One e-mail last week started in a very friendly manner:
"I always look forward to reading your columns, and I use them in my English classes to teach my freshman persuasive writing."
So, I expected some measure of agreement with last Thursday's column in which I opined that Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate-turned-Fox News commentator was wrong and simplistic in suggesting that it was because we as a nation don't fear God any more that a disturbed 20-year-old savagely gunned down innocent children in their Connecticut school.
Well, no. This reader wrote about man's inherent evil nature, the grace of God, the commandments and turning away from sinfulness.
"For some reason liberals have never been able to account for man's innate wickedness," he wrote. "Also, the phoniness of many of them comes clearly into focus. How can they express outrage over 20 children when abortions at will occur ... ."
There was more. And after an e-mail back-and-forth with him, I can't tell you we were exactly on the same page. But it was enlightening and measured. More so than the later e-mail from a different reader that came barreling in with "Please don't speak for God if you do not know what you are talking about."
It was light-years more tempered and respectful than the dismayingly vicious bickering among a small group of commenters to the online version of my column.
When those of us privileged to be able to write commentary for a living address topics that touch people's emotions, they often let us know. Sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes in no uncertain terms.
It might be a phone call from someone who felt moved to say thanks for reflecting my perspective.
It might be a scorching message from a reader who read a column that sounds nothing like what you thought you wrote.
It might be a long scold from someone who apparently wants to argue, and you have to measure whether to engage or just leave things be.
It might be someone accurately pointing out a fact error that slipped into print. Dismaying as those messages are, it's better to get one than leave a mistake uncorrected.
No matter how readers come at you, they serve as a reminder of why we do what we do as opinion writers: to convey information, to provide perspective, to help people keep up with events but also to seek an understanding of our world.
Readers invite us into their homes and their lives and expect certain things from us.
I hear from readers who get worked up because what I wrote didn't mirror their opinion, as though a newspaper is a representative democracy. If it were, though, we might not produce a finished product every day.
I hear from readers who want me to know I'm not alone, even in expressing a viewpoint that sounds contrarian.
Readers try to set me straight, to share another side, to help me see the error of my ways, to cheer, to chide, to discuss, to cuss, to let me know they're out there and want to be heard.
Most of all, I believe, they want accuracy, fairness, honesty and precision. They want something worthwhile for their investment.
Heading into a new year, with its resolutions to act nicer, live healthier, be worthier, let me offer a thank you to readers for their time, their interest, their feedback.
The reader quoted at the start of this column left me with this: "I have always appreciated your writing and Lord willing always will."
That's a mighty challenge to live up to. I'll keep trying.
Linda P. Campbell is a Star-Telegram editorial writer.