Celebrate a Tiny Treasure on Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th, and a month from now, we’ll have another. Two days of superstition rarely fall so closely together. Let’s Seize the Day(s) and consider how lucky we are — granting that luck comes in two flavors.

When random misfortune befalls us, we describe ourselves as “unlucky.” That’s proof enough for me that good luck is where we naturally begin. Bad luck is less than nothing — it’s only good luck lost. And so, reflecting on our collective misfortune can wait until March.

Look around you. The air is clear. The water is clean. The sky is blue. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. It is February, after all — the month everyone wants to pass through quickly. We’re glad they made it shorter than all the others for a reason.

But even in February, good luck is all around us. You have your list of favorites and I have mine. Lists don’t always make good reading, so I’d rather direct your attention to just one good luck charm that is available to all of us.

It’s invisible but not unseen. It makes very little noise itself, but its sounds are familiar to many. Its mission focuses on children, yet only our senior citizens witnessed its birth.

The Pacific Northwest never had an FM radio signal until KRVM-FM went on the air in 1947. Its operating license has been held by a single owner — the Eugene 4J School District. Kids — high school students and younger — have held the public trust, while learning to communicate clearly, show up on time, and build their confidence.

When the students should be sleeping or studying, adult volunteer deejays fill the chockablock schedule of diverse musical tastes that cover the gamut.

I love our public radio stations, and we have plenty of them, but KRVM-FM is a rare species in the genus. High school radio stations usually have low-wattage signals with a neighborhood reach. KRVM-FM is 15,000 watts, reaching the coast and the mountains. A Sheldon High School student may not be able to find Reedsport on a map, but her voice finds its way into Reedsport homes.

Somehow — remember, our topic today is luck — elected school board members have resisted the temptation to divest the school district of the radio station. Just imagine how many management consultants have advised how many superintendents to sell the station and use the money to buy more books! In a business as bruising as radio, with larger conglomerates buying smaller conglomerates, KRVM-FM has somehow held on, Keeping Real Variety in Music.

Who do we thank for this local treasure? Well, nobody. Or everyone. It just ambles along, powered by the passions of its volunteers and its listeners. It boasts no grand design, no lofty aspirations, except to keep doing what it’s been doing for 68 years.

It’s easy to miss the valor of “Just Showing Up” every day for decades. I like to think of the slow-and-steady ones as horizontal heroes. There’s not a moment when the heroism spikes to an amazing height — only a steady stream of sameness, stretching across time. There’s a courage to consistency.

KRVM Operations Manager Cambra Ward estimates that every week, adult volunteers contribute 150 hours to the station. Her guess is way low; I guarantee it. There’s just no good way to tabulate the moment of inspiration that happens in the shower, or the fascinating triptych of melodies that pop into a deejay’s head from the pillow, as if delivered by a dream that crossed over into the waking world.

On the other end, there’s no way to know how many people clean their garage or kitchen at a particular time each week because of the companionship they trust, coming from their radio. Or the gatherings that form around listening parties. Or the conversations that begin because of a comment offered over the air. Public trust, indeed.

We can’t know how much good has come to us, for how long, or from where. Some of our fortune is untraceable and incalculable. So we just call it luck and consider ourselves lucky.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs