Human Kind - Leigh Sales
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Human Kind

by Leigh Sales
The Stick – Episode 3

Leigh Sales is an anchor. Insert witty nautical gag here.

For nearly 25 years, I’ve been a journalist. That means on many days, I find myself talking to people who have just been unexpectedly hit by a terrible tragedy or something really sad in their lives. Barely a week goes by that a story on the program I anchor, the ABC’s 7.30, doesn’t come close to making me cry.
What we don’t always report on-air is the reaction of viewers to some of the sad things they see on our program and the way they reach out to try to help. Let me tell you about a few of them.

A couple of years ago, we did a story about Marlene, a woman who was a victim of severe domestic violence. Her partner had attacked her with a hammer, breaking her jaw and smashing out her teeth. She was not a woman with a lot of resources and she had not been able to have her mouth fixed. In our story, she said that she tried to not smile any more because her mouth was so ugly. A dentist watching the program got in touch with us afterwards and offered to fix her teeth for free. It was hours upon hours of work. Now she has a beautiful smile and she flashes it often.

Another time, we did a story about a single mother of five kids in northern NSW. Recent floods had destroyed a lot of accommodation, driving up the prices for the few places left for rent (the old, demand outstripping supply problem). She was trying her best for her kids but she was about to have to move into a tent with them. The night the story aired, a very well-known Australian businessman, who asked us to keep his identity anonymous, emailed me so he could get in touch with the woman. He offered to pay three-quarters of her rent for the next year so she could get some stability and get back on her feet. Now she’s doing great. The kids got to stay in school, and she has a job, and she’s through that bad patch.

Another time we did a story about an event called the Dateables Ball. It was an event for teenagers with various disabilities who find it hard to meet potential romantic partners. Volunteers had arranged the event and were paying for all of it from their own pockets – a DJ, a venue, food and drinks. They weren’t wealthy people and so they only had enough money to pay for one Dateables Ball. The Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn was working in the US at the time. He reached out to us later and offered to pay for a second ball. And he did. The whole thing. He gave those kids another chance to have a lovely night out and meet some others of the same age.

Ben Mendelsohn happened to be one of my interviewees on 7.30 when he was in Australia recently to promote a film. I asked if he’d mind me questioning him on-air about why he’d decided to contact us and contribute after watching that story.

“I mean, anyone can do it, anyone can watch something that’s broadcast and respond. I think, you know, we don’t necessarily always feel like how close we are to this stuff,” Ben said.

There’s so much truth in what he said. Any one of us might find ourselves or somebody we love in the kinds of stories that land on a program like 7.30. It gives me a lot of heart that people see some of the sad things on our program and feel compelled to step in to try to make it better. The news doesn’t always make this point but there is a lot of kindness in the world.

The Stick Critter - Shaun Tan

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