I’ve been writing this column for 11 years in October, so I think it’s past time to pull back the proverbial curtain between us and discuss our relationship.
First of all, I think most of you know that I don’t live in your town, unless you live in Elk Grove, a suburb of Sacramento, Calif. Most of you read this column in one of four dozen papers across the country.
I’ve met many of you during my town hall talks in places like Fort Collins, Colo.; Mansfield, Ohio; Staunton, Va.; Elmira, N.Y.; and Melbourne and Fort Myers, Fla., but the majority of you read my syndicated column in my previous home state of Florida or my current state of California.
I’ll admit that writing a spirituality column hasn’t put me on the “road to riches,” but it has allowed me to reach out to people nationwide through a combination of my two loves, ministry and writing. However, getting paid to tell my stories is only the second best part of writing this column. The best thing about the column is hearing your stories.
You share with me the miracles in your lives by email, letters and phone messages. You tell me healing stories of both your physical hurts as well as your spiritual ones. You tell me how forgiveness changed your life or how my column changed your direction. You share the smiles of your grandchildren as well as your tearful breakthroughs.
Thank you for that.
I even find the critical email helpful. Readers who call me “moron” or “fool” keep me humble. (See my upcoming book, “Humility and How I Perfected It.”) However, name-callers should remember that Jesus said calling your brother a fool gets you a free trip to the eternal oven. Just kidding. Mostly.
Of course, not all emails are helpful. Some of them just clog my email box, so patriotic chain letters, heartbreaking urban legends, jokes and any email starting with “FW” will get the delete key. My most incredulous email comes from the evangelical brand of atheism. I call them “evangelical” because they are the kind who try to convert me with the fervor of the greasiest of televangelists. Please.
But the hardest part of hearing from you isn’t the criticism; it’s hearing your hurts and being unable to always help. You write me about your divorce, your grief, family problems, legal problems and vocational decisions (including several of you who want to be columnists or chaplains).
It’s sometimes difficult to hear because I’m not a local resource for most of you and I’m not staffed to write an Ann Landers-type column. The best I can promise is to pray for you, which I do. Beyond that, I urge you to seek local help from your clergy, doctor or a licensed counselor.
However, no matter who you are or what subject you raise, I promise to reply to your emails sent to me at my new email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. I also promise to read your snail-mail letters and listen to your phone messages, but unfortunately these formats become too time intensive to give you a personal reply.
Finally, if you are a reader in the states where I’ve yet to visit, (Ark., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Mich., Minn., Miss., N.J., Utah, S.C., Tenn., and Wis.), I think our relationship is ready for the next level, but I won’t be pushy. I’ll still await your formal invitation.
Thanks for reading these many years!
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of “No Small Miracles.” He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board- certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. Email email@example.com or visit thechaplain.net.