People are to be engaged, enjoyed

fellowshipping 3

One of the things I’ve noticed about Chris, for as long as we’ve been married, is that she can strike up a conversation with anyone. It doesn’t make any difference if we’re 500 miles from home in a shopping mall we’ve never visited. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in the car after church for what seems like forever while she talks weather with what seems like everyone at church. Okay, I know you’re saying that’s the fellowshipping that’s supposed to happen. Well, there’s fellowshipping and then there’s fellowshipping. I’ll let you guess the brand a died-in the-wool introvert like me prefers. When I was younger, the wait was troubling to say the least. I don’t think what I’m saying here is a surprise to my better half. I’m admitting it on this page, because I’m now far less bothered than in my younger years. I now wait while enjoying the time with my iPhone, listening to SiriusXM Smooth Jazz or just closing my eyes and meditating on the silence. As the saying goes, it’s all good.

Guess what, I’ve noticed something about myself in recent months; I’m becoming my wife. Not to the fullest, but my time spent in the cashier’s line at the Walmart Super Center is being consumed more by talking to strangers. I’ve noticed something about certain people. Some people emit a signal that indicates it’s okay to talk to me. I’m not sure what it is that lets me know it’s okay to say something. Maybe it’s the smile on their face when you look at them, the eye contact that connects with you, or the just plain old hello, or where did you get that?

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with stepping outside of my introverted cage and striking up conversations with total strangers. If you know me, of course, I know you probably don’t, that’s stretching it for me. Chris knows me, and if I were to get a quote from her right now, she would attest to the accuracy of my self-characterization.

One thing seems universal with folks who signal an interest in brief social encounters; they want to share a smidgen of themselves for the few minutes you have with each other. They want to talk about their cat, dog, children, grandchildren, even the weather. They want to certify for themselves that they are just like you in some way. And you know, gender, ethnicity, social strata often don’t matter. These brief social encounters are what I’m now calling micro-engagements. I’ve noticed something else about them, too, they make you feel enriched in some way. I can’t explain them very well, because they are more soul-stirring than cerebral. I don’t walk away any more intelligent than before the encounter, but the encounter usually leaves an imprint. And I usually come home and mention it to Chris. I think this is just one more sign of me coming more into my tag line, Old and Blessed.

Fellowshipping 1

The longer you roam around on this planet, while remaining open to all it has to offer, the greater your chances for Godly evolution.

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

Living with something I’d rather not

unwelcome guest 1

I’m fast approaching a twenty-year anniversary that I thought twenty years ago I would never see. If you’re reading this and you’ve read any of my musings previously, you know I’m talking about my twenty years of living with cancer. I don’t want to sound redundant, but I have Multiple Myeloma, a type of blood cancer. I won’t go into anymore detail than that. My anniversary will be March 12, the date I received my diagnosis. Only God knows how long I’ve had the disease. After all, at the time of diagnosis, the daemon had taken a substantial toll on my body.

The last twenty years have been a roller coaster ride in many ways. I’ve had my share of infections anyone might expect a cancer patient to have pneumonia, bouts with the flu, urinary tract infection, sepsis. That’s enough. I’ll leave it there. However, there’s an upside to the last twenty years, one being that I’m still alive and kicking. I remember asking God to keep me alive to see my kids grow into mentally, physically and spiritually fit adults. He answered that prayer, and I’m glad to say I now have five grandkids and one great grandchild.

I trust that through my writing my faith in God shines. I say that because I don’t write, for the most part, with an evangelical flavor. That, in no way is meant to diminish my faith in God. My faith has been strengthened by God’s answer to my prayer for long life. I often think about the odds the world would have given me for being around this many years. At the time of my diagnosis the life expectancy of a Myeloma patient was three to five years. So much for worldly odds. God decided I should be around much longer. His answer to my prayer has given me an opportunity to be a clear and present witness to the power of prayer, and God’s graciousness in answering them.

