Favourite. Story. Ever.

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What's your favourite story of the ones you've written? The question came from a Grade 6 student at Larkhall Academy, where I was reading "The True Story Of The 3 Little Pigs" Monday as part of Family Literacy Day.

I didn't hesitate to tell her and her class about "Hong."

It's been "my" favourite story for 12 or 13 years.

"Hong" was a young Chinese business student who showed up at my office in tears.

His mother had been killed in China and his father taken prisoner. All because of their religious beliefs.

This left Hong a stranger in a strange land. He was alone, mourning and broke, as his parents had been supporting him financially.

He was also extremely paranoid the Chinese government was going to come looking for him here.

The young man was in rough shape, and wondered if I could help him.

I told him the only thing I could do as a journalist was write a story about his situation.

He agreed, as long as I didn't use his real name or photograph his face - again, he was seriously worried the Chinese government would come for him if he spoke out.

I was working at The Express at the time, and Hong's story appeared on our front page the following week.

We used a photo of him with hands over his face. His anguish was obvious.

It was a powerful story to write, one that made me really appreciate my family and the country where I live - things that can easily be taken for granted.

The reaction to the article was humbling and inspiring, and only added to my appreciation of this place.

Readers, including some very high-profile types who wished to remain unnamed, sent me cheques and cash, and I soon had a fair sum of money to hand Hong.

One St. John's couple offered to take him in and feed him until he was on his feet. It was an offer he accepted.

I'll always remember how the goodwill lifted Hong's spirits.

It didn't change the situation at home, but it eased some of his pressures and allowed him to continue his studies.

The last I heard, perhaps a decade ago, is that Hong had moved to Ottawa to study.

I often wonder where he is now, because telling his story stands as my very favourite experience in journalism.

It made a difference - the reason I became a reporter - by engaging a community and helping someone out of a tough spot.

I still feel pretty chuffed about it, and was proud to share Hong's story with the students yesterday - and you today.


Email Steve at sbartlett@thetelegram.com. Follow his tweets at @TelegramSteve.

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