I have been writing this column since my son was 3.
For 14 years, I wrote weekly; now I write every other week. I have written more than 800 columns in all.
All that time, I've been working a number of other jobs - teaching and writing. In the past seven years I learned what it would mean to become a spiritual leader. I went back to school, pursued another master's degree and two ordinations.
Now I am a rabbi and a spiritual director for Cabarrus County's only Jewish congregation. I am a teacher at UNC Charlotte, a university I am honored to work for. I am still deeply in love with the home I have chosen.
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I have now lived longer in Cabarrus County than in any other location.
It's been a busy life - one packed with so many obligations and tasks that sometimes I wonder how it all gets done.
Sometimes I get a note that reminds me.
It all gets done out of a deep affection - for my home here, for the people I care for, for the students I try to nurture and understand, for the readers of this column.
Many, many years ago, one reader would send me notes now and again. Christine found my address somewhere in some phone book, I expect. She started writing intermittently.
She'd send me Christmas cards that made me smile because her handwritten notes were so lovely and kind. I'd smile, too, because her notes reminded me that whether I was Jewish and she was Christian didn't matter to either of us. It only mattered that we were both trying our very best to do our best.
One time we managed to meet for lunch. That happened so many years ago that I simple don't remember where we met.
I had not heard from Christine for many years. She was not young when we first met.
But last month I got a card. It made my breath catch in my throat.
On the front: A red barn and silo and a pale yellow house. A large wreath hung on the barn, sparkly snowflakes fell over the ground and a long, low fence bordered the scene.
On the inside: A Christmas wish, a text from the gospel of John, and in blue ink. "With much love. Christine."
I looked at the envelope. My address was on it all right, but there was no return address.
For weeks I have tried to remember Christine's last name, with no success. It's been too many years, and I had only thought of her as simply Christine.
In all these years, I never used this space to find anyone in particular. I met folks, I wrote about some of them, and a few stayed in contact.
We may lose sight of many things, but when we expect no more from each other than the sweet reminder that we are all children on this Earth and that we share it with one another, we give each other room to say, "with much love."
Christine, if you are out there and if you are reading this, send me your phone number. Let me find out how you are doing, please.
With much love,