Momma’s influence

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It’s been a year now, since my momma moved on. Isn’t it colloquial how we use phrases like transition, moved on, passed away and the like to refer to the death of our loved ones? I think it’s because death has such a disturbing and orally devastating tone to it. Getting back to what I started to say: This past year has moved with speed not appreciated until I looked at the calendar this past week. There is certainly more than a grain of truth to the trite expression, “Life goes on.” Indeed, it does, but those who were and still are an important part of who and what we are, continue to live with us. Momma is doing just that. How can I ignore the influence she had on my life and the lives of so many in the little hamlet of Wynne, Arkansas and the surrounding area?

Momma was not a highly educated woman. She had no string of degrees on which she could hang her hat and revel in notoriety among esteemed colleagues. She had her faith in God, her love for family and friends, and an abundance of honor and respect from her community. People knew who she was, and they trusted her for just that. She was a woman of her word. She didn’t always demonstrate a great deal of confidence in her approach to the things of life. I believe that was because she knew her strengths and limitations, and she never operated outside of her capacity. Without any hint of disrespect or debasement, I can say that momma was a simple woman of the highest quality. No, she didn’t understand how the Dow Jones worked, or how the political apparatus operated to affect the costs of a stick of butter, but she believed in God, and responsibly demonstrated His love to all she encountered.

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As you’re reading this, you might be asking yourself this question: Are you romanticizing beyond reality what your momma was really like? Doesn’t everybody, naturally, paint a rosier than reality picture of their loved ones after they are gone? I can understand such inquiries. I’ve made them about others as well; however, I offer an adage here: Perception is reality. This is my perception and it is my reality. My momma raised her family with but an eight-grade education, and she did it against an innumerable number of obstacles that would stop many people in their feet today. I can see her influence in the lives of her children and many others whose lives she touched. Her pull is still felt, and it’s real. Although she’s not God, there seems to be a manner of omnipresence about her; she’s gone to another place, but here presence is still felt.

To all who feel the same as I about their momma: Go bless you and enjoy her presence you still feel in your life.

Love you, momma!

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

I am

 

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I’ve been here for over five hundred years;
I’ve struggled to survive;
I’ve planted amber waves of grain;
I’ve constructed the greatest of edifices;
I’ve cared for our children;

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I’ve fought in what seems like countless wars to protect freedoms;
I’ve even fought each other when the arguments turned to outright violence;
I’ve suffered from indignities visited upon me by my brothers and sisters;
I’ve feared the worst when I’ve lost my way and turned on each other;
I’ve celebrated whenever there has been a collective conscious to do so;
I’ve mourned losses that have affected us all;

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I’ve developed into a colorful and diverse collection of denizens strewn about this land.
I simply want to live with myself in bountiful love and respect.
May God grant me the wisdom to understand that both my strength and weakness can be developed from within.
I am much more than what fear, xenophobia and marketers say I should be.

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

Give credit to women; it’s due

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I always get inspiration for my blogs from observing things around me. Whenever I notice something that triggers my brain to pen a few words, I wonder if the person, or the person(s) involved in the event/occurrence knows just how provocative their behavior is. A few days ago, I was reading a short article in my local newspaper about the new remake of the movie Lion King. It seems some experts in lion behavior had an issue with Mufasa assuming responsibility for leading the pride. According to these experts, it’s the female lion that leads the pride in nature. I used to watch a lot of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, as a kid, and you know, I think these experts are right. (Millennials probably don’t have a clue about what Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom is.) Rather than explain here, I’ll let them turn to Google. I hope what I’m about to talk about doesn’t create too much controversary; however, I feel strongly what’s coming must be said.

History is replete with examples where women have taken leadership roles for the benefit of family, community and beyond. I participate in several Christian groups. I won’t name them here, because I really don’t wish to offend anyone. One thing I often observe in these groups is the passionate discourse about men being the leaders God intended for them to be. I make no argument against that position; however, I do notice something that is usually absent from these discussions: The reality that women have always filled in where too often many men haven’t been there to tread. Where would the American Civil Rights Movement have been, if it were not for women? They were the “hidden figures” who labored behind the scenes, providing the much-needed infrastructure that icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. needed. Yes, we in the African- American community have created our hidden figures, too.

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Due to wars, crime, imprisonment, and other political and social dynamics, women have always been thrown into the position of leadership. During World War II, the image of Rosie the Riveter stepping up to work in factories, because men were shipped off to war, painted a stark picture of women assuming a role society never intended. When I was young, I remember women acting with predominance to ensure that the church I attended continued to function in its role of serving God and community. There are women today who step into the daunting shoes of leading their families when the father isn’t in the home for whatever reason. And I can say, from personal experience that many of them do a yeoman’s job of providing physical and emotional support for their children. I wrote a blog on July 5, 2018, the day after my mother died, titled “How did you do it”, where I talked about the leadership role she played in raising my sibling and me: https://oldblessed.com/2018/07/06/how-did-you-do-it/ .

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Some of you reading this may be keenly aware of months set aside to recognize certain people and events. If you’re one of those people, you know that Women’s History Month is in March. With that bit of knowledge, I might say this piece is too late or too early; however, I believe it’s always timely. I’ll make a note to republish it in March 2020, and probably each year afterwards.

Women have always willingly stepped forward to assume the position of “Lioness” when necessary, unnaturally though some might think, but without complaint or hesitation. Credit is always due.

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

What do you bring to the table?

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Life is a veritable smorgasbord of activity, much of it good; however, a fair amount bad, too. Imagine a table amid a void and it’s been placed there for you at the time of your birth. As you journey through life, there will be countless delights brought to the table for you to feast upon. These appetizers and entrees will sometimes be comprised of literal nutrients for your pleasure. You’ll attend banquets, dinners, potlucks, as well as consume your fair amount of junk food items. Life will also dish up goodies for your emotional and spiritual enrichment. In the words of Jesus, “Man does not live by bread alone…”

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Walking through life as long I have, I realize that far too many of us are not as thankful as we should be. This isn’t meant to be judgmental, but more an observation of self and others. There have been countless times when I have heard people say I’ve been going to that church for a long time, and I just don’t think I’m getting the spiritual food I need. Then, when you observe people who make these kinds of remarks, you notice that they have primarily been “bench warmers”. They come to the gathering irregularly; they don’t become members of any groups; they offer very little in the form of human capital; and their financial support might be practically nil. However, it’s not in the church alone do we see this kind of dynamic. We see these words of lament, without ceasing, from folks everywhere. They painfully proclaim that things just aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. And then you wait for some suggestions about how to make them better, and you wait, and you wait.

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I think I’ve become much more observant of complainers in my old age. Before you ask whether I’m one myself, let me confess; I do offer the occasional dish of bitter lemons. However, I think I’ve gotten somewhat better. One thing I do know is that the table provided for each of us at birth is better spread with items that sustain and enrich life, not drain the energy from it. There are few of us, when looking at a worldwide scale, who can always bring the best ideas to the table, but we can participate in the brainstorming where ideas are given birth. We can offer of ourselves in service to others. We can offer love, understanding, support and fellowship to souls who have no one to turn to. In these seemingly harsh times in which we are living, we can speak up amid the groups who are verbally abusing others for the mere reason that they don’t look like them. We can, without shame, always wear our humanity like a badge of courage.

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Remember the golden rule?: Do unto others a you would have them do unto you. I find myself thinking more these days about the platinum rule: Do unto others as their wants and needs require. The former is limited to each of us looking at the world through our personal lenses. How do we know that what satisfies us will do the same for someone else? The latter, however, demonstrates an earnest interest in the other person; compassion for them and what we need to deliver to their table.

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

Violence Inc., LLC

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Where do I start? It would be better if I were able to talk about where, when and how it will all end. Over the last twenty-four hours in the United States of America there have been two more mass shootings, extinguishing the lives of twenty-nine people and injuring a horrible number of others.

I wrote the above sentences while sitting in church listening to a sermon titled “A Heart Condition.” The preacher was effectively making the point of just how ineffective the church (the people claiming faith in Christ) are performing according to behavioral requirements presented in scripture. As usual I found myself listening to words that appropriately addressed the gruesome news I had just heard [on my way to church] about another mass shooting in the heart of America. I had just gone to bed the night before with news of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas at the Walmart store. Not twenty-fours later there was another event involving the actions of a shooter, who turned his rage on people out for a good time in Dayton, Ohio.

