A Bridge to Connection

A bridge was dedicated in memory of Gayle Faulkner Lawson today in Harlan, Kentucky.

The event will not be covered on the world evening news, but I bet it is big news in Harlan. It should be.

This morning, the Kentucky General Assembly named the bridge on new U.S. 119 near the Harlan County line in Gayle’s name, recognizing her lifetime of community service.

Sometimes, dedications of this kind tend to honor famous people. Politicians. Celebrity types. Often, the structures have nothing to do with the person being honored.

Today they got it right. They are honoring the right person.

Although well-known throughout southeastern Kentucky for years of diligent community service, Gayle Lawson would be quick to tell you she was just an ordinary person.

I knew her before her hair turned white and she updated her hairdo. As Kentuckians say, let me tell ya, “She was not ordinary. She was really quite extraordinary.”

Words like persistent, determined, stubborn, obstinate, pushy, and tenacious were often used to describe her. She was feisty, which made her a worthy opponent. People learned to do their homework before tangling with her. Highly intelligent, she had a good memory and was always prepared for any meeting. Her daughter, Doris, told me people often dreaded seeing her name on their calendar.

Doris tried to describe her mother before our first meeting. “Ag, she will wear you out. She talks all the time and sometimes is downright nosey, so be prepared for inappropriate questions.”  Gayle and I hit it off immediately. Doris told me her mother approved of me saying I was easy to talk to. and because I loved volunteering. I think she was a sucker for people born in Kentucky. Besides I could talk almost as much as she could.

Gayle and I often talked about the importance of volunteering and community service. I once asked her secret for dealing with elected officials at the state level. Her answer, “I always go in knowing more than they do.”

I drove to Lexington to visit her in the hospital a few weeks before she died. When I entered the room, the nurse was trying to get her to eat, with no luck. When Gayle smiled at me, the nurse handed me the spoon and said, “Maybe you will have better luck than me.”

Gayle was extremely weak, unable to say much. She did allow me to feed her a few bites of her soup and a few sips of her drink. She smiled as I talked to her for a few minutes. Then closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Sitting, watching her sleep, a stack of get-well cards on the windowsill crashed to the floor. Picking them up, I started to organize them so they wouldn’t fall again. There were lots of cards, many on engraved stationery with the State Seal of Kentucky on the front, from senators, even the governor. I began to truly understand the scope of her volunteer work.

Gayle had told me once the seal was surrounded by goldenrod, the state flower.  Not sure she appreciated my comment that I thought goldenrod was a flowering weed. With her eyes flashing, she set me straight; telling me goldenrod was a weed and a flower. Laughing, she added someone who had been born in the Great Commonwealth should have known that.

Her thirst for learning and her love of teaching was inspirational. But, her exemplary community service, outstanding leadership, and working to better her community had been her true legacy.

Gayle was dedicated to her causes, worked tirelessly, and never gave up on the projects she believed in. She believed a lot of her success came from bringing the right people together to get the job done. I think her exceptional patience and boundless energy probably didn’t hurt. The driving force behind important projects that changed the lives of so many, she was a remarkable woman who had a huge impact on her community.

She bought her Ford Bronco so it could get her to meetings and conferences all over Kentucky. I think of the phrase of putting your money where your mouth is because she always traveled at her own expense.

In some ways, Gayle was sort of old school. She liked her information to be printed on paper once telling me, “Agnes, can you believe the College is switching their records over to the computer. I have half-a-mind to bring home the paper records so they will be preserved for the future.”

Gayle was always telling me how she admired my organization habits. She never threw anything away and often asked for tips to help organize her substantial amount of paper files. Once inviting me to come spend a few weeks with her and help get her organized. In the next room, Doris overheard her invitation and yelled, “Mother, really!” Gayle calmly said, “Doris Jean, I wasn’t asking her to do it for free. I plan on paying her.”

In the early 80s, we moved just around the bend from Doris and Jerry. After my brother finished remodeling our kitchen, Doris brought Gayle over to see it. Learning the old cabinets were still on the back porch, she turned on the porch light to see them. She shouted, “Doris Jean, these cabinets are in good shape. They would be perfect in your basement.” Doris finally took a corner cabinet to her station wagon to make her mother happy. That memory always makes me smile.  It was so Gayle.

