Decatur counselor Beverly Ross had a really big group session Friday.
Speaking to the 83rd annual summer convention of the West Texas Press Association, Ross, the director of Wise County Christian Counseling, touched the hearts of newspaper people from all over West Texas as she explored the emotional whirlwind reporters often walk into at the scene of a fire, wreck or other trauma.
“The minute you get out of your car, you are walking into sacred ground,” she said. “There are things happening there that words cannot express.”
But even though reporters may face resistance, the victims of trauma “have a need to be heard,” Ross said.
Ross founded the faith-based counseling service in 2006. She and her staff deal with marriage and family matters and counsel children and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, grief and other issues. WCCC is a nonprofit agency and works on a sliding fee scale, so that no one is turned away who needs help.
Sharing the experience of losing her 31-year-old daughter to a sudden illness in 2010, she spoke as both a counselor and a survivor of trauma.
“It’s about your eyes,” she said. “Compassion is when courage and vulnerability collide. The courage to step in and face someone’s pain shows in your eyes.”
She urged newspaper people to have that courage and to give people a safe place to have their story told.
She also noted that reporters have to filter what comes from pain and fear.
“The first thing you hear, very often, is their fear,” she said. “It’s very seldom pretty.”
She pointed to a study that shows fear, anger and trauma can drop a person’s IQ by 50 points.
“The brain is not programmed to react to trauma and think at the same time,” she said. “By you having compassion and respect, they are much more likely to open up and tell you their story.”
The idea, she stressed, is not to manipulate people in any way, “but to bless them.
“People want their story told with reverence and respect,” she said. “There is power in the written word. Do what you do with great respect, tell that story with honor and reverence.
“What you write will be Googled by generations to come,” she added.
The convention continues Saturday at the Decatur Civic Center with a panel discussion on the topic, “When national news comes to your doorstep” and ends with an awards brunch starting at 11 a.m.