I got a very unexpected phone call in late December:
"Hello, Linda." the friendly voice said. "I'm a stranger to you, I'm sure." No kidding! I didn't recognize the voice and didn't see call display. He continued: "I read your letter..." This was getting more confusing. He's a stranger and got a letter from me? I do write letters, but as far as I know they always go to the people they're intended for. "You wrote about that Michael Hofer." he explained.
"I'm not sure I know what you're talking about. When did I send this letter?"
"The letter is about the Michael Hofer who joined the Amana Colonies. Zack Vetter from your colony gave it to me."
Now things were becoming clearer. "Okay. but that is not a letter. It's an article I wrote for my blog." Maybe he doesn't even know what a blog is. But I still didn't know who I was talking to. "And you are...?"
Finally, I learned who I was talking to. Well, at least I had the name and his colony, but still didn't really know who he was. But I intended to find out as soon as this call was over. He was calling to tell me how much he enjoyed the article, because Michael Hofer was a distant relative of his and he had often wondered about him. My article had provided him with lots of information he never knew about and he was very grateful for that. "This is better than a Christmas card." I wonder if he loves cards as much as I do? If so, this is the ultimate compliment. We continued our chat for about half an hour, talking about other Hutterite History topics. He also wondered had I ever written anything about Maendel history, since he's related to them as well. I haven't....but maybe one day.
I always find this fascinating: When Hutterites meet or hear about some other Hutterite who they don't know, they always have this ingrained need to make some kind of connection to that person, to find out if they know anybody on that family tree. Which is exactly what happened here. Even if I don't know this person, I was sure I could make some connection to him through other people I know. And thankfully, we have this wonderful tool to help us with that - our Hutterite Record Book, where every Hutterite has been recorded dating back to Russia.
Through this amazing and well-organized resource, I soon learned that I know some of this man's grandchildren very well. In fact, some of them are my friends and colleagues and he's the senior minister from another colony.
As much as I love to write, things like this always remind me why I'm really doing it. Sure, stringing words together is a beautiful pasttime, and is something I always strive to improve on. However, when these words touch people in some way and especially if they're kind enough to let me know, I've been doubly blessed. I'm humbled that God has blessed me with this wonderful writing skill, a skill I can use to reach out to others, share the gift of story with them. Which happens each time I publish something on my blog or otherwise, or someone passes along a piece I printed out for them. As was the case with 'the letter' mentioned above.
The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp.
The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.
- Ursula K. Le Guin