Going through boxes of memories can really take you back in time.

I remember finding my third-grade diary in a box at my parent’s house. I sat there in the floor of the basement reading for an hour straight. At the end of every page, the excitement over the next page pulsated through my body. Oh, the drama of unsharpened pencils! My diary reminded me that at one point my friend Angel wrote my name on the board as a joke and I got in trouble! That diary is pure proof that the struggle is real even when you don’t have to pay a mortgage and drive yourself to work.

I recently found another box of certificates and Polaroids. As soon as I opened it, I found an old newspaper clipping. I wasn’t sure if it was a clipping from the time my hamster made frontpage news or from the time I won the Miss Randolph County Agriculture pageant (I was the only candidate). Either way, I knew it was worth reading.

Lo and behold, this clipping wasn’t of a beauty pageant or a pet pic! It was a Letter to the Editor I wrote while I was in college, along with a letter that was sent to me by a reader. The opinion piece was in The Randolph Leader, a small paper in a small county with small towns and big hearts. It’s the quintessential small-town Alabama.

The Letter to the Editor was about how the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas should be the “season of FORgiving” so that everyone can start the new year off fresh and can wipe the slate clean of any hurt or pain caused by others.

As I read my letter, I realized that the fact that I even wrote a Letter to the Editor while I was in college should’ve been a sign to me that writing was kind of my thing. At that time, I was pursuing a career in the medical field. I was in the Radiography program at UAB and it was my junior year. Only a year and a half to go and I was out of there - NOT!

After an unfortunate incident involving a patient receiving a barium enema (don’t worry, I won’t go into detail), I realized that medicine was not for me. I care for people, but I have chosen to help them in other ways … by writing their stories and informing them about things that matter.

Another thing I realized as I was reading my letter was how much hurt I was feeling. I was upset after the death of a friend in a car accident. That crash was caused by another friend, who was driving the car. That “other friend” was really more of an acquaintance, but in the small county I lived in, everyone knew everyone. Acquaintances were more like best friends and best friends were more like family. I was so angry at this person for making a bad choice and costing my friend his life. HIS LIFE! He was young. He hadn’t even graduated high school yet. He had everything to look forward to. He could’ve had a real job, a wife and three little boys! He had a “bloodhound dog on the front porch” type of future to look forward to! But it would never happen.

As a Christian, I knew the Bible teaches us to forgive others. I knew that Luke 6:37 tells us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Still, for over a year, I couldn’t imagine looking this person in the face.

But then something happened. I went to a funeral for a young lady that was shot and killed in a murder-suicide. The woman’s father was cheerful at the funeral. I wrote in the letter, “The words that came from his mouth nearly took my breath away.”

The father told me the death was tragic but “at least they are together now.”

“What right is it of mine to deny forgiveness in my heart for this person?” I continued in the letter.

I then revealed information on an incident that happened before the death of my friend. We were coming back from the movie theater when I almost crashed my car. I was not paying attention to the roadway and almost slammed into a tree with this very same friend in my front seat.

It could’ve been me.

I knew I had to forgive this young man and I did. After feeling the peace that came with clearing my mind and allowing my heart to fill up with love, I just had to share my experience with The Randolph Leader. It was, and is, my nature to share feelings with the written word.

The letter from the reader, who I will call Ms. Green, was a letter showing me that at least one person was touched by my words. She told me how she had been struggling with anger for another person and how my letter inspired her to make changes within herself.

This was the first time I ever received feedback from someone who read something that came straight from my heart. It wasn’t long before I changed my major at UAB and began studying for a degree in communications.

Since then, I have had a successful career in news media. I have worked at television stations, a newspaper and now an online, multi-media company that is striving to “rise to the moment of truth.” With 1819 News, I hope to give readers the same feeling Ms. Green had when she read my Letter to the Editor. Giving people something to smile about is my way of making a little difference in this world.

That old newspaper clipping and letter was the only thing I got out of the box that day. I look forward to going back into my crawlspace to see what memories I grab out of that box next. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write about that, too!

Erica Thomas is Managing Editor of 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com