Her grandson called and invited me to go to the dedication. I thought about it a long time, thinking it would be nice to be there, for Gayle. And Doris.

But, today is a proud day for her family. A time for her son and daughter-in-law, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren to witness what one person can do with their life when they decide to become a champion for good.

I liked Gayle because she was a good person, outspoken, funny. I respected her for tirelessly working to make an area she loved a better place for people to live and work. I loved her simply because she was my best friend’s mother.

A trailblazer, someone who got her hands dirty, worked in the trenches. Her passion for projects that connected people made life better for those in her community, and in Kentucky was her legacy.

I am grateful she was my friend.

Ending on a Positive Note: Gayle Faulkner Lawson was one of a kind. Don’t see many like her anymore. I hope the people at the dedication realize her true value.

 

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Posted in Awareness/Action, Friendship, Gratitude, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Love, Value | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

A Single Conversation

On March 15, 2017, I wrote a post called Everyone Has a Story about a chance meeting with my neighbor, Bert.

A loner, he didn’t come out of his apartment much. It was difficult for him to get around. He was on Hospice and had people who checked on him.

Bert died yesterday. I cried.

He wasn’t a friend. Only met him one time, but a single conversation can reveal a lot about a person.

Having retired many years earlier, one only had to watch his face to see how much he had loved his former job. Reporters didn’t specialize as much in his day. “My beat was pretty general, so I covered happy stories, sad stories, interesting stories all over Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.”

Never knew what he would write from one day to the next. He said it was a good life. I bet he was a good reporter. I can only imagine the knowledge that lived inside of him.

His love of the Cincinnati Reds went way back to the Crosley Field days. He spoke with admiration of the players he had known personally. “Good players who loved the game; played before money took over baseball.”

He was a nice guy with good manners, obviously had been raised to respect others.

I learned that books were a vital part of his life. Anyone who calls their extra bedroom a library is intelligent, has stories to share. His library had books all over the room. Some neatly arranged on bookshelves, others stacked on top of his desk, a little table across the room, and one small stack on the floor next to a comfy chair.

So many people only see their value in their profession, especially as they age. Bert was so much more than his former profession.

I’m sorry we never got to talk again.

Ending on a Positive Note: Our eyes cannot see the stories people carry inside. There has to be a conversation. Sometimes one is all we get.

Posted in Life Lessons, Relationships, Value | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Sad and Helpless

Not sure this post will make any sense. I never write political stuff, but today I am.

I woke up while it was still dark Sunday night and couldn’t go back to sleep. Like lots of other nights, I turned on the television to lull me back to dreamland. Across the screen, a big, bold headline. Breaking News: Mass murder in Las Vegas.

My eyes focused on a video of people running, screaming, trying to find a place to hide from the gunshots in the background. Pop. Pop. Pop. The footage on the television screen looked and sounded like a war movie.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Bedlam. Panic.

Once again, disbelief gives way to shock, then fear, then sadness, then anger. Not sure which emotion was the right thing to feel.

My mind yells, “NO. NO. NOT AGAIN.” I start to cry.

My body goes numb. Drained. Helpless. I find myself whispering the words, “I’m so sorry” to a dark room lit only by the television screen.

I get up and go to my computer. Try to write. Writing sometimes helps me get through times like this. But, words don’t come.

My mind is on overload. How many more senseless killings? How many more people have to die? How long before our country self-destructs?

Words swirl in my head. Who can I talk to that will listen? I want to scream, “Can’t you see we are destroying our country with all this division, all this hatred. Americans are dying. We have got to stop waging war on ourselves!”

Our elected officials need to do the job they were elected to do. Stop fighting. Stop blaming each other. Come together, not as a party, but as fellow Americans. Have discussions that result in stricter gun laws that protect people. Most mass shootings involve automatic rifles, weapons of war. WHY? They have killed real people, good people of all ages, even sweet little children.

Just because it hasn’t happened in your community, doesn’t mean it can’t, or won’t.

