Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Would You Fill In The Blank?

Column notes: I had a lot of fun writing this one and even more fun reading the responses that came in. This one helped me see that at least some people are starting to 'get it.' Here's one response I received:

This County needs more like you who will stand up for what is honest!!!!!!!

Oh, and you'll understand the exclamation points after you read the column.

HARBESON: Want to be pen pals?

Warning to readers of this column: if you decide to write to me, I will write back. No matter what you say, or how you say it. I just think it’s the right thing to do and as long as I have the time to respond individually, I will. Besides, I can’t stop telling people what I think.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because of a recent experience I had with a fellow who e-mailed me after reading my column titled “There’s A More Logical Solution for Parrish Than Jail,” which discussed restitution as an option.

I knew this guy was pretty upset with me because he used several exclamation points. But then I made it worse because I wrote back. I know this because he used even more exclamation points when he replied again.

I can’t help it, I like to see if I can have a conversation with those who disagree. I wanted to learn more about his point of view and I questioned him on a part of his message that I did not understand.

I have to give him credit though. He was kind enough not to call me any really nasty names. Oh, he had a few minor ones but as he really got going, he just wrote this, “I also know that you are a ................... you can fill in the proper word!” I thought it was pretty nice of him to let me fill in the blank myself, don’t you?

Finally, after one more try, (silly I know) he demanded that I not e-mail him again. I’ll let you fill in your own blank as to how I handled that.

I realize some people just want to let off steam and it’s easy to fly off a quick e-mail. But I’m still going to respond because more often than not I end up enjoying a respectful exchange of thoughts and ideas. And I always learn something.

Let’s contrast this experience with another letter I received. This one was very unusual because it was a ‘real’ letter, delivered through the postal service. It might be the first one I’ve ever received this way.

In addition, this letter was hand-written. In cursive. I was quite impressed that someone would take the time to actually get paper, pen and handwrite a letter in response to my column. I was so surprised that I just stared at it for a day or so.

This writer responded to “Columnist Wants to Live Free,” and offered me two pages of reasons why I can’t. To her credit, she did not try to convince me that I was free; in fact, she admitted that we both were not. She simply politely and calmly laid out her reasoning. She didn’t even have to use a single exclamation point!

So as always, I wrote back. I’ll confess here that I’m now a bit ashamed because I did not respond in kind. I cheated and typed it. But I did fold the paper, lick an envelope and walk all the way out to the mailbox. I also had to walk back to the mailbox because I forgot to put up the flag the first time. So I think that makes us even.

I offered to mail her a book she might enjoy reading called “Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression.” I told her it would challenge her beliefs about the usefulness of government programs, particularly for the less fortunate.

I don’t know if she’ll respond, but I certainly can’t imagine she’ll get upset and tell me to stop writing to her. We’ll see.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson welcomes your responses at Debbie (at) debbieharbeson (dot) com! She promises she’ll write back!! If you don’t believe her then ………., you can fill in the proper word!!!


  1. "“I also know that you are a ................... you can fill in the proper word!” I thought it was pretty nice of him to let me fill in the blank myself, don’t you?"

    Hilarious. Yeah many people aren't looking to debate and consider other views...just blow off steam at what they disagree with. Which is alright, I think we've all done it before. Sometimes we're not always gonna be open to convincing, other times we are.

    Ian Freeman mentioned that book "Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression" on Free Talk Live. I might just have to check it out when I get some money in the future as they've said positive things about it.

  2. Nick, if you want, check with me in a month or two to see if the lady wrote back taking me up on my offer to mail it to her.

    If she doesn't, I'd be glad to let you borrow it and I'll mail it to you.

  3. Oh that'd be awesome! :) Will do.