Enemy 2

 

I’m happy at this stage in my life to say that I’m living a productive and joyous life despite the insidious cells that daily try to destroy my body. I would rather they not be actively trying to consume bone tissue, internal organs, wreak havoc with my dental health and cause irreparable damage to my temple, but through the cutting-edge treatments of medical science and God’s grace, I’m living with a daemon.

I was prompted to write this piece while sitting in the cancer clinic today, waiting to have my next in the semi-annual tests I’m stuck with the rest of my life. I happened to be sitting beside a young lady who is a member of my church, who also has Multiple Myeloma. She’s a five-year survivor, in remission and doing well. I love talking with folks who have this daemon, same as I, who haven’t been around as long. You know, I think God still has me around to have these conversations.

enemy 3

You may not have cancer, but what daemon do you have that you’ve learned to life with, by the grace of God?

I old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Why give them a special month?

Diverse society 1

This is February, Black History Month. The genesis of Black History Month was in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson, the historian, author and journalist started Negro History Week. The week was later expanded to Black History Month in 1976. (This year marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of the United States’ independence.) Today Black History Month is recognized internationally by Canada, the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands.

There are many who feel strongly that Black History Month, or the recognition of contributions made by people of African descent to the building of America should not be limited to just one month. I count myself among those who think that way. I also feel strongly that no segment of a population should be relegated to a week or month-long celebration in the history of a nation.

Have you looked at the calendar lately and noticed the number of month-long recognitions that have been set aside for groups in our society? We have Women’s History Month, Native American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, just to name a few. As with any good thing, there are those who beg the question why. Why do we have to have these special months to recognize anyone? After all, we’re all American, aren’t we?

Diverse society 2

 

 

Of course, we’re all Americans, but have we all been treated as such. Have we all been recognized in the normal course of activities that keep a country operating? History has a habit of telling their story and not all of our story. Annals are usually the compilation of records kept for the general society buy those in power; those who operate the financial institutions, the government, the mainstream cultural institutions, even the mainstream religious institutions. Without access to mainstream outlets, some folks cannot easily influence the telling of local, national and international stories.

All people have a need to be recognized for their contributions, some more than others. All people of every nation have made some amount (often major) of contribution to the development of the whole. Would America be what it is today without the “American Pie” having ingredients from descendants of people stolen from the continent of Africa, Native Americans, Latinos from Central America, women who stood beside men at every pioneering venture, Chinese who labored to build miles of railroads to expand the country westward?

Diverse society 3

 

If you ever find yourself asking why do they need a month set aside to remember and celebrate their groups contributions, honestly answer: America is a vast, beautiful country that in no way could have become what it is today without the invaluable contributions of native people, immigrants and kidnapped individuals. Our all-inclusive story should be told 24/7, not just during special months of the year. An informed conscience just might be an effective glue for cementing what appears to be increasing cracks in the American social fabric.

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

A brief visit across generations

Black History Month 5

This is Black History Month in the United States, a time set aside to recognize and honor the contributions of African Americans to the development of our country.

For the past three years, my church has hosted a musical event called The Love of Art, a concert honoring the late Art Porter Sr. (February 1934 – 1993). He was an African American Jazz musician born and reared in Little Rock, Arkansas. The concert is held to raise money for the Art Porter Foundation, which provides scholarships for young folks interested in pursuing music as their passion.

Chris, my wife whom I’ve mentioned previously in my blogs, sings with the Art Porter Singers. She had to arrive early for the concert to do a sound check, and whatever else singers and musicians do behind the scenes to prepare for concerts. Because we didn’t want to drive two cars to the event, I chose to go early with her. I’m glad I did because it gave me an opportunity to experience something that was apropos for the occasion.

