780 and counting
In December of 1996, I walked into the office of The Citizen newspapers in Fayetteville, Ga., to place an ad for our church. I ran into Cal Beverly, publisher of the paper, and he asked me if I still wrote.
And, indeed, I had written some articles for a newspaper previously and had a number of articles published in various periodicals and magazines. He asked me if I would be interested in writing a few articles for The Citizen. After some discussion and clarification, I submitted my first couple of columns.
That was approximately 780 articles ago.
Here are a few observations at the end of 15 years:
• I write an opinion column. It is not a religious column, a political column, a humor column, or any other such column. And, because I have an opinion on a good number of things (at least 780), there will be opinions expressed on religion, politics, humorous stuff, and a host of other issues.
Once the columns are printed, I share them with my church and diocese on the websites — but they are always directed to the residents of the community first and foremost.
• There will always be critics. Cal Beverly once told me, “If you can’t stand getting splattered with hot grease, stay out of the kitchen.” He was right.
I have some people who take issue with some things I say, and others who faithfully pound me into the dirt no matter what I say. It all goes with living in a free country and being able to speak freely. I even have some folks who agree with me sometimes!
• Not everyone will like everything I write. Someone complained recently that I wrote too much about riding my motorcycle. Actually I wrote four motorcycle articles in 15 months, or four articles out of 64. Too much? For some people, yes.
Some folks expressed that I don’t talk about God and religion enough. “Every article should be inspiring,” one person said. Others think I shouldn’t mention religion at all.
• Some people think that, as a clergy person, I should express no opinions on controversial issues. They usually start out by saying, “I can’t believe that as a ‘man of the cloth’ you wrote ...” And on it goes.
Well, I am a minister. But I am also a citizen, a veteran, a taxpayer, a Tennessee Vols fan (although I do pull for the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets when they don’t play UT) and I wear a great many other hats as well. I do have opinions and, since I have an opinion column, I write about them.
Am I always right? Maybe not, but I think I am — else why share my opinion? Are people free to disagree? Yes, indeed!
• There are articles to be found everywhere. Someone said recently, “I don’t see how you write something every week.” The same could be said about sermons.
The truth is that the world is full of interesting people, events, issues, and weird stuff. Because I have to, I am always looking for something to write about — and so far, there has always been something. One just has to keep open eyes and an open mind.
• I am always surprised at how many people read my columns. Nearly everywhere I go, someone will mention that they read the articles. They don’t always agree, however.
Once I wrote a column on “The Look” that women give men and one lady passed by me in Longhorns and said, “I’m surprised you are still alive!” But they read. This is very humbling and makes me want to do better.
• Free speech is a sacred privilege to be jealously guarded. The fact that I can write whatever I want, and that people can respond in what ever way they choose, is rare in the world.
All over the planet, people are harassed, locked up and, in some cases, executed, for simply doing what I take for granted every week. America is by no means perfect, but, in my opinion (see, toldja this is an opinion column), it is a glorious and intoxicatingly wonderful place to live and work.
It has been a wonderful and sometimes challenging 15 years of sharing ideas and thoughts and, at times, desperately wracking my brain for something to write.
On a personal note, I hope that you, the readers, have found these musings beneficial, thought-provoking, and worthwhile. Maybe they made you smile sometimes.
I hope I have another 780 columns to go before I shut down the keyboard. Thank you for reading.