One of the best parts of the week in the family weekly newspaper business was reading the letters to the editor. Every periodical no matter how large or small has writers who send in regular letters. Some of these writers are crazier than others.
One of ours was a woman whose personal campaign was public schools. She lived near an elementary school and she had some really powerful opinions. One of her beefs was that the elementary school had trees on their property. The leaves fell off these trees and she, an innocent taxpayer, was forced to clean up the mess. The least the school could do was send over some child to rake. I mean how were those kids going to learn responsibility?
My favorite letter from her concerned school breakfast. In Minnesota if the majority of your district’s residents are under a certain income level, the school must serve free breakfast to the elementary students. My letter writer was incensed! Incensed, I tell you!! Couldn’t these children learn to make toast?! Why was she, an innocent taxpayer, forced to feed them? Especially since they couldn’t even be bothered to rake her yard!
She was just one of several regular writers we had. It made me sensitive to responding to something in writing. I really have to be fired up — and then I tend to assume maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I need to think carefully and choose my words carefully, so I don’t sound like a crazy person forcing kindergartners on a diet of bread and water and forced labor.
Well, last week I read an article in a national news magazine that I mostly agreed with but thought the author had taken some liberties with what I believe are the facts. Rather than mull over my best argument, I sat right down at this very computer and dashed off a strongly worded email with pertinent references. As I hit send I thought to myself, “Huh. I wish I had taken more time to think that through. Oh, well. I will never have my letter printed in this magazine. They will probably say, ‘Crazy person!’ and throw it in the trash.”
So it was with trepidation I opened this week’s copy of the magazine and . . . there it was. Right there. In a national news magazine.
I have never felt such a tremendous mix of pride and horror. Why, oh why, oh why didn’t I take a few more minutes to think through my argument rather than just fire off what was on the tip of my tongue? Why?
On the plus side, it is nicely edited. And it is my debut as an international writer. HA! And the news cycle is very short. As we used to tell upset people when they called the newspaper, “Next week there will be a different copy.”
As long as I don’t keep writing or endorse child labor, I should be okay.