Sunday Playlist…… The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz

THIS Is America

Over the past few weeks I have written posts about our Divided America.  Posts that were difficult to write, posts that sadden me and make me fear for our future.

These posts have highlighted the divide in our country that has persisted for generations, a divide that seems insurmountable.

While these issues boil beneath us, this week we saw the TRUE America at work.  The America that makes us great, the America we all long for.  This week we saw the best of America, an America that takes care of our neighbors in a time of need and an America that proves once again why we are the greatest human experiment ever created.

As hurricane winds and unfathomable rains fell on the State of Texas, we once again stepped up to lend a hand.

Rainfall levels hit heights that we could have never imagined and the unstoppable American spirit rose to the challenge.

We as Americans don’t always get it right, but in times of need we do it better than anyone else.

I have been in situations where the help of our American community was needed.  I have been through numerous hurricanes and each time as we picked up the pieces, our fellow-man has helped pick us up and place our feet on stable ground again.

Workers, volunteers, financial support all came flooding into neighborhoods where I lived and helped.

Last summer when the mountains and forests around my home were ravaged by wildfires, Americans from every corner of the country supported us.  As the fires subsided, our love for those who came to support burned like an inferno and still burns today with deep gratitude and appreciation.

We see it time and again, when America hurts we come together to support our neighbors and help them move to an even brighter future.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could carry this same level of care and compassion into the day-to-day issues that divide us?

We can, when WE THE PEOPLE take control of the narrative we stand strong and overcome the obstacles before us.  We don’t need politicians, or media to unite us, we just need the great American Spirit that we display on a daily basis.

Houston and its surrounding communities are ravaged by flood waters, but we WILL bring them back and because of the support of a nation united we will make them stronger than ever.

We have seen it time and again and we will see it again, isn’t it great knowing that the American Spirit is alive and well and together we can overcome any issue that harms or divides us……. as a UNITED citizenry who sees a challenge and get’s the job done.

American Heroes, they are not the people we elect of tune into for our news, they are the neighbors who stand with us in our times of greatest need and triumph.

Travel Buddy

My mother had one sister, Beck.

My Aunt Beck was always a part of my life, we would visit her and her family in Florida for vacations, they would visit us in the mountains for holidays and when she and my mother were together, the love they  shared for one another was infectious.

When I was pondering a move to South Florida, my Aunt Beck was the one who made me realize it would all be OK.

Since she was the one who moved away from the nest at a young age I valued her opinion as much as anyone else.  She told me to follow my dreams, the words of encouragement were the ones who finally made me realize I could still move away and be a vital part of my family from hundreds of miles away.

After I moved, Aunt Beck and Uncle Larry visited a couple of times to make sure I was adjusting to my new surroundings.  I was so proud to show them my life in Florida and when I bought my condo they were my first guests.

My relationship with my Aunt Beck grew even closer once I left God’s Country.  We talked on the phone a lot and after Uncle Larry passed away we became travel buddies.

Whenever I was making a trip home to God’s Country, I would pick her up in north Florida and she would come with me.

The trip to pick Aunt Beck up added an hour to my trip each way, but the memories created as we drove up the highway far outweigh any perceived inconvenience the added miles would create.

Her house was about 20 miles off the interstate, so she would have her neighbor bring her to the interchange, we would meet at McDonald’s and she would jump in the car and we were off.

From the time she got in my car we talked.

We talked about everything.

We laughed and sometimes we cried, but I learned about my family history, we talked about how life happens, we talked about dreams and we talked about what we wanted for those we loved most…….  we just talked.

And the conversation never stopped going up or down the highway towards the mountains that beckoned us both homeward.

We evacuated hurricanes together, we came for birthdays together and one year we came for Christmas together, driving those roads were all more special because Aunt Beck was with me.

When mama’s last days were imminent, I called Aunt Beck before I left West Palm Beach and she was waiting for me at the interstate when I got there.  That was our toughest trip.

She was with us when mama went home to be with the Lord and on the night mama passed, Aunt Beck sat beside her as she made her final journey home.

On the trip back to Florida, we cried more than we talked, but our time together and the wisdom she imparted also gave me peace.

When Sam, Chelsea, Zack and I decided we were going skydiving, in the Spring after mama died, she made that trip too.  She cheered us all the way to the ground.

The only thing Aunt Beck and I ever disagreed about was the route we would take home.

When Uncle Larry was alive, they always drove the back-roads and highways enjoying the sights and sounds of the small towns through Georgia.

I was having nothing to do with those back-roads.  I wanted to get on the Interstate and hit the gas getting home as quickly as possible just stopping for gas, drive-thru burgers and a quick bathroom break.

On our last trip together we took those back-roads through Georgia.  We drove through the small towns that she loved so much and saw she told me new stories about the vistas we saw, the ride was painfully long, but the conversation was magic.

When Aunt Beck passed away, a piece of my heart went with her.  My travel buddy had now gone on her final trek and I was honored to help carry her home.