Elected official priorities seem to always be based on money and power. They were elected to lead and make decisions to benefit the American people, not just special interest groups.

They need to take a long look in the mirror, be honest with themselves, and do the right thing. Are they doing the best for their country, their constituents, and their own families?

I want my country back.

This isn’t the kind of world I want to pass along to my children and grandchildren. They deserve better. We all do.

I’m tired of people dying, tired of seeing headlines updating the body-count. I’m tired of seeing anger, hatred and talking heads get too much television coverage, on every network.

Soon, the news of this tragedy will wane or be replaced with another sad happening in our country. Think of all of the devastation that has happened within the last month. This horrible tragedy will become yesterday’s news and the country will go back to business as usual.

I am so sorry this is our world. I’m sorry people out for a good time had to die. I’m sorry families once again have to bury their loved ones. I’m sorry victim’s families will never see their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, spouses, kids, or grandchildren again. I’m sorry their lives have changed, never to be the same again.

For two days, I made a conscious effort not to watch the endless footage of the horrible incident. I watched the 11:00 news and then changed the channel. But, it is impossible to un-see the pictures from the news.

Today, I am keeping myself busy cleaning off the paper that has accumulated on my desk, paying bills, preparing for an upcoming meeting, doing anything to keep from watching the horrible footage over and over.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent time with some of my neighbors in an honest discussion about what is happening to our country. Men and women, different backgrounds, different skin colors, different ages, but we found consensus.

Once again my prayers go out to all those touched by another horrible tragedy. Whether I knew them personally doesn’t matter. I still feel the loss. We’re all part of the same big American family.

I have to believe there are still people out there that use kind words, look for the good in people, still help their neighbors, regardless of color or nationality.

I HAVE to believe this country still has goodness, kindness. I HAVE TO BELIEVE THERE IS STILL HOPE!

“We must talk until there are no more words

We must explain until everything is understood

We must be honest until nothing is hidden

We must listen until everything has been said

We must question until we know why

We must be fair until everyone’s basic needs are met

If there is no communication there will be no bond

If there is no bond there will be no friendship.”

-Susan Polis Schutz-

Posted in Awareness/Action, Choices, Feeling helpless, Working together | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Southern Charm

In 1954, when I first moved from Kentucky to Ohio, I had the strongest accent ever. Some called it a southern drawl. Some said it was pure country. My daddy said I spoke hillbilly cause that was what I was!

In the fourth grade, the kids in my new school teased me about the way I talked. Their words hurt, made me feel different. I just wanted to fit in. Told my mother I was gonna learn to talk like them.

It worked, too. Well, except when I got around my relatives. Two minutes and I drifted right back into my country accent and wasn’t even aware of doing it.

Over the years, I didn’t think much about it, didn’t seem that important.

Well, until once about ten years ago, when a former boss suggested I turn on my southern charm at a board meeting to present a new project. I had no idea what she meant and asked her to explain. “When you get excited about a project, you start smiling, your eyes twinkle and you have the cutest little southern accent. People love that southern charm.”

I was stunned and a bit offended. Southern charm to me meant being nice, polite, kind; genuine with no hidden implications. I had been raised to say words like “yes, ma’am,” “please,” and “thank you.” Hospitality and good manners are huge where I come from. My mother always told me, “It doesn’t cost a penny to treat people with kindness.”

I’d never thought to use it any other way. I admit to getting excited about new ideas and projects but didn’t think I had any type of charm, southern or otherwise. I talk too fast, talk too much, wave my arms, tend to get a bit over-enthusiastic, and probably border on being obnoxious.

In my mind’s eye, I see a perfect example of southern charm, as I know it.

My mother inviting someone to join us after church saying, “Why don’t y’awl come and eat dinner with us. It’s not much but we’d be proud to have you.” (Not much to my mother was a platter piled high with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked corn, carrots, tomatoes/cucumbers/peppers, cornbread, and homemade pie or cake she threw together before leaving for church.)

Board meetings are in my past. In fact, don’t get out much these days. Certainly, don’t spend time thinking about the way I talk.

