A retired professor sent me a letter. He told me that one of my stories was "plain," and "needed more work." And he told me a lot more than that, too.
I was afraid he was going to grade my work and give me a C minus.
I have a noted history of getting C's. I once set a longstanding academic record for earning the most consecutive C's in my weight division. Things like that stick with you.
Not all the messages I receive are bad, though. For example: This morning I got a message from a man in Tallapoosa. He started with the words, “I love you.”
That was nice. I can’t think of a better way to start a weekday.
Then, the man went on to tell me about something that happened to him once.
Years ago, he was standing in a supermarket line. He was trying to pay for his groceries, but his card got declined. A woman in line paid for his items. She was a stranger.
He’s never told anyone about this.
“That woman probably didn’t know it,” he wrote, “but I was a single dad, at the time I was broke. She put food in my kids’ mouths.”
There’s the letter I got from the woman in Chattanooga.
She got pregnant when she was seventeen. Her family kicked her out of the house. She almost gave the child up for adoption because seventeen-year-olds can't afford babies.
She wanted her child to have a good life, even if this meant letting it go.
A neighbor woman invited the girl to live with her for as long as the girl needed. She offered to babysit her child, and to let her use her car. The woman's only condition was that the girl stay in school.
That was ten years ago, today the girl has a nursing degree and a nine-year-old.