Familial

100_1209As I write this, I’m reflecting on a small family gathering we attended this past Fourth of July Weekend. The Fourth came on Thursday this year (2019), however, many folks participated in activities that extended throughout the following weekend. There have been two events that have occurred over the last year that have caused me to take much more to heart family. My mother died a year ago two days after the Fourth of July, after a thirteen-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. Shortly afterwards, her sister-in-law, who also fought a battle with Alzheimer’s died in September of last year. Following these two deaths, there is but one survivor of my mother’s generation from her nuclear family. That one survivor is my yet mentally alert and lovely Aunt Mary. She was at the gathering, though a bit restricted in movement due to her arthritis and some edema in her legs.

We live in Little Rock, Arkansas. The gathering was in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is about a two-hour drive. It was held at my cousin Junior’s place. Junior, who’s name is Clarence Jeffrey is the son of my mother’s late brother Clarence Jeffrey, Senior. (There are a ton of names I could mention in this piece; however, I won’t mention any more from this point, since I’m not sure how everyone would feel about me using their names.) I will use some of their images though. You must get some sense of the flavor of the event.

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It was a typical, hot Arkansas day for this gathering. It had rained the day before, so there was a thick layer of humidity blanketing each of us. You could simply stand, and the sweat would come with little to no effort. Most of us disregarded the discomfort because of the joy of simply being there with family. I particularly enjoyed watching the young ones play, as if the climatic conditions didn’t matter. The fact that my cousin has a large spread on the edge of town, with large trees under which he had setup tables and chairs, was nice for visiting. I forgo the temptation to take an air conditioning break; however, some did. I found it interesting that some who went inside to escape the heat and humidity were of the generation after mine. I guess they had no remembrance in their DNA of the times my generation had lived through hot summers with no air conditioning in ramshackle houses, down dusty roads in the country. Most of my generation has done a fair job of providing our children with comforts of life not that widespread during the times of Jim Crow.

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I could ramble on and on about how much I enjoyed the gathering of family and being emotionally affected by precious it is to experience events like this, but I won’t. I was especially moved by realizing that my mom’s generation is in the last stages of the natural erasure that all generations suffer. It’s as if you look up one day and none of them is around anymore. You have but memories of them and the lessons they shared to help guide you through the same process of natural erasure. A few of my cousins and I agreed that we would do more of this, and that we would be more deliberate in making it happen. God forbid we are naturally erased before the generations after us get a chance to experience family gatherings like this one. Family: It doesn’t get any better!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Africa is calling

 

African continent

The president of Ghana, in West Africa, has proclaimed 2019 as the year of return. This proclamation is primarily directed to all people of the African diaspora (world-wide), who have ancestral connections to the continent of Africa. I recently saw Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union ambassador to the United States deliver a speech in which she indicated that the return doesn’t have to be a literal one. She made it clear that a physical return to the continent would be welcomed; however, a mindset of identifying with the peoples of Africa was strongly encouraged.

I recall when the television series Roots was shown in 1977. The series was adapted from the late Alex Haley’s book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. For all who remember this ground-breaking telecast, it stemmed from Mr. Haley’s tracing of his African ancestry from slavery in America back to its roots in The Gambia, West Africa. This television series marked an historic event in commercial broadcasting, and it affected African-Americans in ways that the producers probably had not considered before it was broadcast. I had difficulty watching it. It showed much of the raw nature of the Western slave trade, where people were kidnapped and shipped under the most of inhumane conditions to a place that was traumatically foreign.

chris and hosea in dashikis

Roots had a powerful impact on African-Americans and people of African descent around the world. One measure of its impact was the enticement by many African-Americans to name their newborns by the names of the tortured souls portrayed in the television series. Of course, the series won numerous awards; however, the lasting effects on the consciousness of people was not long-lasting.

Recently, there was another media event that captured the minds of people around the world in unprecedented fashion: Black Panther. This movie from the Marvel Universe was totally fictional, but powerful in its ability to sell tickets and ushers huge crowds into cinemas, globally. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go into very much detail about the premise of Black Panther. A simple utterance of the word “Wakanda” will probably suffice; however, a few words might be necessary for some. Wakanda is a fictional African country that has developed technologically beyond any point achieved by any other nation on earth. This was accomplished by use of a mineral called Vibranium, a rare earth metal, believed to have extraterrestrial origins. This mineral has also allowed the king of Wakanda to apply and use super-human powers to his being, resulting in him righting wrongs just like Superman, or any other well-known superhero. Wakanda has kept itself hidden from the rest of the world by use of cloaking technology that presents a green patch of flora to any view of it from above.

