I recently read a great book titled Higher Is Waiting by Tyler Perry. In one of the chapters, Tyler uses the analogy of a tree describing the different types of people in his life. As I pondered his words, I thought of Newport and how that analog can be used to describe the people, businesses and organizations here. It seemed appropriate to use it in this article. Whatever the reason people have for living here, it was a choice.
The first part of the analogy focuses on the Leaf people. These people live here for a season. Many of these people make great contributions to the town, but their time in Newport is limited. Examples include upper management for the major corporations, such as Arkansas Steel Associates or Norandol. One fond memory is of Mike and Mutsuko Inoue performing in a winter show titled HeeHaw. Although their time here was brief, they made lasting friendships and kept ASA successful, employing many residents of Newport. The Leaf people stay long enough to finish a task and move on to the next season of life.
Second, Tyler describes the Branch people. In Newport, these people stay longer because they love the community, have a great career or possibly were born here. These people tend of stay longer than Leaf people, have no intentions to leave soon or stay long, but will leave when dissatisfied or when a better opportunity emerges elsewhere. The Branch people may stick around from one year to the next, but if a storm rolls through, it is possible they will break apart and we will lose them. Examples of these are doctors right out of medical school, new coaches, and people not native to Newport, but have positions they enjoy. Many of these people live here for decades and raise their children in Newport, but the heart yearns for either bigger opportunities or a desire to return to their roots.
The final part of the analogy are the Root people. According to Tyler, these people are like the roots of a tree, these are special people. Root people may be hard to find because they are not trying to be seen. They do most of their work underground, quietly and without fanfare. Many are born in Newport, whose families go back generations. These people will weather the storms of life in Newport, not because they do not have opportunities to go elsewhere, but because Newport is part of their soul. The history of the people and the town are etched into their being. I think of these people as I sit watching the young elementary students play basketball in what most Newport graduates refer to as the “old gym”. Sitting at the top of the stands, the view is amazing! To look through the tall windows located directly across the gym floor and see the sun shine its rays across Greyhound Field and the Newport Country Club Golf Course is nostalgic. The question comes to mind of how many people over the last half dozen decades have sat in that spot and marveled. That is history.
“A tree may have many branches and many leaves, and only a few roots, yet it is the roots that are strong, resilient, and powerful.” I urge everyone to take time to think about all the different people who fit into this analogy. Each part of the tree contributes to Newport, the successes and failures. Each part has a role to play in the future of Newport. Accept a leaf for being a leaf, a branch for a branch and cherish the roots.