I often say that the “psychic pay” I get for doing this job is as good, or sometimes better, than the paycheck. Maybe you’ll see what I mean when you read this letter from reader Byron in Colorado — and my comments below it:
I am not one who usually writes to authors and I know you receive tons of emails from your readers so I hope you get to see mine, if only the following sentence: Thank you for what you do, for the message your editorials bring to your subscribers, for the laughter that This Is True and True Stella Awards give me and for the common sense and often enlightening perspective your comments and letters section delves into.
I am sure you hear a lot of real life issues and stories from your subscribers and to be honest I can’t say why I am about to tell someone I do not know other than from TSA and TRUE about my personal life. I have had a rough few years, I lost my home and lifetime of belongings on Christmas morning 2002 from an electrical fire that started in the wall. My health has since deteriorated significantly dealing with a disease called RSD and with COPD at only 36 years of age. RSD is short for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy — a disease I wouldn’t wish upon anyone — and COPD is short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which typically affects those who have smoked all their lives. I have never smoked a day in my life and never would, but because of the genetic roll of the dice I have grown up with asthma, making me more susceptible to second hand smoke and other pulmonary contagions. I’ve learned to live with both and feel I have done quite well doing so for over 2 years now, and then out of the blue in September of this year I had a small stroke. I couldn’t believe my luck! Plus being so young I was just shocked that it could happen to me.
Anyway, my purpose for writing is to thank you for bringing some sunshine to my day when I receive your emails. I am only a free subscriber, though I have been for a long time now. I have wanted to upgrade but I am not able to work full time and not at all since the stroke so I cannot afford to. However I have told all my friends about TSA and TRUE and they love it as much as I do. One day I know I will be able to and please do know that I will upgrade as I know the full subscription has to be worth it. I also cannot wait until the day I can order from your GOOHF site. What a wonderful idea, and believe me with all the doctors appointments I have had to go to, I have met some people that I’d certainly like to give a GOOHF card to! Your stories are about real life, not just a joke site and not necessarily always funny, but real — which in itself has helped me keep a smile on my face when many times I’d rather not. Just reading some of the stories makes me realize that no matter how bad a day I’m having or how sick I feel or how much pain I am in physically, that there is someone, somewhere who is in a worse spot than I am.
Thank you for making me smile, thank you for letting me see that brighter side of things when it sometimes seems dark, thank you for taking the time to bring laughter, absurdity, truth, and a perspective on life’s oddities that we all seem to overlook.
And thank you, Byron, for writing and sharing your story. Over the years I have heard from quite a few readers who have said that True has helped them through some major health challenges (and, indeed, they don’t always come out the other side of those challenges alive). I feel incredibly privileged that they chose to spend some of their precious last weeks, months or years with my work, and felt better for it. There surely aren’t that many people in the world who get to say that. (See what I mean by “psychic pay”?!)
So you’re absolutely right, Byron: so often there are people who are much worse off than we are.
So here’s where you might expect me to make a pitch for someone to upgrade Byron, right? Nope: I’m begging you not to.
I ran Byron’s letter in the free edition on Friday, expecting that one or two readers would probably offer to upgrade him. That’s not why I run such letters; in fact, it’s why I run so few like it. But either Byron’s letter touched a chord, or it’s “the season,” and the result was dozens of readers offering to upgrade him. A couple just did it without asking, so Byron is set not only for a couple of years of Premium, but also for a lovely assortment of GOOHF goodies.
As for the rest of the offers, I asked if I could redirect their generosity to a wider circle of people (since, as indicated, I get more such letters than I publish). I think all of them said sure: apply their gift where I see fit.
One of those others is Sylvia in Arkansas. She recently wrote:
Like many others, I’d also like to thank you for a little ray of sunshine in my darkness. On Tuesday November 15, I came home from dropping my son off for school to find my fiance — my best friend — had died in his sleep from a horrible acid reflux episode that asphyxiated him. He was a month shy of his 28th birthday. We’d only been together a little over 3 years, but I miss him terribly. I feel like he was my one true comfort in the world, and my son also thought of him as a best friend. To add insult to injury, the Monday after his funeral I got fired from my job. It was literally, ‘so how was the funeral? OK, we have to let you go.’
So here I sit, an unemployed, single mother who has no idea where her future might go. And I am glad of anything at all that can make me smile these days. So as I awake every day in tears over someone I love so very much and can no longer hold, and the fear that I may not have anywhere to live on my own soon, I know I’ll be all right if I can just smile. (And don’t worry: my mom and his won’t let me or my son be homeless.) So thank you for being in the industry of cheering people up. Some of us so very desperately need it this year.
I was able to upgrade Sylvia for two years. See what I mean by getting good “psychic pay”? Thanks so much to the readers who made it possible.
So if Byron’s (or Sylvia’s) letter stirred you and made you want to take action, that’s great: no doubt there are plenty of people near you who could use your help; Byron’s taken care of, and so are a couple of other people who wrote similar letters. It’s the start of “the season” to spread joy, and those readers will get a weekly reminder that there are some really good people Out There in the world. Thanks for letting me be the conduit to send that reminder.
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As far as I can tell, Byron died: his mailbox shut down the next spring, and I never heard from him again. You’ve got to reach out when you can, and he did, and I’m grateful.