Growing up I could never really decide what I wanted to be. I think my earliest career choice was a nurse. That made sense considering it's often said that nurses are the worst patients. (I say that with no disrespect to nurses. My mom's best friend and my second mom, a nurse, often said that herself.) After the nursing phase came and went, there was the idea of being a lawyer, a teacher, and I'm sure countless other things. Sometimes I am still trying to decide what I want to be when I “grow-up”. Needless to say it should come as no surprise that I majored in theatre and communications education yet ended up working in television – just the natural progression of things, right?
As I've gotten older, I've realized that one of the things that is important to me – no matter what career I have – is to make a difference in someone's life. January will mark the 5th anniversary of “The Means Report”. In the five years of producing and directing that show, I've had the pleasure of meeting some truly remarkable people, and I'd like to think that some of the shows I've put together have made a difference. I know that some of them have impacted me.
One special guest came to me a little over a year ago. I was put in contact with this lovely woman through one of my coworkers, Jennie Montgomery. Jennie told me that this particular woman is hilarious, a public speaker, and an author. The woman was Jane Jenkins Herlong and during the month of October, the proceeds from her book “What Ta-Tas Teach Us” were being donated to Breast Cancer Research. What a great guest, right? We could interview a local author and bring attention to breast cancer.
It was around that time when my dad called with bad news. My grandpa's health was declining quickly, and we needed to be prepared for the worst. The day before I left to go back to West Virginia to spend some time with my family, we recorded an episode of “The Means Report” featuring Jane. That was one of those days when I was reminded that everything happens for a reason. I'd booked Jane on the show thinking that something she would say would touch someone watching. What I didn't expect was for what she said to touch me. I sat in the control room laughing at her stories one minute and fighting tears the next.
There was irony in Jane appearing on “The Means Report” that week too. One evening, while I was back in West Virginia, somehow my dad and I started talking about Blue Collar Radio. That is a staple on Sirius radio in my dad's car. He started telling me about this “one woman from South Carolina” that he'd listened to on there. He proceeded to say, “I think she was Miss South Carolina.”
“Is her name Jane Jenkins Herlong?” I asked him, completely amused.
“I think so,” he nodded.
“Daddy, I just had her on ‘The Means Report.' She was talking about her book.”
What were the chances? In the middle of dealing with what was happening to my grandpa, my dad and I were able to sit back and tell stories that we'd heard from Jane, giving us both some much needed laughs.
There is something special about Jane. She has this wonderful ability to make you laugh while at the same time sharing a message. The day we recorded her appearance on “The Means Report”, she gave me the strength I needed as I headed back home to be with my family. Months later, she spoke at a luncheon I attended, and I left feeling optimistic about what was to come.
In November Jane will be releasing a new book – “Bury Me With My Pearls”. I've had the pleasure of reading the first few pages, and I'm looking forward to getting to read the rest. You see, Jane may have competed in the Miss America pageant as Miss South Carolina, but she'll be the first to tell you that she was a tomboy that grew up working on her parent's farm. She's a public speaker and author, but she had to fight to get accepted into college. I admire Jane because she never backed down. She never took “no” for an answer, and she doesn't take herself too seriously.
You can read an excerpt from “Bury Me With My Pearls” by visiting www.janeherlong.com. While you're there you can also see some of her appearances, read her blog, check out her other books (“What Ta-Tas Teach Us” and “Bare Feet To High Heels”), and find out more about the woman with wisdom, humor, and an amazing heart.
Just like a mother passes down her pearls to her daughter so should we proudly and courageously leave the next generation valuable lessons. ~ “Bury Me With My Pearls” by Jane Jenkins Herlong (available November 12, 2013)