I know, it’s unreal sometimes how fiction can be just as powerful or even more so than reality. Be that as it may, Black Panther had people of the African diaspora, far and wide, exuberant about seeing a big-screen hero who looks like them. Of course, other ethnic and cultural groups were just as moved by the appeal of the movie, too.

At this late stage in life, I’m convinced, without doubt, that ancestors do call. If you listen closely, and open yourself up to their beckoning, you will here them. We aid ourselves in hearing them by reading history, listening to the stories of the old ones who are still around, and being acutely interested in the roots and branches from which we sprouted. All ethnic groups can hear their ancestors calling. The real-life examples I shared above of Afrocentric stories (real and fictional) have boosted my ability to hear my ancestors. This calling is emanating strongly from the West Africa. A calling that’s telling me to come home; come and see where your roots are planted deep. Forced immigration didn’t severe you from them. Come and see before your transition to the next plain of existence. Don’t use your chronic condition as an excuse not to come.

Hosea June 2019

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Yes, I’m old and glad to be

“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be”.
Robert Browning

Aging gracefully one

I just finished reading an article in my local newspaper titled, “If age is just a number, what does “old” really mean? The article was written by Steven Petrow of the Washington Post. In Petrow’s article, he explores a number of variables that one might consider when determining whether old age has entered their life: where you live, how well you’ve cared for yourself, how many years you’ve lived, do you think of yourself as old, and other determiners. Petrow is sixty. At the end of his article, he says he decided to use something called the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance life span calculator, which asks thirteen questions to determine whether one is old. After taking the test, Petrow sees that he has thirty-three more years of life expectancy, barring some catastrophic accident, death from a serious illness, or who knows. This tool also determines that he won’t reach the threshold of old age until he’s sixty-eight.

As I was reading Petrow’s article, I found myself thinking why for god’s sake is he even thinking about old age. Of course, I have considered myself old since I was sixty. Am I applying a double standard, you might ask? No, I don’t think so. However, I am assuming that Petrow isn’t afflicted with some awful chronic illness like cancer. Yeah, I know you probably see where I’m going with this, especially if you’ve read any of my stuff before. I’m that guy with Multiple Myeloma; for going on twenty years by the way. That guy who, when diagnosed on March 12, 2,000, didn’t expect to be around for maybe two or three more years. That guy who has seen other Myeloma warriors, diagnosed around the same time as he, and after, exit this corporal existence.

Do you see now, why I consider myself as old? Oh, and don’t forget “blessed” as my handle so unashamedly proclaim. Each day that has seen me trapes through it, past sixty, has been joyfully considered old for me. I’m not supposed to be sixty-eight. I’m not supposed to be enjoying the presence of family, friends and loved ones, peppering my remaining years with fun, excitement, joy, frustration and all the by-products a life produces. Maybe you might think I haven’t been old since sixty. Maybe you think I should consider myself still taking sips from the “fountain of youth” as Mr. Petrow. I won’t argue with you. I think it’s nice that you think that way. But, for me, I’ll take old age; a vibrant and blessed old age, as my lot and be darn glad about it! I can’t, all things considered, apply the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance life span calculator to my life and feel relatively sure that I’ll be around for twenty-five more years, with an entrance into old age at seventy. My circumstances are drastically different compared to Mr. Petrow; however, I have nothing to be dismayed about. You see, my creator has dealt me a wonderful hand; one not assigned value by chance, but by the miracle of divine providence.

Yes, I’m old and blessed, and I hope you’ll experience it at an age far beyond the years that I’ve assigned to me.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The beauty of it all

Natore's beauty one

On a recent morning, as I was driving to church, I noticed something; something I don’t take account of enough. The sheer beauty of everything around me. Whenever I take this route, which is on the expressway, I’m normally barreling down the road at speeds that provide the functionality for me to quickly get to where I’m going. I’m not usually conscious of what’s around me. It’s been unusually wet in Arkansas for the last few months. This moisture has contributed to keeping things very green. Maybe it was the greenery that caught my mind’s attention? If not that, then certainly the majesty of the sky. I’m driving in an eastwardly direction when going to church, and the sun is at its early stages of ascension at this point. The flora, the sky, the sun, all spoke to me gently. Their voices were alluring and caressing. They wanted me to look, consider their beauty, consider the art of the creator.

