By Joe Rector

I know why I began to write all those years ago. Even as a young boy, the mood and feeling the need to write things down would come, and I climbed the steps to the upstairs bedroom, a place that was hotter than a mill in the summer and as cold as a walk-in freezer in the winter. Most of the time, those pages were stuffed into a desk drawer, only to be resurrected a few years later. Reading them always caused me to blush.

I gave up writing, along with most other academic pursuits for the most part, when I started high school. Because of my neglectful attitude then, I worked hard in college and had no time for free writing. The “serious papers” took all my attention. Poetry analysis or studies of symbolism or some other literary element sucked the life out of my writing. I developed the skills to succeed in the art of writing papers to the extent that some of the guys in the dorm offered to pay me to write papers for their classes, offers I never accepted.

After graduation from college, I spent the next 30 years teaching those kinds of papers. I was brutal on students when they misspelled words, and I took at least one day each week teaching grammar. Older students remember. That’s not so with today’s younger students. In too many cases, they had teachers who didn’t know the grammar themselves; they played off that lack of knowledge by telling students that what they thought was more important. Of course, I challenged them by asking how what they thought could be understood in papers riddled with grammatical errors and compilations of letters that spelled nothing.

For years I have been writing columns on almost any subject that came to mind. Some have been good. I take credit for each of their existences, and I love them whether they are perfect or filled with contradictions and vague references. Some people along the way have been kind enough to say a nice word about my columns; they identified with something I’d said or an action someone had done. At other times, readers have tried to show the errors of my thinking, sometimes in not-so-friendly terms.

I’m a lucky man. This weekly paper allows me to write a column and share my thoughts with folks. I consider each person who sets his eyes on a piece I’ve written to be a friend. Thank you for doing so. Sharing with you brings me great joy. Thank you for giving me such a gift. I hope your coming year is filled with sunshine, cool breezes, and love. Let’s all try to put our differences aside and put our country back together. Let us continue to be the shining beacon on the hill.

Happy New Year!