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!

Life’s Playlist…. Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell

Sometimes when you hear that a person has passed away it takes you back to moments in time.

Yesterday, when I heard that Glen Campbell had passed, I had one of those flashback memories.

Glen Campbell performed the songbook of my youth.  His songs were there during every Pickin’ and Singin’ night my family would enjoy with our friends.

I remember his “Rhinestone Cowboy” days, his CBS Variety Show, and his tumultuous days with Tanya Tucker.

In his later years, Glen Campbell’s role as an elder statesman of country music was carried out with dignity.

A few years back, the world was heartbroken to hear he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and yesterday we were heartbroken again when his death was announced.

Glen Campbell seemed like he was part of the family and he will be missed.

In choosing a song to honor his memory, I could have chosen many…..

Rhinestone Cowboy

By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Galveston

Gentle on My Mind

Southern Nights

and many others, however I chose my favorite….. Wichita Lineman.

Glen Campbell’s musical legacy will live forever and his body is now restored as he serenades with the choir of angels.

Company’s Coming

Over the past few weeks I have had several friends visit God’s Country.   It is always great to see my friends from around the country and great to catch up with them and where they are in their lives.

When company visits, it is also a way for me to show off God’s Country, the beauty of the nature and the magnificent people.  They usually always tell me, “now I know why you call it God’s Country.”

The same happened in reverse when I lived in south Florida.  My friends and family would visit and I would show off the ocean views, the manicured lawns and introduce them to my friends.

When I lived in south Florida I referred to it as paradise, another fitting moniker.

One of the things I love most about company coming to town is the opportunity to re-appreciate many of the sites of our community I may not often see as a resident.

It is ironic that we live in these special spots on our globe and our day-to-day lives sometimes keep us from being able to appreciate them to the full effect.

Over the last weeks I have had time to dine in restaurants I don’t get to enough and shop in small boutiques and specialty shops that sometimes fall off my radar.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to hike Pickens Nose.  A beautiful mountaintop overlook that makes me feel as close to God as anywhere I have ever visited.

I get to Pickens Nose once or twice a year, but each time I walk out on that rock and overlook God’s creation I am humbled.  One day (hopefully many years from now,) my family will make that trek with my ashes and return me to the land from where I came and the spot where I feel closest to heaven.

Guests ensure me a visit to Black Rock Mountain and Tallulah Gorge where I tell the story of watching Karl Wallenda walk across a tight-rope and standing on his head twice when I was a young boy.

These visits from friends allow me to showcase our lakes and sometimes when the timing is perfect, attend the Georgia Mountain Fair reliving the history of my Appalachian home.

I look forward to visits from friends, just as I did when I lived in Florida.

Being able to showcase the land I call home is a pleasure, I take pride in my little corner of God’s Country and appreciate having the opportunity to re-visit the places I treasure most.

I fight an internal battle that I don’t visit these spaces often enough, just because.  And then I realize, being able to experience them through fresh eyes keeps these special places all the more awesome when I return.

Y’all come to the mountains, I’ll be happy to play tour guide!