative. But when I share those stories, even my own, I think of Psalm 19:15 “Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you.”
That verse is basically saying, let me remember what this is really all about. Let me remember to be humble in my thoughts, words and actions. And let me recognize that there is a balance.
In the post I explain why I think it’s okay to post pictures and share your Lenten journey with your followers. Feel free to read the entire post here.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Today I spent the morning with Forever Ready Productions documenting the work of employees and their families from AutoZone as they helped clean the building that will house Room In The Inn – Memphis (coordinated by Volunteer Odyssey).
8-year-old Turner Knotnow summed up MLK’s question very easily this morning.
“I’m cleaning these windows in here and trying to make it look nice for people who don’t have a home.” said Turner Koltnow. “I like volunteering. It’s pretty nice.”
Fitting enough, it was scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A day devoted to service projects, honoring his life and remembering the challenge he set before us years ago.
“I like serving because it’s helpful and I get to meet nice people,” said Turner.
But his mother brought him because it was a chance to serve together and instill values in him to continue a life of service.
“We are honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by doing a service project with Room In The Inn. And I am so excited to have the opportunity to do the project with my son’s. Turner who is 8 and Max who is 5 years old,” said Jenny Koltnow.
Dozens of others shared in the experience with their kids (who also had the day off from school) and by the afternoon the place was cleaned up, clothes were organized and there was a feeling of accomplishment.
“All those little things add up and they really matter, they really matter to someone. It doesn’t have to be big heroic acts. It’s a matter of taking a little time here and there. And all those things add up over time. So they too can adopt that same interest in giving back and helping others,” said Jenny.
It’s nice to see a local corporation make time for their employees to volunteer. They hired Volunteer Odyssey to plan and coordinate the day of service. All they had to do was show up and do work. The day was documented by Forever Ready Productions and will be edited into a video for them to share with friends and family.
It used to be (and sometimes still is) perceived that sharing about your volunteering experience was really just a way to brag about how awesome you are and the work that you’re doing. But over time that has changed. Social media is now a tool of empowerment. Now it’s more about being a voice for the organization you’re helping and showing your friends and family that they can get involved too.
“Focusing on the needs of other people and bring to their attention what’s really going on in the community that we live and that we can’t take what we have for-granted,” said Jenny.
It’s amazing to see kids learning at a young age that giving back to their community only helps to make it better. It is in showing them that a day off can be spent helping others that we can all learn too.
Martin Luther King Jr. lived a life of service and fought for the freedom of equal rights for all. It’s only fitting that we spend an entire day dedicating our time to giving back.
I’ve been searching for words to express my thoughts all day. Five year’s ago today Port-au-Prince, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. It destroyed most of the buildings and infrastructure that had been established in one of the poorest places in the world. My heart sank as I watched the round the clock coverage of the disaster. I even thought about traveling down there with some local doctors. We worked on a way to make that possible but we decided that it was better to send someone with a skill set to help those in need than another reporter to cover it.
Why did what happen in Haiti hit me so hard? Well two years before the earthquake, in January 2008, I traveled down to Louverture Cleary School to spend a week with The Haitian Project. We volunteered our time helping with projects during the day but after school we conducted soccer clinics. I know what you’re thinking: Lauren isn’t a soccer player. True. I wasn’t and I’m still not but the skills we were teaching had more to do with teamwork and empowering girls than it did the actual game. And as I learned, the universal language and common ground we all shared was soccer.
The trip was only a week but it forever changed me. I still remember the people I met and the impact they had on my life. And the lessons they taught me.
When the earthquake struck in 2010 some of our friends were killed. The school sustained significant damage. The structure that volunteers from Loras College and other areas worked so hard to build, had been destroyed. Life as they knew it was forever changed. But their spirit was not broken.
The following years in Dubuque, Iowa, I worked with a local restaurant and bar to build a fundraising for the group. And to honor my friends and their loved ones.
