Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Changed World

~Published in the Charleston Gazette, Sunday, January 27, 2013~
A family member phoned last night, rather late, and said he was coming by to drop off some things. My first impulse was to unlock the door and continue reading my engrossing book, but on second thought, I decided that wasn’t a good idea.  

What if a stranger decided to walk in? 

Oh, how times have changed! When I was growing up, we never would have worried about such a thing. We didn’t even lock our doors. In the summertime, at night, we used the little latch on the screen door and left the big door open all night. We had to. It was hot and we had no air conditioning. Besides, there was nothing to fear. We lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone else and we took care of each other. 

Imagine leaving your doors unlocked now. Mine are usually locked – even in the daytime. My children have their own keys. I wish we didn’t live in such an untrustworthy world. 

As a child, I walked quite a distance to school, sometimes alone. In those days, no one ever thought of a child from an ordinary family, like mine, being kidnapped or harmed in any way. In a small town, like the one I lived in, everyone looked out for all of the children – not just their own. It was a much safer world then. 

My friend and I used to spend Saturday afternoons at the movies eating popcorn, watching a movie, sometimes more than once, and interacting with other friends from school, who spent their Saturdays the same. It was great; something to look forward to every week. We'll never forget those Saturdays of our youth! 

Nowadays, mothers deliver their children to and from school and accompany them everywhere they go. There are some who still ride school buses, but when they step off the bus in the evening, their mothers wait nearby to take them home.  

Some of my most enjoyable times occurred on the way home from school in the afternoon. I shudder at the thought of all the fun I would have missed if my mother had picked me up! 

There was a soda fountain in our town reminiscent of the one on “Happy Days.” As we sauntered home from school, my friends and I stopped there most evenings for a coke, a milkshake, an ice cream soda, or just plain enjoyment. Lots of good things happened there. While the jukebox played my favorite songs, I sometimes met a new friend or engaged in a flirtation with a boy from school. And when I was in high school, many Saturday night dates were made sitting at the old soda fountain sipping a coke.  A few times, I was asked to write my phone number on a napkin for someone who may want to use it later. 

Yes, it’s a changed world. 

I suppose my parents thought the same thing when I was growing up. If there’s anything we can count on, it’s change. But no matter how things fluctuate, the era we grew up in – to each of us – will always be the best!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Just Do Your Best

~Appeared in The Charleston Gazette, Sunday, January 6, 2013~

As we move into a new year, we see before us a clean slate - an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past year – and the majority of us vow to make the most of our new beginning.

Upon reflection, some of us may feel that it’s vitally important to discover the real meaning of our existence, especially those who are older. Typically, until now, we’ve simply been too busy living to think about such things. But now that our children are on their own, our lives have slowed from a mad dash to a stroll, and we find that we have more time to reflect on life’s purpose and wonder if we’ve done anything worthwhile, or if it was all for naught.

We still have hopes and dreams but sometimes doubts creep in, causing us to question the validity of our ambitions.

When this happens, we must look beyond any so-called limitations such as age, resources or timing and remember that our dreams are God inspired.
And He has blessed us with the talent to create and accomplish whatever we set our minds and hearts to achieve.

Deep within each of us is a center of peace—a quiet strength that gives us the power and energy to pursue our dreams. We each have unique abilities and strengths. One person may create a striking work of art; another, an exceptional computer program; another, a melodious piece of music, and yet another, a cordial home that others take pleasure in visiting. Our work is an expression of who we are as we use our mind, physical capabilities and actions to create something of value in the world.

Still, possessing a talent goes much deeper.

The ability to make others feel special, to help someone, to show compassion: these are talents, too, and are available to us at every stage of our life – not just when we’re young. But since our society doesn't hand out praise or monetary rewards for gifts of character, we think because we don't possess some obvious ability like singing or playing a musical instrument, we don't have talent. Instead of looking at the gifts we have and using them to the best of our ability, we get caught up in comparisons and disqualify ourselves because we weren’t blessed with the same talents God gave someone else.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’"

We must never let our perceived inadequacies be a handicap. Give them to God and they will become His opportunity to demonstrate His power operating through us. He would never have a chance to help us if we were always self-sufficient and capable of meeting every challenge.

He has a way of turning our lives in directions we didn't even know existed. And He often works through us to accomplish His goals. By surrendering to Him, we can see amazing things in ourselves and go well beyond the potential anyone thought we had.

Just do your best and God will do the rest.

Happy New Year!