Larry, an aspiring writer, wrote me the other day and asked if I would read a synopsis of a book he is working to complete. Like me, he writes of Southern people, especially those who rise up from the crooks and hollows of the mountains.
Though it troubled me to do so, I had to respond that I don’t read the unpublished work of other writers. There are two important reasons for that. First, I fear that I could swallow something sub-consciously and then regurgitate it as my own words. Now, I’d never do that intentionally. I’m boringly ethical. But it could happen by mistake.
As someone once told me – someone who took some of my creative work knowingly and used it – “there are no original ideas.” Maybe not but there is a difference between someone who thinks of it originally and develops it and another person who snatches the work to profit from it. Big difference there.
I explained further to Larry that I do not consider myself an expert on writing or what works so I’m terribly afraid of discouraging someone. Listen, I had a boss once who told me rather frequently how inept I was as a writer. Thank goodness that editors at large publishing companies and a nice amount of readers disagreed with him.
I don’t ever want to discourage someone. It’s important to remember that all opinions are subjective. And, as I always tell people who are following their dreams: It only takes one yes to wipe out a thousand nos. Keep going until get you get that yes.
Larry was astounded that I had responded personally. “God bless you for your reply!” he wrote, not even the least bit upset that I had not read his work. Instead, he chose to see the positive. I always appreciate that in people.
“I fully understand, and you put it so, well, sweet as I would have guessed,” he wrote. “Thank you for the encouragement and kind words. You know in today’s world, you just don’t get much kindness anymore.”
It was those last 12 words, sweet though they were, that struck a dagger at my heart. “You know in today’s world, you just don’t get much kindness anymore.”
I could have cried. I had denied his request yet he was appreciative of the personal note and what I had said. He was not angry or disappointed. He turned away any unhappiness he felt with an upbeat response. But what pained me so much was the bitter truth of his words: We just don’t get much kindness anymore.
Out in the country where I live, though, there is more of an abundance of kindness than you’ll probably find in the hustle and bustle of big cities. There’s Chuck, my local postmaster, who always says, “Has anyone told you today how great you are?” Then with a big grin, he slides a couple of pieces of hard strawberry candy into my hand.
There’s Rhonda, at the drive-through window at the bank, who always sees that Dixie Dew gets three doggie treats. Dixie Dew is devoted to her as you might suppose. There’s my neighbors, the Smiths, who stand by on call whenever I need them, especially when my security alarm is going off and I’m out of town. They never hesitate. “Anything you need,” they both say, “Just let us know.” And so I do.
There’s the folks at my little country church who are always ready with a hug, a kind word and, if necessary, a casserole of some kind. There’s my brother-in-law who never saw a soul in need that he didn’t push up his sleeves and help in whatever way necessary.
So there’s still a nice amount of kindness out there. But as Larry reminded me, we could always use more. Couldn’t we?
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.