It’s been exactly six years since I wrote the first letter in this space.
When I first took over this job, I’d already been handed an offbeat, creative document with an authentic voice, so I swiftly set about making my job not just to stamp my own creativity on the pub, but to hone a more important and universal skill:
I learned to be a much better listener.
Plenty of people in my life who have been subjected to an impassioned yet overzealous bar conversation—or ya know, my mother, for 34-ish years—might laugh/scoff at this sentence, but in a purely professional sense, there’s never been a time in my life that I have been more acutely aware of how great a reward there is in fine-tuning your antennae, allowing one to excavate simple moments of poignancy.
It’s really the only piece of professional advice I’m comfortable doling out to potential writers. More than a few times I’ve found myself talking to a college journalism class, somewhat sheepishly admitting that I’ve never taken one.
Really, I just learned to listen.
I do weddings now—an inadvertent component of my non-work life that came as a result of getting ordained to marry a friend—and the intimate moments I get to share with brides, grooms, and families run parallel to those I encounter as magazine subjects. Forget the best man or maid of honor—the officiant is the ultimate fly-on-the-wall for, in most cases, one of the most important moments of one’s life.
Recently, I was honored to perform an ultra-small backyard ceremony for Chet and Rob—me being the only one in attendance not being an immediate family member. When both were pronounced husband-and-husband, I stood by and watched an old Polish father, tears in his eyes, reach in for an embrace and say, You both deserve to be happy.
It wasn’t the only tearful moment I was privy to last month.
Weeks earlier, Trey Pearson, a Columbus man who’s been touring the world as the leader of an alternative Christian rock band, was sitting in my office, allowing me access to the most freeing and fearful moment in his life.
How did he become the subject of this month’s cover story, “Modern Gospel” (page 64), in which he reconciles his newfound identity as a gay man with life as a Christian, a father, a husband, and a hero to fans?
Answer: One fateful backseat listening session with him as my Uber driver.
This month, it’s all about open ears. I see a lot of people on social media post about “values,” and how they’re to be applied to the entire country as a whole. But it’s not about values. As a collective, we don’t lack values—we lack empathy.
We do have a responsibility to empathy—to openness, to understanding, to listening.
I could say it’s the theme of this month’s edition—especially with this month also featuring the 100 Columbus LGBTQI Methodist clergy seeking official acceptance from their denomination.
But then again, it’s really the theme of every month we put out (614).
We’re your voice, not just ours.
Just before I put the finishing touches on this month’s issue, I got one final call from Trey.
Thanks for listening, he said.
Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief