This post originally appeared in The Florida-Times Union: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/10/31/guest-column-some-problems-cant-solved-writing-dear-abby/8475262002/
When I was in junior high, I had an advice column I shared with another girl. Our last names both began with the letter C so while the national newspapers ran syndicated columns of Dear Abby or Dear Ann Landers, my catholic grade school featured Dear C & C. Quite honestly, I think we were just as good as Abby and Ann too — even if we did make up most of the questions in order to fill the mimeographed page.
Sometimes I think things were more progressive in the eighties. I can’t imagine a 21st century school letting kids publish their own advice column. They would worry too much about legalities and the social/emotional consequences of two twelve-year-olds doling out advice. I guess there were some advantages to my generation despite the massive amounts of Aqua Net hairspray we inadvertently inhaled, the high-fructose corn syrup and red dye we consumed along with our Little Debbie’s snack cakes, and Kool-Aid, and the Crisco oil we slathered on us to sunbathe.
I loved reading advice columns even if most of the topics had little to do with me. I didn’t have a mother-in-law to take issue with and I didn’t have houseguests who left wet towels on the floor. Still, I liked the reassurance of these columns — knowing that someone had answers, that every problem had a tidy well-written solution, and if we ever needed help, we just had to ask.
As I grew into adulthood, I realized it wasn’t that simple. Life was more complicated than Abby or Ann ever let on and messier than C &C could have known. I learned that help from others could be misguided and some problems didn’t have prosaic solutions. This was a hard lesson – one that could have easily hardened my heart had I not realized that in all of the questioning and doubt it is ultimately God we seek. He is the one who is unconditionally qualified to bring peace to our restless hearts. “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity,” (James 3:17).
Of course, Jesus doesn’t dole out advice in tidy columns of black ink. He doesn’t answer with the efficiency of email. He doesn’t always consider what is problematic for us, as a problem at all. There may be some lessons he is trying to teach. Some letting go he is encouraging. Some bigger picture that he is asking us to see. Something lost he needs us to find.
Doling out advice, strategies, and solutions is big business in our world. Yet, only through God can our hearts know peace. Only by asking him will we have the one true answer encompassing all the answers. Had I known that every problem could be solved by God when I was writing the Dear C & C column, I could have answered more efficiently by simply directing others to him.
Besides, it would have given me more time to snack on Little Debbie’s and Kool-Aid.
Hi all~ It’s hard not to be nostalgic for advice columns like Dear Abby and Dear Ann Landers, and, of course, Dear C & C. Now anyone and everyone doles their unauthenticated wisdom on social media. That’s why with all things, it’s best to keep God as our center. When we stay close to him, the knowing seems easier — even if it’s not always easy to do.
And, I know I no longer have a fancy-schmancy advice column, (nor do I still slather myself in Crisco oil, instead opting for 50 plus SPF sunscreen) but one more little piece of advice: Come see me this Saturday at The Blue Mantle in St. Augustine for a book signing! The Blue Mantle is a precious Catholic store located right near the Shrine of Our Lady Of La Leche at 81 San Marco Avenue. I will be there between 1 and 3 p.m. signing books. It’s such a fun, cute store. So, if you can please check it out, say hello to me, and get a head start on your Christmas shopping!
See, all these years later, I still give pretty good advice! (But, yes, God’s is better — so listen to him!)