Did you notice that Pope Benedict XVI decided not to come to Forest Park last week? At first I felt snubbed. Then, after thinking about it, I realized that we don’t have a stadium that can seat 35,000 people. “That’s it,” I reasoned. “He would have come if we had a big enough venue.”

Then, I looked at last week’s Review. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, “It’s been a quiet week in Forest Park.” True, the article about the suspected drug dealer being held on a $3 million bond was kind of exciting, but I don’t think the reporter will get a Pulitzer for his insightful work on this one.

And, if the Pontiff had read the rest of the paper, he would have discovered stories about a Cub Scout pinewood derby, a proposal to build townhouses being denied, tougher taxi regulations, a bar fight, a self-defense course for Realtors, the Little League season opener, attempts by small businesses to recycle and seven women gathering at an upscale wine store to discuss … toilet training. Not the kind of stuff over which world class leaders agonize.

My life is pretty much like what gets printed in the Review. Grocery shopping, waiting for my adult children to answer the e-mail I sent them a week ago, making an appointment for car maintenance, figuring out how to say “no” to another request to volunteer, making time for exercise.

Sometimes I feel sorry for Josh Adams, the editor of our little paper. When all the editor of a small town newspaper has to cook is potatoes, there’s a limit to what you can do with your menu.

It’s not that we in Forest Park don’t think about the big issues or debate them over a beer at Horan’s on Saturday night. It’s just that as I write this column, I can’t help wondering what I can cook for supper that won’t raise my cholesterol level even higher.

Every two weeks I drive 170 miles north to Manitowoc, Wis., where my 99-year-old mother lives in a nursing home. She’s blind, hard of hearing and sometimes incontinent. After three hours of trying to communicate with her, I’m very tired and ready to leave.

Most of the staff at Shady Lane treat my mother with professional care and respect, but every once in awhile a nurses aide will come in and see my mom as an interesting personality. She’ll know that my mother gets thirsty and loves ice water. She’ll take the time to describe the shirt she’s putting on her. She is able to see in this feeble woman someone who is special.

We who write for small town newspapers are really doing our jobs when, like that nurses aide, are able to see the profound importance and meaning in Cub Scout meetings and discussions about toilet training and convey that to our readers. We often strike out, but all of us know a home run when we see it – both you the readers and we who write. That’s what keeps us writing and, I assume, you reading.

Several years ago a young Thai woman was my intern for three months. As you know Thais eat rice instead of potatoes and bread. At a potluck at church, we happened to have German potato salad, American potato salad and escalloped potatoes. After trying them all she exclaimed, “I never knew potatoes could taste so good!”

It’s amazing what a good cook can do with the humble potato.