On 5 September 2014 I released an e-newsletter article titled “Farewell, Great Oak…Why I Quit.” The article is posted on my website and may be accessed by going to http://karlmerritt.pairsite.com/articles/. I am encouraged and very much humbled by the response to that release. The e-newsletter was sent to 725 recipients, 306 individuals opened it for a rate of 42%, and some of those who opened it forwarded the document to 535 other addresses. In addition, I received 41 emails commenting on the article. Some of the emails were a few sentences while others were several paragraphs. However, every email spoke volumes. My sincere thanks to every person who gave attention to the article.
Even in my old age this experience had an extremely powerful and positive impact on me. While not disclosing any identifying information, let me summarize some of what was said in those emails. Most of this was mentioned by more than one person:
- God has another assignment for me; relax and hear from Him.
- As I move ahead, use the lessons learned during my time at Great Oak.
- Several respondents talked about growing up in poverty and appreciating the value of hard work. In similar fashion, there was mention of how we should not promote attitudes of entitlement, not even in children.
- My comments were described as candid and freeing. The writer opened by saying she does not always agree with what I say or write.
- One writer said he did not understand my reasons for quitting and went on to offer four possible reasons based on his observations. One of those was that people might be turned off by my “In your face” approach. Not understanding that assessment, I asked for more detail as to how he came to that possibility. He sent a response that was respectful, thoughtful, and even seemed complimentary.
- Do not lament or live in the past.
- Based on what he is experiencing in his work, a writer expressed agreement with my observations in each of the four reasons given for quitting.
- The point was made that a person cannot separate personal and political views from the mission of an organization. My experience says that there is pure truth in that statement.
- One friend who has known me for years and holds political and social views very different from mine thanked me for my efforts at Great Oak and went on to say he would not frustrate himself by trying to change my thinking. I wrote back and suggested that he not aim to change my mind, but simply engage in conversation regarding the issues of our time. This is a man who thinks deeply and his sharing of thoughts makes me think in greater depth. In a world of sound-bites, the opportunity for discussion that produces serious thought should be treasured.
- A writer who is well versed in the operation of organizations explained that organizations move through various stages. His point was that sometimes individuals are effective in certain stages but not in others. Consequently, people should be honest with themselves as to their reduced effectiveness and/or limited interest in a particular stage or stages. Consistent with other comments, this means one needs to know when to move on.
- Do good for others; live by Godly principles; be more concerned about what is right than what is popular; stay strong and remain in the struggle.
These emails came in over several days. However, there were also phone calls. One came as I was approaching the sixth tee-box at Stryker Golf Course in Fayetteville. It was a friend of many years whose political and social thinking is much like mine. He had read the article and wanted to share some thoughts. I found a place to sit and we talked for about 45 minutes. At one point we both confessed our desire not to live long enough to see the collapse of America that seems rather certain if we do not change course. He and I also lamented a bit regarding the very difficult circumstances being set for our children and grandchildren. We ended the conversation by asking ourselves what we should do about all the political and social conditions that scare us, frustrate, make no sense…on and on beyond what words can adequately describe. We were really trying to find a way to remain hopeful and, therefore, take action. I went on to the remainder of my 18 holes of golf.
As was discussed in that phone conversation, over the last few years I have struggled to remain hopeful for America’s future. Seeing the response to my article by way of numbers and feedback helped me realize that there is the possibility of civil discourse; people thinking deeply beyond sound-bites and emotion; doing what is right instead of what is popular; and living in a way that pleases God. This experience coupled with serious time spent hearing from God has reinvigorated me. I am not leaving the struggle but am simply adjusting course as I continue my efforts to Help Build a Better World. Thanks to all of you who allowed God to confirm my calling by speaking through your replies.