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Pulling Characters From Real Life
Wednesday, March 3, 2010 • Posted March 3, 2010

There have been many times that, as I'm enjoying time with friends or family, someone has looked my direction, raised a warning finger toward me, and said, "I don't want to see this in your column."

Well then!

There is a problem with that. Columnists, all of us, write about life from our perspective. Whether it is one of the ministers in the Shepherd Staff, Jane Zesch talking about Ronnie and the dogs, Dr. Newbury explaining Uncle Mort's latest theories, or Bill Bodenhamer trying to explain something to Shagnasty, we all write about what we know. Our lives. Our friends. Our families.

We may use supporting material from elsewhere; but, the reason that each columnist is unique and unlike any other is that they all use their own unique viewpoint to describe what is happening around us. We talk about current events based upon the historical perspective that each of us can bring to bear on the subject at hand.

I've talked about losing a family member because that was what was most important in my life at that time. I've recounted trips to New Orleans or Las Vegas, not just to let people know I went, but to share with readers who had also traveled what it is like to walk those streets. I've opened my life up to talk about relationships, pets, dinners and blunders.

The reason that columnists do this vary; but, the end result is the same.

Readers of these columns see themselves in some of the situations. They remember going through some of the same circumstances. They recall visiting the same cities. They might not have reacted the same way the columnist did; but, they realize that they are not alone in having taken certain paths or having made certain decisions.

Human beings are very social creatures. Though we all need our time alone and cherish moments when no one is around, our very nature pushes us to seek out others. Some times, that means actually putting ourselves into situations where there are other bodies around us. At other times, it means just seeking reinforcement that other bodies are experiencing the same feelings and emotions that we are. We find empathy reassuring.

So it is that I enjoy learning from Margaret Durst that the indigestion I'm having is common to many of her clients. I am reassured to see that, for his many "outdoor skills," Kendal still gets lost. I am heartened to learn that Pastor Fahrenthold can stand in front of the congregation at First United Methodist and feel loved and supported by the congregation's response to his sermon.

Some of the topics I approach are light and silly. Some are very serious and require the readers to ponder on weighty issues. There are times that I just allow the words to flow from my mind on to the paper, content that the readers will understand where I was going. And, there are other times that I choose every word carefully so that I can be a guide for the reader in exploring a specific topic or viewpoint.

At the end of the day, the readers, you, are the ones that will decide how I and the other columnists have done. I receive constant feedback, as I hope the other columnists do, about some of the things I've written and it lightens my heart to know that, even when you didn't agree with me, you understood why I took the position I did.

So, when the warning is issued to "not see this in your column," I have to reply that it may look different when it does appear; but, it will probably show up sooner or later. And you, the readers, will say, "I've been down that road myself."

It’s all just my opinion.

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