One of my favorite things about writing a long-running column is hearing from readers. Nearly every piece elicits one or two comments. Sometimes I hit a nerve, and dozens of folks feel the need to chime in.
The overwhelming majority of comments are positive: “You hit the nail on the head,” “Thanks for the great advice” and “Your article moved me to tears …”
The column I wrote in 2004 after the death of my mother tapped into a river of long-standing grief. I wrote how much I still missed Mom eight months after she’d passed away.
Numerous readers expressed sentiments such as, “My son died 12 years ago and I miss him every day.” And “I would truly like to thank you … for putting your feelings into words.”
Other readers are far less appreciative and can’t wait to read me the riot act. They take issue with a topic or viewpoint I’ve expressed. Believe me, they never mince words.
Take the column I wrote in 2006 about excuses.
Recent Tour de France winner Floyd Landis was being investigated after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. In that piece, I commented on his “feeble hypotheses … about why his testosterone levels were higher than the Alps he scaled during the Tour de France.”
The day that article ran I was barraged by angry emails from his fan base.
“Shame on you!” shouted one reader. “If Mr. Landis is acquitted, I hope you are as vehement in your apology as you are in your willingness to convict a person before trial,” another wrote.
I responded by writing a follow-up column two weeks later on the topic of jumping to conclusions.
I even received an email from Landis himself, thanking me for rescinding my words. (According to a 2010 article in the New York Times, Landis was ultimately stripped of his title.)
Frays of that magnitude are few. But they underscore an important point: People read my words and are sometimes moved to strong reactions.
Isn’t that the purpose of all communication?
Whenever we speak or write or sing or paint, we ultimately hope another person will be altered as a result.
The reaction may be tears or fury, retaliation or calm. It may be an urgency to stand up and cheer or to sign a petition or to get rid of the clutter in your closet. But whatever the outcome, we’ve had an impact on the world.
That’s why I never tire of hearing from readers – because each responder confirms I made a teensy difference. It’s the only way I know anyone’s reading.
When I send my verbiage into the cosmos, I never know how it will be received. Some pieces that I think are brilliant go unnoticed or fall hopelessly flat. Other columns I find uninspiring draw rave reviews. Go figure!
So, if you stop to chat with me on the street or at the gym, or feel compelled to shoot me an email, understand that your input and feedback are always welcome. More than that, it’s what keeps me writing.
I’m even open to suggestions for topics.
You, dear readers, are my reason for writing. And I offer you my humblest thanks.