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As I sat in church, going through a litany of emotions, thinking about how discounted some must view the value of life, I could see what would happen next. There would be the normal moral outrage from talking heads on television, spouting reasons why and how this whole thing could be ended. There would also be the seemingly lost and inept politicians making comments, careful not to offend their supporters, about what the real issues are. If you listen to them all, you start to think why we elected them to office. Aren’t they supposed to be the crème de la crème of the thinkers and problem solvers in our land? Aren’t they supposed to be the ones who are charged with, and passionately motivated to do what’s good for the people of the nation, without bowing and scraping to “special interests” that are more concerned with mammon than people? I could almost prophesy that a frenzy of activity would occur from coast to coast, northern to southern border, and then the wind would seep from the balloon, leaving us with flatten concerns as usual.

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I’ve had two days to think more about El Paso and Dayton which popped up in the headlines over this past weekend, and now I find myself just as troubled and dismayed as I was Sunday morning. The only way I can appropriately describe the condition we’re in in America today is that we’re suffering from a “A Heart Condition”, as the preacher said in Sunday’s sermon. Our national heart is infected with hate, envy, malice, disdain, disregard and a few other adjectives that describe how we regard each other. The flames that spew the ashes containing these emotions are fueled from the highest levels of opinion leaders, who should know better, in our nation. One might ask: Shouldn’t the people know better? At the end of the day, people are just people, with heart conditions that need healing salve from their leaders. That salve can only come from YAWEH! But that salve will never come from simply offering prayers and good wishes after incidents like El Paso and Dayton. It must come in the form of action. We must build another corporation in America: Non-violence, Inc. LLC. A better mouse trap is always better for everybody.

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

Focus on the small things

one piece at a time

Each day, I rise to the flood of all that’s going wrong in the nation, the world, and sometimes it seems like the universe. I get so tired of political squabbling that has no value to my life. Republican, democrat, conservative, all are convinced they have “the” solution to the problem. When I look closely, I often discover that the problem is them. Their incessant arguments brought forward, attesting to what is best for me and all the others who make up the citizenry of my nation, started to fall on my deaf ears years ago. My ears are deaf often because the self-serving attitudes of far too many of our elected officials take center stage, making it very clear that they are more concerned with satisfying particular [constituencies] than they are me.

Well, I got started on something I didn’t plan. Let’s get into what I’m writing this piece about. If you’re getting a sense that I haven’t planned exactly what I’m going to write about, you’re right on target. This piece is being composed, as I write, not like most of my pieces where I draft, outline, think about before -hand prior to sitting down to the keyboard.

I watched a good portion of the Robert Mueller congressional hearing yesterday. Of course, you know who Robert Mueller is, unless you’ve been sitting under a fig tree somewhere for the last year and a half completely off grid. The congressional committee members spent the better part of a good day asking Mr. Mueller questions about his report, which was written to reflect the evidence, or lack there of, about the President of the United States being complicit in collusion. Mr. Mueller kept true to his promise that he would not stray from what was already compiled in the report. The whole hearing was a stroll through the flower patch, producing nothing of consequence. Oops! I said I was going to get into what I wanted to write this piece about. I haven’t done so yet, or have I?

Most of you thinking sorts spend a good portion of your lives investing mental and emotional energy on what’s wrong with the world. We lament over the poor state of political affairs, child abuse, racism, sexism, xenophobia, as well as a thousand other human ills that work in concert to make the world a hard place in which to live. As we do this, we fail to realize one important fact: Each of us can provide remedy in our small portion of the universe. If we see one stray cat, rescue it. If we know there is food insecurity in our community, make a regular donation to a reputable food bank. If we know things are rotten on the political front, register to vote and follow through. Not a one of us can solve problems universally with some waving of a love-and-justice magical wand, but we can, as one person, exercise the God-given power vested in our individual temples to make a difference. And it’s not so important that we receive recognition from peers, church members, the media or any entity that’s good at handing out plaques at annual social gatherings.

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No way one person can find peace in themselves by focusing the “ALL”. The risk of becoming overwhelmed is far too great. The small is waiting for each of us to see it and to rescue it from pain and suffering. You would never be to assemble a Jigsaw puzzles if you looked at the image on the front of the box daily, trying to figure out a way to bring the pieces together, other than one piece at a time.

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

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.