To this day I remember two very POWERFUL words and ways of life that were shared with me:
1. Faith, hope and love are all you need.
2. What you receive as a gift, you must give as a gift.
In a country torn apart by violence and poverty…then an earthquake…I found their spirit and faith to be so inspiring. Seven years later I still think of the days I spent there and the impact it had on my life. Sometimes when things happen a world away it’s hard to understand or even grasp.
But the beauty of experiences is that we get to take them with us wherever we go.
So take yours and share it.
2014 has been GREAT! Seriously, I covered so many stories; joyful, inspiring, impact filled, heartbreaking and tragic. 2014 marked another year in Memphis and a thousand reasons to continue to call it home.
You’ve been great too. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more of you and interacting with you of Facebook. So much so, I wanted to highlight the stories/moments that you responded most to in 2014:
1. Turmoil in Ferguson – The week of Thanksgiving and the decision not to indict Officer Wilson sent the community into a chaotic and dangerous situation. Peaceful protests turned to riots. Riots turned to looting. And I was in it all. Bringing you the story from the ground. Showing Memphis a small glimpse into life in Ferguson that week. I will never forget that experience and I am humbled and honored to have brought it to the Mid South. (Read about it here: https://laurenmsquires.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/on-the-ground-in-ferguson/)
2. Bible Blessing – A bible found untouched in the rubble of a fire – In November we first brought you the story of Elnora Blackledge-Lee. While away treating one of her daughters with cancer, they house caught fire. We were there as volunteers from a nearby church found a bible untouched. I captured the moment the Elnora saw the bible. Her strength was inspiring. You shared her story and prayed for her family. They are still looking for a home as I type this.
3. Memphis Police holiday ham – MPD handing out holiday hams on Thanksgiving, courtesy of Jason’s Deli. It was touching to see the interaction between police and citizens. It’s been a hard year for both. And to see the joy shared and receive while making a holiday meal possible, it fill my heart and yours. You shared and comment about this story.
4. Forgiveness In A Place Camera’s Can’t Go – AKA The Kroger Attacks story. It was the worse and the best moment of the year for me. First when I covered the attacks, it made me sick to watch the video. It still does. I was filled with a lot of emotions and so was the entire city of Memphis. But then, while covering the juvenile court decisions I witnessed a powerful moment in the hallway between the suspects parents and the victim and his father. It reminded me the power of forgiveness and made me wish you ALL could see it. You can read out it here: https://laurenmsquires.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/forgiveness-in-a-place-where-cameras-cant-go/
5. It’s a tie – between the moments at the Carpenter Art Garden and Urban Bicycle Food Ministry. I shared both those stories with you on Facebook and on Action News 5. They were highly shared and commented on. But what I found so amazing is the stories I shared were about real people, making a real impact or feeling a real impact. They made us all feel for a moment and reminded me the power of time. Sometimes time is the best gift you can give and one of the best gifts you can receive. (You can read about these two here: https://laurenmsquires.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/update-on-aj-the-i-am-blessed-guy/ AND https://laurenmsquires.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/off-camera-beats/)
And with that, here’s to a GREAT 2015!!!
GREAT NEWS UPDATE: Remember AJ? The homeless man I posted about a few weeks ago? The “I am blessed” man who reminded us of the importance of being grateful?
Well I have a good news update for you on his status. This comes from my friend Ellen with Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, who saw him on Wednesday: “I saw AJ again last night. He hasn’t been back out since the night that we first met him when this picture was taken. Last night he walked up to me in our small group as we were stopped with some other folks.
He said, ‘I haven’t been around here the past couple weeks to see you all, but you all have been in my thoughts and prayers. And I wanted to come find you guys tonight because I have some good news! I GOT A JOB!’ With a glowing smile, he went on to tell me that he was working as a security guard now, and he’s working on building back up his funds, getting bills caught up, and getting it all back together. He was so happy to share his news with us, because, as he said, ‘we helped him along on his journey.’ It was the best moment of my night.”
I couldn’t help but bring you this update, considering I shared the story with you in the first place. Thanks to all who kept him, and all those living on the streets, in their thoughts.