As I drove, I considered the words from the holy scriptures, where god has finished his work of creation. Genesis 1:31 says,” Then god saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good…” We just finished a week-long study of stewardship in this year’s vacation bible school. We covered five lessons on this topic: Stewardship of the earth, our lives, our resources, our relationships and the gospel. Maybe I was experiencing some residual effects of these wonderful lessons, as I drove speedily down the expressway? If so, I would say that’s not a bad thing. Isn’t the holy word supposed to influence our lives. Isn’t it intended to be more than a point on a church program, or entertainment from the pulpit?

I’m always amazed whenever I read the story of creation, up to the point before mankind is deposited amongst all the beauty god spoke into existence. The account in Genesis tells us that he put the first people here to work, and to be good stewards of all that he provided for their existence. From the looks of things, I would say unequivocally that we’re not doing a very good job. By the way, taking care, in my interpretation, means not only the beauty that seemingly sprouts from the earth, but each other too.

Beauty of it all three

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by all that’s occurring on the African continent. Africa is a continent that’s rich in resources: people, minerals, human energy and ingenuity. There seems to be a strong interest on the part of Europe, China, America and lately Russia to establish business relationships with countries on the continent. It seems hundreds of years of colonization (not by China and Russia) didn’t provide enough time to siphon off enough of the various nectars from the beauty the continent offers. I pray that there will not be a point in the future, long after I have transitioned, that Africa will not be suffering from damage caused by greed.

Nature's beauty two

The beauty of it all is all around us. As the saying goes: Stop and smell the roses. The aroma of the creation is to behold. Let your senses experience it to the fullest they are capable of sensing.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Sometimes It’s just too much!

Big-eyed toddler

If you’re reading this and you’re one of the few who follow my musings, you know I try not to write too much about the dark things that hound us. I just finished watching a video that moved me to tears. I had a strong debate with myself about whether I should write about what I watched. My heart won the argument. I’m writing about this to deal with my emotions. Self-serving, I know, but my intentions are good.

A few days ago, a four-year-old child by the name of Maleah Davis went missing in Houston, Texas. Of course, the normal amber alert and other efforts were activated in attempts to locate her. Her dismembered body was later found on the side of Interstate 30, over three hundred miles from Houston near Fulton, Arkansas. Arkansas is the state in which I live. Authorities say Maleah’s body had been dumped on the side of the Interstate, and sometime afterward, run over by a mower, performing regular highway maintenance.

Three children

I won’t get into any more details reported in the news about circumstances surrounding this precious little girl’s “far-too-early” exit from her young life. The preceding details may be too much, as scant as they are, for you. They certainly were hard for me to write about. However, I guess I should say that there was CCTV footage of Maleah’s mother’s boyfriend carrying a laundry basket from the apartment in which they lived, containing a garbage bag. Enough!

Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. composed a song in 1939 titled, “God Bless the Child.” The lyrics start with:

” Them that’s got shall have
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own”

I’m not exactly sure what the lyrics to this song mean fully; however, I do feel strongly that little Maleah wasn’t blessed, and she didn’t have her own; her own opportunity to live a full, blessed life. Our children are among our most precious of God-given resources. They provide sunlight in our lives today, and they are inheritors of the future. When we abuse them, misuse them and cut them down, preventing the harvest of all they have to offer the world, we commit the most heinous examples of what inhumanity looks like.

God bless you Maleah, and may you rest in peace. I wish that had been so on this side.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Our inner voice: are we alone?

Inner voice three

Have you ever heard someone say: He made me do it? Or have you ever said it yourself? When you made this utterance, there was no gun pointed in your direction, with an accompanying threat to life and limb, if compliance was not quick. Someone might have said something that didn’t sit well with you. Rather than ignoring the irritating comment, you chose to birth an argument that went far beyond any level for which you felt comfortable. Not wanting to accept any blame for what occurred, you succumbed to the voice in your head that convinced you this would not have happened had she not made you do it.

