Monday, September 13, 2010


I had an errand to run in the sprawling metropolis of Hornbeak this morning. While I was at the bank, the clerk helping me looked up and said, "Oh, you're the one who wrote that article about C. S. Lewis last week!" I confirmed that she had guessed correctly. She continued, "Could you tell me more about the book you were reading?"

I was checking things off my To-Do list, not contemplating C. S. Lewis, so it took me a few seconds to shift brain gears. After a bit more conversation, I figured out she was asking about Lewis's autobiography, Surprised by Joy. The clerk wrote down the book title and subtitle, commenting that it was now at the top of her reading list. "I'm going to call the library this afternoon and request a copy."

I'm mentioning this little encounter for a couple of reasons. First, small towns sure do have some charming qualities. Like tiny little banks, for instance, where there are no lines, no waiting, and no rush to take care of business. Plenty of time for conversation. And a clerk, a stranger to me, actually read my name on my account, recognized it as "that lady who wrote the article in last week's paper" - and then took the time to say something.

Second, the fact that this lady read my article, remembered my name, and then commented about it to me was such a rush. What's more, she was interested enough in what I'd written to want to read C. S. Lewis herself!

Painters paint. Dancers dance. Musicians sing and play. Writers write. We are all striving to communicate, to connect with other people in some way. Often, at least for unknowns like me, the communication effort feels like a one-way signal, a monologue into space. Yes, I write for me - writing helps me process thoughts and events and feelings, and, well, writing is just fun. But I write "out there" - for the newspaper, on this blog, even in personal letters - because I hope that my words will in some way encourage or help or inspire another. Does anything I write actually do those things? Unless there's a reply signal picked up on the radar, I have no way of knowing.

When I mentioned this morning's encounter at the bank to an editor at the Messenger, she wrote back, "I'm not sure the average reader knows how much it means for them to comment and show an interest in something that means so much to you." How much does it mean? It's like ET, finally getting a message from home. It means I've connected in some small way with another human being. It means I'll keep on writing.

Finally, I'm telling you about this, Dear Reader, to encourage you to encourage others. Write a note to your church pianist, telling her how much you appreciate the beauty she contributes to each worship service. Kids, tell your Mom tonight how grateful you are for the dinner she prepared. Take a bouquet of flowers or a plate of cookies to your local librarian. Write a comment to a newspaper article or blog post. Student, tell the cafeteria worker who serves you lunch "Thank you!" - with a smile. Wave at the postman - Hi, Russell! Connect. Encourage. Make a world of difference.


Anonymous said...

I had to go to Memphis today, to the Health Dept. in the Medical district, very busy place. After leaving my passenger at the door, I went to find parking (not an easy task). Finally found a garage, pulled in, the attendant quickly told me I had pulled into the employee parking lane and must back out and come in the other lane. I thanked her, did as was told, found a parking space. As I walked from the car, my passenger called to say they were ready to go, chore completed. I got back inthe car and drove to the attendant kiosk. We had a short, pleasant conversation, wished each other a good day, and away I went. Just a simple kind reaction at the beginning, instead of being grumpy, created a happy parting. I said a prayer for her to have fewer grumpys and more happys the rest of the day in that busy, busy place. It felt good!! Teri

Suzanne said... psychotherapy! I find so much joy in writing. Yet, somehow I have never come to rely on any response. I want my writing to impact well, but I accept that it may be lost in space, completely ineffectual, or worse - misunderstood. I am truly happy for you that your newspaper article got a good response. What a treat! I am glad you blog. I like reading a bit of your thoughts every few days. I love you.