As I was sitting in the foyer, listening to videos on my iPhone, a lady came in followed by a somewhat older lady. It was a daughter and her mother. The daughter had to use the lady’s room and she asked her mom to sit in the foyer until she returned. I overheard the daughter make some comment about the mom being ninety-four years old. That piqued my interest, along with the fact that this ninety-four-year-old woman walked into the building unassisted, albeit although with a cane.

oral history

I started our conversation by telling her, in all honesty, that she didn’t look ninety-four. She graciously thanked me. I said to her that I was sixty-nine, and I that had seen a lot of things in my years of being alive, but I bet nothing compared to her. I commented that she had probably seen the T-Model car and horseless carriages. She smiled and said she had not only seen T-Models but A-Models, too. Of course, if she had seen the T-Model, she would have seen the A-Model since it came after the T. From there, I was in awe of what sat before me, a living history book that could vocalize personal accounts of a good chunk of American history. From the short conversation we had, she mentioned the Great Depression of the 1930s. We talked about World war II, the Central Highschool crisis of 1957 and several other notable historic events. Her words were personal accounts from someone who lived the times and the events. This wasn’t, by the way, my first opportunity to converse with a living history book. My maternal grandparents were born much earlier than this lady; however, I never fully appreciated the value of the information they could have shared with me about the first half of twentieth century American history. I was young and driven by other, less valuable interest at the time.

t-model ford

Shortly after our conversation had begun, the daughter returned. She thanked me for keeping company with her mom. I thanked her for giving me the few minutes I spent with her mom. With that the history class ended. That was real-life Black history, during Black History Month. How cool was that?

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

Plants aren’t just plants, sometimes

Spring flowers one

I want to make it perfectly clear from the start that I’m not about to work hard to inject deep meaning into this piece. Something dawned on me as I was watering my plants this morning.

I’m one of those people who can’t tell you the name of one plant from the other; however, for years I’ve nurtured plants in our house. For some reason, plants thrive under my care. Each spring, I make a trip to the Home Depot, Lowe’s or some garden center to buy fresh potting plants. They just seem to make the decks (front and back) on our house look alive and welcoming. They also add a nice touch to the inside, too.

Back to what came across my mind as I was watering the plants scattered around our living room this morning. The other day, a friend of mine posted a picture of a plant on Facebook. I won’t mention her name, because I’m not sure she would want it in a blog deposited in cyberspace. She lost her mom a few years ago, and I thought it touching that she would post the picture of one of her mom’s plants. It was the picture of a Drunkard Dream. (Since I know very little about the names of plants, I accept what she called it as what it is.) The post said, “My momma’s Drunkard Dream is blooming. Such cherry yellow flowers for dreary winter days. She would be so happy.” I think you can tell by these words that she holds her mother very dearly in her heart and that this plant is more than just a plant.

karen's mom's plnt

The Drunkard Dream

My friend’s posting prompted an exchange between the two of us. I too lost my mom. She died due to complications related to Alzheimer’s a year ago this past July. I have a plant that occupies a special place in our house. It didn’t belong to my mom, but it was one of the many bright floral spots that adorned the space surrounding her casket.

Mom's plant

Plant from mom’s funeral

My friend also mentioned, as we conversed on Facebook, that she had one of the same types of plants from her father-in-law’s funeral that I collected from my mom’s funeral. I’m sure it wouldn’t still be there, being nourished and cared for if it didn’t have special meaning.

I’m getting these mental images as I stroke the keys to my laptop. I see an old hickory nut tree standing stately in the center of one of my maternal grandfather’s fields. I remember many days playing underneath that tree as a boy, collecting hickory nuts in the fall and watching my grandfather resting beneath it after a hard morning of tilling the soil with his team of mules. I remember the drooping limbs of Weeping Willows in my grandparent’s yard gently blowing in the light breezes of many hot, humid summers in Cross County, Arkansas. There was also and old Oak tree in one corner of their yard that grandpa used to hang and stretch fishing poles he made from sticks he gathered, from where, I have no clue. That tree was also used for hanging animals, as he skinned them.

I guess I didn’t keep my promise. There is deep meaning in plants, as they unintentionally help us remember tender points in our lives.

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

Why a counter argument?

argument 1

As I move from this sentence to the rest of these little musings, I’m going to try my best not to show left- or right-wing bias. Of course, I can’t promise anything. The title of this piece was prompted by a letter to the editor I just read in my local newspaper. The writer was obviously bothered by a position someone in the community had taken on an issue. As I read the letter, I couldn’t help but think why, why the reader felt compelled to write this letter. Then, it dawned on me, most of us have a problem allowing someone else to have the last word, the last idea, the last proposal for the good of the order.

