Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday Wonder ~ Paul Batura and "Good Day! The Paul Harvey Story"

Corbin and I got to meet author Paul Batura last fall while attending a Focus on the Family Couples' Retreat with our friends Steve and Lisa. As we landed in Colorado Springs and headed to lunch, Steve announced that he had already made an appointment for us to go visit with Paul at the  Focus headquarters. Steve wanted to touch base with Paul regarding some work ideas they'd collaborated on, but Corbin and I got to tag along and received the enormous privilege of not only touring the Focus offices, but also meeting and spending time with Paul.

We'd heard about Paul from Steve before, and Steve had described him as "one of the nicest people he knew next to Corbin." Paul has worked for Focus since 1988 and since that time has served as writer and adviser to both James Dobson and now Jim Daly and is currently Focus's Vice President of Communications. And he's penned his share of books in the meantime, including of course the Paul Harvey bio and most recently, along with Daly,  “ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God’s Heart." Despite all of his accomplishments, the thing that most stood out about Paul was his kindness and his willingness to be interrupted.

Paul toured us around the Focus on the Family executive offices, board room, and message center. He could have easily washed his hands of us about thirty minutes into our visit. But on this very normal, very deadline-filled Thursday afternoon, Paul took more than two hours with us.

Toward the end of our visit, Corbin started fidgeting and said, "Oh my gosh, Paul, I'm so sorry we stayed so long. When people drop in my office or come for a meeting and then stay forever, I end the day with getting nothing done. We have got to get out of your way and let you get back to work."

But if Paul felt rushed or pushed, he convinced us otherwise. And it wasn't just Paul who allowed us to interrupt him. Throughout our visit, as we barged into people's offices and work spaces, every single Focus employee stopped to make eye contact and visit, even in the middle of his or her work day. It was evidence of the value Focus employees place on people and relationships.

The next day, Steve texted Paul and thanked him for his generous time spent with us, and Paul replied back something to the effect that several years ago he came to see "interruptions" from his work as his true work.

Paul and his family ~ they way he spoke of them, this is his true work.
One other highlight of that day was walking out of Paul's office with two copies of his book "Good Day!" in my hands. When I spied (and gasped at) the Paul Harvey biographies on his shelf, Paul generously signed and gave me copies for myself and my dad.

Wow - this story is a gem.
Paul Harvey is one of my heroes because he's one of my dad's heroes.
Harvey was born in 1918 - the same year as Billy Graham- into the richness of our American early twentieth century, two giants were born. 1918 is evidence to me that God was birthing great men to use several decades later in my dad's life (and of course in millions of others).

Paul Harvey had mentors of his own, especially men who brought encouraging news to our country in the midst of a dismal World War and Great Depression. He also emulated newscasters who brought a variety of topics to their newscast - human interest and interesting quips to take the heavy out of such a heavy time.

Harvey grew up in Tulsa. With my brother Luke raising his family in Tulsa, I found it interesting to read about the city as such a prosperous yet tumultuous city in the '20s and '30s. At one point, Harvey worked out of Waite Phillip's building there downtown, made more interesting to me as our family just last summer toured Philmont - Phillip's mansion and ranch in northern New Mexico gifted years ago to the Boy Scouts.

Harvey also lived in Hawaii and Montana - two more states close to my heart. And Harvey was a pilot, and only pilots themselves - or their wives and children - can relate to this Harvey's sentiment about how his passion for flying nearly got him killed:
My life was so wrapped up in that plane, that the one time I should have jumped, because there was no possible place to set down outside of some trees, I didn't. All that was going through that young brain of mine was, 'If anything happens to this airplane, I don't want to go on living anyway.' So I went ahead and landed it in the trees. (pg33)

Batura emphasizes the impact and influence of Harvey's wife Evelyn ("Angel") over not just Paul's person but his entire career. She truly backed him and propelled him forward.

As magically as we remember his later years, Harvey's career was not without pitfalls. Over the course of his career, Harvey exercised his own ideals of free enterprise, creativity, perseverance, and capitalism. At one point, with a significant degree of reporting success under his belt, Harvey's then- boss A.J. Mosby called him in and explained,
Have I got something to tell you! I'm going to offer you a big job, Paul. And in the process, I'm going to give you the best advice you've ever received. I'm going to shoot you straight here. You have a silly sounding voice. You'd make a great salesman - you can sell anything, but Paul, honestly, you're never going to make it in the news business. You don't have a believable sound for news. It's distracting. People won't trust it. Why don't you join our sales team? The job is yours - but I'm sorry, you're done on the air here. (pg. 92)
Once again, Paul turned to his wife Evelyn's support and counsel, and together they forged ahead. Harvey's career success grew from diligence, hard work, and steadfast ideals: free market, moderation, storytelling to Mr. and Mrs. Middle America, that no story is too small, a knack for dialogue, and asking the right questions.

In the current shifting of America's foundation and ideals, I found "Good Day!" not just interesting but inspiring (and convicting):
When they were obedient to the laws of God, Americans led this world... Fear God again! I don't believe Almighty God is going to preserve this 'promised land' anymore than he preserved the previous ones, if its people are determined to destroy it. Nations are used by God as long as they serve his purpose. (pg 182)
If you're a fan of Paul Harvey, you must read this book. 
And even if you're not particularly a fan yet, it's still worth the read. 
Great man, great story, great weaving of all the facts together. 

Thank you, Mr. Batura, for your research and work and gift of storytelling. 
Good Day!

I love writing these "Wednesday Wonder" posts, because when I see amazing people doing extraordinary things, I want to shout it from the rooftops. Or at least from my little blog!  The people I highlight here are "Wonders" in my eyes because I see God's work in and through them - His work transforming the ordinary to extraordinary. But it typically takes a willing heart, some risk, and an offering of "yes" for Him to transform.