My life probably seems pretty boring to most people, but I am comfortable. My days are no longer dictated by my calendar, no longer filled with too much of life’s rush. My yesterdays outnumber my tomorrows, and I’m thankful for the ordinary, simple days I have right now.

A small part of me misses the way I talked as a child. There was a comfort in the sound and cadence of the country dialect. There was an easy feeling of well-being in my little world as it moved at a slower pace.

Sort of funny how life changes, isn’t it? We always want to fit in, talk and act like everyone else. Until we don’t. Till we realize that it’s always better to just be who we really are.

In many ways, my world has come full circle, back to where it started, and I like the feeling.

Ending on a Positive Note: Glad I can still remember those long-ago days when I spoke in my hillbilly accent. Maybe I’ll fix myself a mater-sammich for lunch. A fat, juicy slice of tomato smothered with mayonnaise on light bread; wash it down with a tall glass of sweet tea, and count my blessings.

Posted in Choices, Family, Gratitude, Life Lessons, Value | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Grateful for a New Season of Life

Last week we went to visit our granddaughter at college. She was happy to see us, but no longer runs to give us big hugs like when she was a little girl. If I could have, I would have run, grabbed her and given her the biggest, tightest hug. Being on my best grandma behavior, not wanting to embarrass her, I didn’t. However, her hug was a pretty good one.

She gave us the big tour. Her dorm room was a typical design with the usual bed, chest, desk, etc. and was decorated in pink and gray, with pictures everywhere. She had added the essential fridge, microwave, computer and of course, music. There was a case of bottled water under her bed and a ½ gallon carton of milk in the fridge.

Her daddy had brought her more bottled water, some Skyline chili, and a new bat. Everything but the Skyline went into the trunk of her car. She inhaled the cheese Coney and put the 3-way into her fridge for later. I laughed watching her wash her Skyline down with a big glass of milk. “I bet there aren’t many other students in this dorm with a ½ gallon carton of milk in their fridge.” She just smiled. The girl loves her milk.

The campus was small, compact, just what she had wanted. She likes her classes and appreciates that her professors treat the students like adults. She works out every morning and practices with the team for two hours every day (M-F). She is happy.

Although she face-times often with her family, and her dogs, it was fun to see her clowning around with her dad, mom, and younger sister. I’m sure this is what she misses most, but she is adjusting well.

As Tom and I were enjoying breakfast the next morning, a young hotel staff member stopped by our table to see if we needed anything. “What brings you to our fair city?” Told her we were in town to see our granddaughter play softball that afternoon.

What a delightful conversation we had. I love seeing a city through the eyes of someone who is proud of where they live. Tracy was so friendly, providing us with tons of information about the city and the university.

Asking if she had children and did they attend the University of Charleston, she said only her son had graduated from college so far. “But, he chose to attend Marshall in Huntington because he wanted to get away from home. Just about broke my heart.”

After a short pros/cons discussion of leaving home to attend college, I inquired as to his major. Her face lit up with pride as she replied, “An English major. He read early and always wanted to be a teacher.”

I asked, “Does he love teaching?”

“Oh, yes. He can’t wait to get to school every day.”

She loved it when I told her my granddaughter was planning a teaching career. Not in English, but primary special education. She quickly added, “If she were to decide to stay in this neck of the woods, tell her my son recommends Putnam County. They have the best schools in the area.”

Sunday was a beautiful day to spend at the ballpark. The Golden Eagles tied one and won one. This mini-season allows coaches an opportunity to see the girls’ fielding and hitting abilities in game situations. We tried to commit to memory faces, and uniform numbers, so we can follow the team stats during the official spring season in 2018.

It suddenly became real. I teared up when our granddaughter entered the game at first base and when she was taking swings in the on-deck circle. Restraining myself, I clapped when she got her first hit but didn’t yell her name or make a fool of myself.

After watching her play since she was five years old, we know seeing her games will now be reduced to an occasional game here or there. No more watching from the bleachers, now we will cheer her on in spirit from our recliners. Information may come second-hand most of the time. We get that and accept this new season.

She knows we love her, knows we are proud of her. Change is inevitable and we must adjust to getting updates on her life on a more irregular basis. Be content knowing hugs will happen when she comes home for a visit.

