Thursday, January 28, 2010

Will Wonders Never Cease

About two weeks ago, my state agency received an email through our website inquiring when the best time to see Texas wildflowers is.

Emails from the public are a mixed bag, of course. Human nature being what it is, people don't usually write to a faceless bureaucratic entity unless they're het up about something. A not-insignificant portion of my job involves answering hate mail.

I love it. Not the hate mail itself, but the whole process of coming to understand the other person's point of view; of moving through commingled frustration, annoyance, and compassion; of trying to figure out what can be done either to help the person, or at least to help him or her understand. Forging connections is amazing. The best thing in the world is when you write back to someone who's very angry - with or without good cause - and feel that you've made sense, that you've cleared things up, that the person received at least some sort of satisfaction from your answer. You've made a change in the world, and in someone else, and in yourself - just the littlest tiniest bit, but it's such a good thing.

Usually that's the end of it, but every so often someone writes back to me. Often they thank me. Many times they're surprised to have received a thoughtful response from a faceless, monolithic government entity at which they were, after all, only venting a little spleen. Sometimes they want to continue the discussion further. Obviously I can't answer everything - I mean, I personally sure as heck don't agree 100% with everything my employer does - but on balance, I love the process, and the contact and the interaction with these strangers seeking any acknowledgement whatsoever of their point of view, and get it. It's tremendously rewarding, really.

But this wildflower question just made me completely happy. Of course the inquirer wasn't upset; she wanted to know when the peak of wildflower season is, and where the best part of the state to visit is, and whether we're going to have a good wildflower season this year.

Well, on the last one, who knows. It's looking a heck of a lot better than last year. We had some good rain in the fall, and only one hard freeze so far this winter (till tomorrow and Saturday night, anyway), and it looks like we'll get some nice fields of bluebonnets, come late March to mid-April. Somewhere. You can generally count on east Texas, anyway.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote back to this nice British nature photographer and said that, while it's too early to determine how colorful the show of wildflowers will be this year, there is a fair prospect of a good season; I sent a few links, and had a shipment of Texas travel literature sent off to her, along with last year's wildflower driving tour issue of the travel magazine, whose editor is a friend of mine. She wrote back and thanked me right away.

And today she wrote the friendliest note to say that she'd received all the literature in the mail, thanked me again for being helpful, and promised to send me photographs after her trip.

Do you remember before there was an internet? Can you imagine life without it? I do, and I can't. At this point I'm kind of wishing she'd look me up when she's in town. People are quite lovely, you know. Aren't I lucky to have a job where I get to be friends with so many of them?

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