It happened a year or two ago that I read a magazine piece that moved me enough to reach out to the writer and compliment him.
He wasn’t famous. At least, I had never heard of him, but he wrote powerfully and movingly about his recently departed mama and I thought he deserved to be lifted up. He didn’t reply and, though, I thought it odd, I shrugged it off.
I get hundreds of emails a day and, believe it or not, I get many pieces of handwritten notes and letters from readers. No more than 1% are critical. They’re incredibly kind, often touching and the folks take the time to thank me for my stories. And, sometimes, they share stories of their own.
The emails I answer rather quickly, then once a month I sit down to answer the letters with a handwritten note and sometimes I even surprise them with a call. It’s important, I feel, to repay kind words with gratitude.
When he did not respond, it was, I figured that my email did not reach him. A few months later, I heard a tremendous compliment about his work from a person of renown. I decided to pass it along in another email. Again, I was driven by how much kind words uplift me.
When I had the opportunity to review a piece of his work, I praised it highly because it deserved it. I did mention that he never acknowledged my emails.
Then, I got a reply.
It was both a chastisement and a thank you. He explained that he normally answered only people in need.
I answer those, too. But I will never fail to thank someone for admiring my work and sharing a story. There is a wonderful woman who reads this column in Blythewood, S.C. She writes occasionally, and I always answer. The other day, she sent a five-page letter and I was halfway through it before she gave me a date and said, “That was the saddest day of my life.” As the story unfolded, she told me all about the weather that day, her sons, their work and then that one did not show up for work so the other went to see about him and discovered that his brother had died in his sleep.
I was so taken by her strength that I wrote immediately. And I have prayed for her every day since.
A bit ago, an email popped up from a wonderful man whom I never met but I admire his thoughtfulness and kindness. Larry Pirkle of Dawsonville, Ga., asked by email if I minded to give him my address. I replied, then two days later a note arrived. Handwritten.
He explained that his sister had called and asked if he had read my column that day. He immediately picked up the paper and began to read it to his mama.
“As I read it aloud, I stopped mid column … and wept. ‘Faith will carry us through crisis’ was God sent! It just reaffirms why I write,” he explained. Larry has written a couple of books that showcase the faith and family values of the Appalachian Mountains.
Enclosed in the note was a packet of flower seeds – morning glory. It was my turn to weep. Mama loved morning glories and she always planted them. Larry didn’t know what an essential part of my childhood were my mama’s morning glories. All of her flowers, really. I remember so clearly how she’d take her pan of used dishwater out every summer’s morning and water her flowers.
“Hope you will enjoy these seeds. They are weeds to some folks, but our family has always had a special place for them.”
Dear, Larry Pirkle. Thank God for people like you and the moments of sweetness and encouragement you spread.
I shall be in need of precious readers like you, always.