This is her time, her season to grow and bloom as she explores the possibilities of her future.

So grateful to our daughter and son-in-law for taking us along with them last weekend. I’m sure we were a bother, but they acted as if we weren’t. God bless ‘em!

I could have put “Lord, I am grateful” after every paragraph in this post. It was a glorious weekend of good things happening in my simple, everyday life. I hope you readers are taking time to look closer and be grateful for all that is happening in your everyday world?

Ending on a Positive Note: As grandparents, it is difficult to let go. Loving our granddaughter as we do, we will strive to communicate on her terms. Stay connected without infringing on her new-found freedom in this new season of her life.

P.S. However, I am putting our youngest granddaughter on notice that she will have to do double duty in the hugging department for a while…

Posted in Choices, Family, Gratitude, Letting Go, Life Changes | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Changing Providers

We recently changed our cable service provider. Customer service had gone from bad, to awful, and finally to can’t live with this anymore. After a bit of research, I found a new provider offering a better deal with a lower rate. Yeah, I know the price will increase in a year, but for now, it’s a better deal.

Changing cable service is not for the faint of heart, especially at this age. The programming is pretty much the same, but just a little off kilter. One has to relearn a bunch of stuff you already know; learn to operate a new remote, find your favorite shows and figure out how to record them, again.

No manual. No instructions. Well, unless you count the two-minute orientation by the installer.

Tom and I have a totally different learning style which drives both of us a little crazy. I sit and study the remote, looking for similarities to the previous one. My philosophy is the buttons are the same, just located in different places. Tom’s process is to push buttons until he figures everything out. Of course, the TV screen often goes blank and he doesn’t remember which button he pushed.

It’s sort of like the old saying, “everything old is new again.” Living through a little period of adjustment, we familiarized ourselves with new channel numbers, finding the mute button, and so on. However, we sort of ended up back where we started with tons of channels and nothing we wanted to watch.

Tom is happy to have inherited a few more options for watching sports. I was happy to find several channels with old sitcoms (i.e. Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons). Relaxing shows that make me smile. Sure they’re from a different era, but they feel like easy listening music or what my daughters used to call mom’s elevator music.

Having to give up our 25-year old phone number and our email address was a bummer. But, a positive has been no telemarketing calls for almost two months. As Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”

Changing contact information was a bit more difficult. I told myself it was an opportunity to change user name and password information which I understand everyone needs to do occasionally for safety reasons.

Purging one’s computer now and again seems like a good idea. I eliminated tons of useless information. Now if I could only get motivated to clean out the file cabinets.

Changing our email address eliminated junk emails and companies trying to sell us stuff. My inbox has been a breeze to maintain lately. However, I order online (a lot) so I know it is only a matter of time until they find my hiding place.

Checking emails this morning, saw an email I had not requested. I have been found.

The communique was from Tips on Life and Love offering me advice on how to have a successful first date. The article said that first dates can either go really well or horribly wrong. Gee, you think?

The article went on to say the way to successfully navigate a good first date is to ask the following seven questions. Not all at once. Just sprinkle them throughout your conversation.

Maybe too many years have passed since I was on a date, but I found the questions strange. Listed them below so you all can make up your own mind. (Excuse my answers, but it was too big of a temptation.

Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

Is this a date or a job interview?                                            

Have you ever doubted your career choice, and how did you deal with the doubt?

Considering I am retired, it just seemed the right thing to do.

How did you and your best-friend meet, and how did they become your best friend?

Met him in the 4th grade. I don’t know. It just happened over the next few years. He                went away to college, fell in love and married my new best friend. We were like                        sisters for the next 45 years.

What is the most embarrassing story about you your friends would tell me?

Are you kidding, I grew up in Norwood. Everybody knows my embarrassing                             moments. Heck, the stories have been repeated so many times, they aren’t even                       embarrassing anymore.

What do you have to apologize for most often?

I’m too old to remember.

What’s in your fridge at home right now?

Vegetables, fruit, cheese, butter, blackberry jelly, salad fixings/dressing, milk, OJ,                     fruit juice, water, and strawberry ice cream. Not very exciting, is it? Bet you’re                        sorry you asked!

