It often amazes me how many words of kindness and encouragement I receive for the stories I tell. Often, a reader will write, “You don’t know me, but I feel that we are friends.”
They often express that the stories I tell feel like their own stories, like the way they were raised, and many times one will say, “Your mama could have been my mama. They’re so much alike.”
I’ve spent a significant amount of my career in the media and I know that people are quick to complain, but far fewer take the time to compliment. That’s what amazes me — that a significant amount of people care enough to sit down and send an email, write a note or track down an office number to call and say, “Thank you. Your columns are meaningful to me.” And then they’ll almost always share stories that relate to stories I tell.
Now, of course, I have detractors and those who are not admiring. One man wrote to strongly chastise me for using the word “Yankee” because he was one and didn’t like to be called that. (The Yankee I married cringes, too, because when a Southerner says it, it sounds so much like a cuss word.)
But, the encouraging notes are 95 percent of what I receive. That is stunning. Most people will complain much quicker than compliment. For that I am most grateful. I’m like Mama always was: The more you brag on me, the better I do. That aside, though, the notes that touch me most are those who are long in years but have the presence of mind and a certain courtesy to write.
Like Miss Elinor Milikin, who is a subscriber of the Brunswick News. She sent a card to the newspaper and asked them to forward it to me, which they readily did.
She explained to the News: “Thank you for an excellent newspaper. Since I am almost 100 and don’t have iPod, Twitter, computer, online, etc., I must write by hand.”
Even now, as I quote this note that arrived a while back, I am grinning from ear to ear. Miss Elinor might be 100, but she sure has got the lingo down. Mama’s been with Jesus for more than six years now, and she could never remember the word “email,” so she’d say, “Ronda, I want you to get on the computer and write Claudia and see how she’s doing. I would call her, but I can never get off the phone with her. You can write her on the computer and find out without havin’ to talk to her.”
Well, she may not have been able to remember “email,” but she certainly understood the purpose behind it.
Miss Elinor enclosed a handwritten card in which she said, “Dear Ronda Rich, I’m so thankful for your weekly column. I thought that honesty, courage and Southern pride were lost till I found your truthful writings about the South I was raised in. God bless you. I’ll be eternally grateful for your talented writings.”
Well, Miss Elinor, here’s what I have to say to you, and I want to say it publicly through the dozens of newspapers across the Southeast that carry this column, including your beloved Brunswick News: I can tell by the time that you have taken to encourage someone in a world that is not always kind that your South is one of gentility and warmth. It is a place where strangers reach out a hand of support and friendship to each other. A region where handwritten notes still reign over a dashed-off, typed email, where stories are told and retold, and there is a strong kinship to the past and remembrance of those who have gone before.
I am so proud to know your South is my South. We must be kin.
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