I think about those conversations on the road often.  I miss her voice, I miss her laugh and I miss her wisdom, but most of all, I simply miss her.

Aunt Beck was my travel buddy, but more than that she was one of my greatest life influences, I look forward to our next journey together.

One Nation…..

Usually when I sit down to write my Sunday post, I have an outline in my head about what I am going to write, that is not the case today.

I had planned on writing a light-hearted post about the Eclipse; unfortunately the circumstances of the last eight days does not allow me to do that.

For the last week I have battled myself as to whether or not I even wanted to write this post.  I try to stay non-political, but I know if I am going to be honest with myself and the people who honor me with reading what I write, I have to write this post…… if only I knew what to say.

I think like many of you, I have no idea how to even address the issues that face our nation when it comes to race, but why should we, our nation has battled this issue for the last 200 years and we still can’t get it right, so I am just going to jump in, share my thoughts and let them lie.

I have a feeling what I say won’t be popular with either side, but here goes, as I sit here in front of my keyboard I still don’t know what to say.

Like many of you I have been shocked by the comments and actions we have seen played out on our television screens over the last week.  How have we gotten the issue of race in America so wrong for over two centuries and we still don’t have any end in sight to what tears us apart as a nation?

I am a son of the South, I grew up in rural Georgia, moved to Atlanta after college and then on to south-Florida and back home again just two short years ago.

During my time on this earth I have been fortunate to live and work in some of the most vibrant multi-cultural cities in our nation.  Atlanta;  West Palm Beach, Florida;  Lake Park, Florida;  Orlando, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va and my home Clayton, GA.  In each and every one of these communities I have worked with, laughed with, cried with and loved people of all races.

I deplore racism on every front, but I deplore racism on ALL sides.  In my life I have found just as many white people as black people who disgust me in their actions and beliefs.

I am a white middle-aged man, I do not think I am better or worse than any other person on this planet.  I was taught to respect my fellow-man and honor them for the character they create, their actions and their work-ethic, not their past, their heritage or the political affiliation they identify with.

Some say, as a white man I have privilege, I don’t.  I have worked for everything I have ever gotten in my life and I am proud of the life I have built for myself through hard-work and dedication.

We have all seen racism and bigotry played out through the history of our nation, it’s despicable.  Allow me to relate two stories that happened to me during the 1980’s, both still disgust me today.

When I was in college one of my best friends was a black woman named Lisa.  We shared a Major and became friends through group projects, club affiliations and studies.

Our college was in a small town in south-Georgia.  One Saturday, Lisa and I were working on a project and needed to run into town to pick up some supplies.

As we walked down the Main Street of the town, a small group of KKK members were assembled in front of us.  Obviously Lisa was nervous, but steadfast that we needed to get where we were going.  We walked directly towards the small group of hate when one of the members of the group approached me and said “boy, what are you doing with that?”  THAT!?!?

I was with a young woman of grace, dignity and intelligence who was working towards a college degree, a young woman who would make an impact on the world.

While I wanted to share my feelings with this pig who had spewed his hate on us, I didn’t.  I didn’t because Lisa continued to look forward, stood tall and kept walking.  I learned a lesson that day, when hate is ignored it is silenced.

When we finished our errand, Lisa walked back towards the group, there were no comments thrown our way, only silenced haters by a young woman who showed what character is made of.

The second incident occurred in the late 80’s in Atlanta.  As the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration was approaching, my friends Greg and David and I decided we would attend the parade to honor Dr. King and the vision of an America free of hate that he dreamed of.

On the day of the parade, the three of us boarded a MARTA train headed into downtown to participate in the festivities.

During the short train ride to the parade route we heard a few comments from others on the train, it was uncomfortable but we knew it would be OK once we got to Peachtree Street.

It wasn’t.

During that afternoon we were ridiculed and shouted at, it was made clear to us that three white guys were not welcome and instead of showing our support for Dr. King’s Dream, we left before the parade could even begin.

Certainly we all have stories we can relate regarding race, these are just two, but they exemplify the problem we have as a country…. BOTH sides have people who stand in their corner who do more damage than good, BOTH sides have a long way to move before we can truly be the UNITED States of America and BOTH sides need to listen and talk more than stepping up on their soapbox in an effort to prove their misguided point.

In my soul I know that these bigots, racists and hate groups are a very small minority, but let us be clear they stand on both sides of the argument.

President Donald Trump hurt the conversation this week with his comments, and as many of you, I was repulsed by what he said; however, if you are repulsed by the President’s comments and not equally repulsed when Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal publicly stated she hopes the President is assassinated you have a problem.

This week, Democratic House Leader, Nancy Pelosi said the statues of Confederates in the US Capitol have always been offensive and called on Speaker of the House Ryan to have them removed.

My question for Ms. Pelosi is, if they have ALWAYS been offensive why didn’t she call for their removal when she was Speaker of the House?