I honestly believe that there are some people who, if I walked outside, as I started my day, and I proclaimed it to be a beautiful day, they would say it’s not. Some folks would be offended by my acknowledgement of what I felt to be a God-given day to enjoy to the fullest. My proclamation wouldn’t have risked harm to anyone, yet it was offensive somehow.

Let’s advance this idea of “why a counter argument?” Scientists have concluded that climate change is caused by two sources; 1) Natural – Volcanic eruptions would be an example of this. The heat and gases spewed from volcanoes have a direct impact on the environment. Most of us would have no argument with that; and 2) Humans- We produce harmful gases due to our efforts to make the planet more hospitable for our existence. The latter does produce countless counter arguments. Even if some of us are not overwhelmingly convinced that we are major contributors to global warming, why can’t we agree that efforts to clean up the environment would be a good thing for everyone? Why can’t positions taken by those of us intended for good, and not inherently harmful for anyone be worthy of consideration versus an attack on mom, baseball and apple pie? If you think like me, you have strong suspicions why, but as I said earlier, I’m going to try to keep my bias out of this. Conversely, why can’t someone bothered by a sunny day, with calm winds and temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celsius), be an opportunity to have a civil conversation with someone who felt differently, versus an argument?

reasoning together

It seems sometimes that we spend inordinate amounts of time arguing over issues that really don’t matter. Meantime, we demonstrate very little concern for the human needs that prevail all around us. The Christian Bible contains two verses in Isaiah 1: 17- 18a – “Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and let us reason together…” There are some who would take argument with that. Really. How could you? Oops. My bias is showing, isn’t it?

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

I’m visiting my ancestral home

chris and hosea in dashikis

 

I wrote a piece a few months ago about the trip Chris and I are planning to make to Ghana. The closer the time of the trip gets, the more anxious I’m becoming. Recently, I saw a You-Tube video of three young Africans (born in America) reviewing their visit to Ghana. The interviewer was interviewing them in Accra, the Capital City. They were standing in Independence Square which contains monuments to Ghana’s independence struggle, including the Independence Arch, Black Star Gate, and the Liberation Day Monument. Independence Square is the second largest City Square in the world after the Tiananmen Square.

African ancesters 1

While visiting one of the slave dungeons, one of the young people interviewed said they felt a sense of connection with their ancestors who were stolen from Africa. They felt their visit to Ghana was an answer to the inscription on the dungeon door which reads “Door of No Return.” After four hundred or so years, this young person’s family had come full circle. She was the representative chosen (by God, the universe, her ancestors) to make the return home. A return no African could remotely fathom four hundred years ago. I’ve heard this story on more than one occasion. Each time I hear it, I feel an emotional awakening. To this point those emotions are vicarious. God willing, I will feel the real thing in short order.

As I watched the video of these young folks, from New Orleans by the way, I felt a twinge of envy. They are young and making this trip to our land of origin with a good chance of many years left to visit other countries in Africa. One of the three had already been to several other countries on the continent. Why am I envious? I’m sixty-nine years old, living with a life-threatening disease, with probably little chance left of trekking back a fourth (with any significant repetitive degree) to my motherland. I’ve come late in life to an awareness of just how valuable my experience with Africa can be. I’m praying that the old saying of “better late than never” will be true with Mother Africa and me.

African ancesters 2

I do find myself thinking of what I will still miss even with my trip to Ghana. I’ll miss being able to make the precise connection to the two people, who were stashed in the cargo hold of a ship, brought to a foreign land and consummated the beginning of the generational journey that resulted in me sitting at this keyboard, composing these musings. The technology of ancestral investigation has come a long way in recent times; however, the most I can expect is discovery of regional or tribal identity somewhere in West Africa. Most of us can’t do what Alex Haley did with Roots. It would be nice though to find cousins remotely removed.

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