Without telling me what it is, why is your favorite movie your favorite?

Love movies and discussing them, but I’m too old to play guessing games. My                           memory isn’t that great anymore.  

After a good laugh, I pointed out there was no mention of grandkids in those questions. Not one single question. Agreeing we couldn’t exist without talking about our grandkids, Tom wondered aloud, “What did we talk about before they came into our lives?”

Nodding my head in agreement, I told him the highlights of my week had been dinner with our youngest granddaughter and a phone call from the oldest one telling us about her first week of college. Important stuff in our world!

Struggling to remember the conversation from our first date, we finally decided it had been too long ago. It didn’t really matter. Obviously, we had liked each other because we kept dating, even got married.

Me: “So, do these people know something I don’t? Are you thinking of flying the coop?”

Tom: “Nope, never really thought about it. Where would I go?

We both laughed. Where would we go, indeed? What would we do? What would we talk about to someone new? Someone who doesn’t know our stories, couldn’t finish our sentences.

We admit it, we’re old. Tend to resist change. We like life just the way it is. Enjoy living in the comfortable stage of love. Understanding when one does something for a long time it becomes a habit, a comfortable habit. At this age, things seem to come easier than when we were younger, maybe because of the habits.

I am grateful we can’t even imagine life without each other in it. We promised each other we would stay together for a lifetime. Keeping our promise and loving each other has been a good thing.

We realize our life is not forever, but don’t think we’re interested in changing providers in this area anytime soon.

Ending on a Positive Note: Relationships matter. I have heard it said that the only things that truly matter in one’s life are the relationships we share with other people. At the heart of one’s life are the relationships we have with family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. How we choose to grow those relationships control the happiness and joy in our lives and in the lives of others.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt,

kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.”

– Albert Schweitzer –

Posted in getting organized, Humor, Life Changes, Relationships | 2 Comments

Life’s Ups and Downs

Tom took me to my monthly appointment at the Cincinnati Eye Institute earlier this week. Usually, it takes about three hours, but this appointment only took about an hour and twenty minutes.

The parking lot was packed so I was surprised to see so few patients in the retina waiting room. Fewer patients meant the routine moved quickly. A nice young man clicked new pictures of my right eye; a cute little nurse took me to the exam room for the usual drops to dilate, check eye pressure and all of the other fun and games. In record time, I ended up in the waiting room where a white-haired gentleman and I had a delightful talk about our grandchildren going off to college.

My eyes were exceptionally blurry so I was glad he was there to fill my wait time. His stories were entertaining and made me laugh. I wonder if people ever realize what a wonderful gift they share by making someone else smile and laugh.

The cute little nurse reappeared calling my name and led me to the room where I would get my monthly shot (in my eyeball). I’m used to the drill. As she hands me a Kleenex, I laugh and say, “Bring on the Mountain Dew drops.” The first time I dabbed with the Kleenex, I noted the drops were the exact same color as Mountain Dew so that is how I identify them. Gotta find some humor.

Not sure the nurses necessarily think my comment is funny, but they always laugh. God bless ‘em.

As I sit alone in a quiet room waiting for the numbing meds to do their job, my thoughts review the last few days. It’s been a crazy week, full of ups and downs.

I am grateful for being able to order my groceries online and now have them delivered right to my door. Once such an easy task, grocery shopping had become quite difficult in the past year. Now for a nominal fee, I don’t have to impose on others.

I am grateful to have received my new business cards ordered at 50% off the regular price; happy to finally have found the courage to put Writer/Blogger under my name. Doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me, but it was a big step and a reminder I can still create surprise in my life.

I am grateful for the joy of seeing my granddaughter’s smiling face filled with excitement as she left for college. Happy she has the opportunity to attend the college of her choice, study for a degree of her choosing, and represent her university while continuing to play the sport she loves. Although I am going to miss having her close, seeing her on a regular basis, and getting a sweaty hug after her games, I look forward to hearing her stories about her new experiences and the people she will encounter in her new world. This is her next step, her time.