Our inner voices are experts at convinces us of what to say, what to believe, how to act in any set of circumstances. As I write this piece, my voice is chatting away convincing me of what words to use and how to place them in some understandable order for you to receive what I’m attempting to say. Our inner voices are our motivators, consolers, indictors, guilt trippers, and more. If there are dark spirits about, attacking us from all sides, and I believe that there are, they spend most of their time coaching our inner voice about what to tell us. Fortunately, it’s not just the dark spirits, but the spirits of light and joy at work, too. Depending on what circumstances are present at any given time, we tap into the dark or the light spirits. If we feel good about ourselves and we have a healthy attitude about all things around and within, the spirits of light are predominant in our lives. I hail from the Judeo/Christian tradition; therefore, the dark spirit I contend with is Satan and the light Spirit is the triune God Himself (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). However, I’m convinced that whether you follow a religious tradition or not, you have an inner voice, and it’s influenced by good and bad.

children's inner voices

We live in a time when inner voices are being influenced by all manner of outside forces. How often do we hear news reports of folks being radicalized by one terrorist group or another? Whenever I hear this sort of report, I wonder what the inner voice of the person who commits some atrocity was saying at the time he committed some heinous act against an innocent group. We don’t come into the world with prerecorded inner voices. They are programmed, and continually being voiced over by others and ourselves. How we act and react (to circumstances) is influenced by the inner voice that chats away silently in our heads.

Gd as inner voice

As I survey the landscape of public discourse these days, I’m convinced that there’s heated competition from various sources to program our inner voices. Some cries from these sources are healthy, and they offer healthy boosts to the character of our inner voices. Contrarily, there are voices of darkness, dishonesty, voices of deceit and narcissism bent on disrupting the general welfare of things for their own benefit. How we nurture our inner voices is important. What are you listening to? A good sign of what you are can be found in how you behave. One of my favorite Michael Jackson songs was, “The Man in the Mirror.” Is it about time many of us look, and adjust our inner voice? Doesn’t society deserve us having better conversations with ourselves?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The value of that we can’t see

Immeasurability

Do you remember Barney, the purple dinosaur? Barney and his entourage used to sing a song called, “If you’re happy and you know it…” There were two signs of happiness that followed this preposition, if one was happy. One would stamp their feet and/or cap their hands.

I was watching a YouTube video recently about some African American kids, from San Francisco, who went on a trip to Ghana, in West Africa. Ghana was the first African country to gain its independence (in 1957) from Britain. Its largest city is the capital city of Accra; a bustling metropolis that has many of the urban amenities of any western city. Of course, it still has the traditional African villages, where one steps back a bit in time when visiting. The American kids were quite impressed by the happiness and the attitude of gratitude they witnessed in the village children who had little, in terms of material wealth. This caused many of them to promise that they would have a different attitude about materialism and the fleeting attachment to things. Several of the kids talked about how the children were anxious to be in school daily and seemed satisfied with their life overall.

There’s a reality that many of us in the United States don’t realize, and that is that most of our poor have more materially than many of the poorest people of the world. We in the west tend to measure our level of happiness and well-being by how many material possessions we’ve been able to latch onto. We want the biggest flat screen television, the latest iPhone, a house much too large to hold all the stuff we don’t need. And, once we’ve achieved that prideful level of consumption, we often find ourselves hankering for more, or the latest versions of what we already have. We just don’t seem to able to achieve a sustained level of happiness, satisfaction, contentment that would allow us to stand fast and enjoy ourselves, our families, our friends and all that’s around us.

I’ve come to realize, at this point in my life, that outward manifestations of just how well a person is doing are symptomatic of things we can’t see, touch, smell. When was the last time you saw love, happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction, or any state of mind that exhibited itself in some degree of euphoria? We can’t measure these emotional states, but we can see their effects on a person’s well-being.

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At this autumnal stage of my life, I often harken back to the days of my childhood, when I lived in dire poverty. Disposable income was not to be had. Subsistence living was the model for all aspects of my family’s earthly existence, but I recall my cousins, uncles, aunts, and all people around me laughing, and seemingly at peace with the little they had. Of course, an enormous number of things in life could have been better, but folk seemed to have had a way of making the best with the worst. Today, when I retrospectively look at those times, I think how there was an imbalance of a healthy mental/emotional state, compared to the paltry physical state in which many people around me existed. That might have been true, but the fact that I’m thinking about those days (with what some might call an inaccurate degree of romanticism) they convince me that life is best enjoyed by having an abundance of things we can’t see, smell, touch, or even quantitatively measure.

Just as I’m now finishing up this bit of musing, I’m reminded of a song Dionne Warwick sang, “What the world needs now is love…” That’s one of those immeasurable commodities that would exhibit great measurable results for us all.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.