From Where I Sit—The Real Question

Regular readers of this column know I very seldom name names.  I’ve always felt my immediate family is fair game but anyone else is off limits.  This time that changes.

A bit of backstory.  From Where I Sit first appeared in a local weekly newspaper in April 2002.  A few months later when it became clear I was the only one holding up the handshake agreement, I withdrew.  It also meant the column needed a new home.

I approached the editor of another area paper and a new relationship was born in January 2003.  About the same time, an Andrew guy suggested I should submit my writing to the Athabasca University student publication, The Voice.  Both of us were enrolled in university courses at the time.  Four editors later, I continue to write for this weekly.  In January 2014 the column began appearing in another local weekly.

Through it all, my MO has been the same.  Write what I want and let it go.  Other than one piece of hate (snail) mail in the early days, the to-my-face response has been pleasant, affirming, humbling.  And surprising.  Because I’ve already let it go, I’m always taken aback when people reference the content and say how much they enjoy it.

Incidentally, advice to writers is mixed.  Some experts say write for yourself.  And maybe that’s why you often see recurring themes/issues/neuroses running through a lifetime of work.  Other experts say write for your ‘ideal reader.’ That’s sounds a bit calculated, but makes sense when marketing a manuscript to a particular demographic or genre publisher.

Several months ago I got a heart-warming voice mail from Dennis Maschmeyer.  During a longer, follow-up call I learned he loves my work and was especially touched by a particular column.  He also praised my parenting.  He shared that he’s a widower and has chosen ‘Live’ as his one perfect word.  He told me about a recent Alberta Health Services Digital Storytelling project he was involved in.  He took copies of that column to this tiny group of people and shared it with them.

In the spine-tingling, serendipitous way of the world, Karen Klak was also in that AHS patient advisory group.  She met Hilary during the heartbreaking journey of her daughter’s Haley health struggles and death.  Hilary was working at the Stollery at the time and the family was grateful for her efforts to create some wonderful family memories for Haley.  Karen and Hilary stay in occasional touch eight years later.

So, I wrote about something important to me that touched Dennis who then shared it with a few strangers, one of whom recognized my surname and made the connection to my daughter.  A few group emails between Karen, Hilary, and I were full of gratitude for the small, small world we live in and how our lives have intersected.

The reality is that what we say, what we do, who we are, is always being noticed by someone.  But are those words and actions making someone’s life better or worse? That’s the real question, from where I sit.