The hypocrisy of our elected leaders is offensive to the constituents they represent.  At some point we as Americans have to tackle this issue on our own and stop allowing the grand-standers who live off the public dole to set the agenda.  These elected individuals are not who should be changing the hearts and minds of Americans, that is our job, they should be working on creating jobs, the economy, our nation’s safety and stop trying to shirk their responsibilities as elected officials to govern.

There are those who now call for the removal of all Confederate monuments around the country, if and when they are removed what happens next?  Will we remove monuments of our Jewish leaders, Hispanic, Black, Gay, Italian, Christian, when we cover up our history we don’t have a chance to learn from the mistakes of the past and grow towards a more perfect union.

I have been blessed to know and love people of all races, creeds and sexual orientations.  I have known very few people in my life who are not accepting of others, because I choose not to allow that type of bigotry to infiltrate my life.

Thankfully I know our nation is filled with people like me, it’s now time we put the hate groups in the trash where they belong and work as a nation to stitch together this great divide created by a few.

Love always wins, it’s time we the majority, those who truly love our land and it’s people, prove it!

The Last Best Hope of Earth……

Men and women throughout our history have told us that the United States is the greatest nation on Earth.  No country has, or will ever, stand for the freedoms and liberties that we as Americans take for granted every day.

We have also been told through history, that as great as our country is, the only way we will ever be defeated is from within, if we the American people take those freedoms and liberties for granted and tear apart our nation from the inside out.

Have we reached a point where our own internal prejudices have torn our nation apart?

For many years our prejudices have simmered just beneath the surface, prejudices from ALL sides of the political spectrum have now come to a boiling point and my fear is that we will not turn down the heat in time to save the greatest nation ever known to man.

Yesterday we saw the latest black eye on our nation played out on national television when white supremacist marched on a city to spread their hate.

The latest example of hate speech is part of a long line of recent events that should make us all evaluate our own beliefs and our feelings towards those who join us in the melting-pot that makes up the dream of America.

A long line of cities across our country have been affected by these moments of hate, Ferguson, South Central LA, Selma, Littleton and numerous others who dot the landscape of our map.  At what point do we as American’s realize that we don’t have to agree with everything our neighbor supports, but if we let our differences tear us apart we are no better than the terrorists who destroy our cities?

The blame for our present state lands squarely on all sides of the political spectrum.

When we describe ourselves as hyphenated Americans instead of Americans a bias is put forth that doesn’t move us forward but continues to separate us.

When we tear down the history of segments of our residents we then marginalize their history as “less than” instead of a time that we learned we could be better.

This morning, as I watched the talking heads on Meet the Press, one of the panelists tried to bring forward the point that there is blame on all sides of the conflicts. Unfortunately he was shouted down by his fellow panelists who only wanted it to be known that their beliefs were harmed and wouldn’t acknowledge their own sins against our nation.

This is the problem, we no longer talk, we shout.

We are at a point in our nation’s history where we can’t see the grey in a situation, it is either my way or no way and we would rather tear down the other side than discuss and learn from one another in a way that could enhance the lives of all Americans and not just those who hold our same beliefs.

When American citizens gather in the nation’s capital to boycott a newly elected President on his first day in office, you are the problem.

When a city burns because a segment of the population disagrees with a jury verdict, you are the problem.

When people attending a rally to remember their cultural past show up in military armament, carrying weapons and brass-knuckles, you are the problem.

When entertainers spew hate speech and write lyrics tearing down others, you are the problem.

When your newscast focuses on the hate filled rhetoric of a few, and make them the lead story, you are the problem.

And when you don’t speak out in opposition to all of the above EQUALLY, you are the problem!

Unfortunately, the “you” in all of this has become “we,”…. WE are the problem.

We are all the problem.  We have allowed those on the fringe of important issues in our society to overtake the conversation, we are the problem.

America was founded on the ideals that ALL are created equal, that ALL are entitled to  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But we were also founded with a RESPONSIBILITY to be part of the process, work hard and contribute.

Will it take our nation hitting rock bottom before we raise up these ideals and actually work towards the more perfect union?

I worry that in today’s society with the climate of hate that is so prevalent we could not come together when we need to and support the ideals of America.

Unfortunately in our pursuit of being proven right, we no longer honor the rights of others to share their beliefs as well.

America is in a time in our history that will either destroy us or raise us up and whichever way we go is up to us.

We can either choose the path of Al Sharpton, David Duke, Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, Kanye West and Rosie O’Donnell or we can be better.  We as a people can begin the conversation, we can honor the good in our neighbors and we can begin to live together as one America and turn our backs on the hyphenations that separate us.

It’s time that the melting pot of America unites and welcomes all; black, white, straight, gay, Christian, non-Christian, southern, northern and everyone in between.

It is time that America honor the ideals that we were founded on, before it is too late.

I believe in the American people and I know that the trouble-makers who terrorize us are few, but if we allow them to continue to garner the spotlight and inhabit our thought process, we will fail, we will fail to uphold the cornerstones that America was founded on.

                                  “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again                                          be seen as the last best hope of earth.”

Abraham Lincoln