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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)

TITLE: The Front Page
By Lori Othouse


The old jeep rattled down the dusty dirt road. This was supposed to be the assignment Rob had been waiting for his entire career. Political upheaval in the Middle East. A chance to make the front page and see his name where it really belonged. Instead, he was reassigned to a human interest story at the last minute. How would he ever win a Nobel Prize writing about some do-gooder American doctor in Haiti? Sighing loudly, he pulled out his map and waved away the mosquitoes humming in his ears.

Was this really the right way? Who in their right mind would move here from Ohio? He rounded a curve and came upon a small village. It was exactly like the pictures in those child-sponsorship commercials. Tiny huts made out of clay and sticks. Skinny, dirty children everywhere. The medical center stood out - a bright blue tent on the outskirts of the village. Rob pulled over and made his way inside.

It was filled wall to wall with people. Women and children, mostly. They were quiet and watched him as he made his way to the rear of the tent. The doctor was easy to spot - his bright white coat sharply contrasting the dirt and filth surrounding him.

“Dr. Satler? I’m Rob McKenzie, the reporter from the Sentinel.”

“Oh, yes. Come on in. And, please, call me Jim. I’m afraid there’s not much room, but you’re welcome to sit anywhere you’d like. We can talk in between patients.”

“Actually,” Rob continued, “ I couldn’t get a flight back out for a couple days so I’d like to observe for a while, if you don’t mind, and then do a private interview later.”

“Fine with me,” Dr. Satler answered, turning back to his patient, “ But you’re going to be waiting a while, as you can see by the line out there.”

Rob looked around for a seat and, finding none, carefully sat down on the dirt floor and pulled out his laptop. As obvious as the need was here, he still couldn’t help wondering how someone could leave a six-figure practice to live like this. He hoped he could find some angle that would make this story worthwhile.

Following Dr. Satler around, Rob noticed something unexpected. There was a fire in his eyes. A passion that went beyond a call of duty or a noble cause. The conditions were archaic, detestable, but he didn’t seem to care. He looked at these people like a servant to a king. It made no sense, but it was intriguing. Very intriguing.

Late that evening, Rob had gone for a walk, just to get away for a while. As he returned, he heard the doctor talking. He took a few steps closer and realized what he heard was prayer. Not the boring, meaningless prayers he grew up with, but fervent, tearful groanings. He heard that Dr. Satler was a Christian, but so what? All the Christians he knew were holier-than-thou types or just plain hypocrites. Rob listened outside the tent for nearly 45 minutes before slowly making his way in. The doctor was sitting on his bed, quietly holding his Bible.

“Jim? Can I come in?”

The doctor nodded, looking exhausted.

“Um, I couldn’t help overhearing…and…well, to be frank, I don’t get it. You’re doing a great work here, but why? I mean, are you really happy here?

The doctor thought for a moment and smiled. He looked up at Rob with kind, wise eyes.

“Happiness is based on happenings, circumstances. By that standard, no, I’d have to say that most of the time I’m not happy.”

“So then why--”

“I have joy.”

“Joy? Isn’t that the same thing?”

“Not at all. The joy I have is deep inside. It’s not affected by moods or feelings or circumstances. It comes from God and can’t be taken away by what happens around me. It’s not about being happy; it’s about doing what’s right.”

Rob listened and wrote as Jim explained his relationship with Christ, his practice and eventual calling to serve in Haiti. He saw a compassion in this man he never thought existed. Yet he knew it wasn’t just from the doctor himself. There was more, much more, and he wanted to know the whole story. For the first time in years, he desired something more than the front page.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 07/20/07
Great job on characterization, especially on your MC's transformation. Enjoyed this.
Dee Yoder 07/21/07
I'm always amazed at the servant's heart many medically trained Christians have for the poorest people on earth. Your story is informative and the descriptions really had me involved with the characters.
Dianne Janak07/24/07
I have been perusing so many great writings this week and yours is the first that describes the difference between happiness and joy... I love it for many reasons but thank you for that. It is so true.. the world seeks a fleeting feeling of happy not knowing joy is a permanent fruit God grows in us as we live for Him. GOOD WORK! Dianne