I look around the room and notice a sign on the eye equipment folded against the wall. A simple sign with a flag of red, white, and blue that reads Made in America. A feeling of pride overcomes me. The same feeling I experience when I place my hand over my heart and stand for the National Anthem. One that becomes more special the older I get. Don’t get scared, I’m not going to break into a rendition of I’m Proud to be an American. My singing voice stinks these days.

Then my thoughts drift to the horrendous devastation in Texas after Hurricane Harvey roared ashore. In my mind, I pull up frightening images that have flashed across our television screens of houses and businesses flooded and destroyed.

Unbelievable pictures of expressway ramps, cars, semi-trailers, and even airplanes all under water. Another set of pictures of people of all ages being carried, airlifted, rescued and taken to shelters.

Difficult images to un-see of nursing home residents and hospital patients being carried to safety still in their beds. Victims cling to their rescuers; with nothing but the clothes on their backs. My heart is heavy knowing it will take years to repair the massive destruction.

I think of the heroic rescuers working around the clock trying to find victims in peril. Exhausted, overwhelmed. Do they pray as they do their job? Ask God to give them uncommon strength or do they just keep on putting one foot in front of another in the muddy, murky water? Knowing there’s a backlog of people still needing to be evacuated.

Victims are wet, dirty, afraid, grateful to be alive. A lady on the news with tears streaming down her face said, “Our family is glad to be in this shelter. We’re safe and dry, but wonder how long we have to stay here before we can rebuild our beautiful Texas and have our lives back.”

As I struggle to take my thoughts in a different direction, the door opens and the doctor enters the room.

As I say hello and try to match his light banter, he brings me up-to-date on my issues. Quickly he administers the shot, asks if I have questions, tells me he is pleased with my progress and is off to another patient. I wonder if he is tired, stressed or wishing his day was almost over.

Outside, sitting on my walker and feeling the light breeze on my face, I wait for Tom to pick me up. Even my fuzzy-eye can see well enough to enjoy the beautiful sights that surround me: bright red flowers, flowering bushes in pretty shades of purple, a beautiful sky of blue with big fluffy clouds. It is difficult to understand the conflicting scene before me and the devastating images that linger in my mind of Texas.

Uncontrollable situations like Hurricane Harvey happen. I don’t know about you, but they make me feel very small, helpless. Like many Americans, I want to help in some way. But, old age and physical ailments are constant reminders those days are in my past.

What can I realistically do? Send a donation? Clean out a closet and send items I can do without that might help a person who has lost everything? Pray? Those things seem like such a small effort for such a big disaster.

At home, Tom brings me a glass of water and an aspirin. Settling into my recliner to sleep off my headache and the swelling in my eye, I pray with gratitude for the thousands of volunteers from all over the U.S. helping with the relief effort in Texas. I ask God to provide strength and comfort to the victims and the rescuers, to keep them safe as they struggle to get through this horrifying situation.

As my eyes grow heavy, I remember to thank God that the things in my simple, everyday world are okay, for the moment. I am blessed.

Ending on a Positive Note: As the water from Hurricane Harvey diminishes and the massive cleanup starts, I am reminded of being a part of a Keep America Beautiful campaign back in the 80s. As thousands of people across the U.S. worked to reduce the amount of litter in their communities through education and prevention efforts, one campaign stood out.

Their slogan, Don’t Mess with Texas , was simple. It spoke volumes with boldness and swagger. “Don’t you dare litter in Texas, this is our home and we’re going to keep it beautiful.” That sentiment is still going strong with a commitment to keeping the Lone Star State beautiful and litter-free.

My small donation went to Matthew 25 Ministries, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization helping more than 20 million people in need each year. I love their mission of Caring for a Needy World with the Things we throw away and appreciate that their response time is swift in situations such as Hurricane Harvey. I am struck by the simplicity of two great organizations that impact people’s lives every day.

Although it will take a lot of time, Texas will recover. Their people are strong, tough, and hardy. Plus the American Spirit is alive in the good, decent Americans who are rallying around them. Whether bringing comfort to the people of Texas by providing much-needed supplies, donations of time, money, or prayer. Texas will survive and come back strong, still proud of their rich history.

 

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