Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Holiday Memory: The Christmas Candle

     When I was growing up in East Memphis, Tenn., I attended Sea Isle Elementary School which was only a couple of blocks from our house.  Back in those days in the early 70's, you could walk to your neighborhood school with your friends without the fear of being kidnapped by a child molester or serial killer.  This particular school year, I was supposed to be in the fourth grade but I was placed into a special education class because the educators determined that I had developed a learning disability.  My teacher's name was Mrs. Pollard and she was a very special teacher and lady.  She was kind, patient, loving and funny.  Mrs. Pollard always went the extra mile for her students and went to great lengths to spend the proper amount of time to help us develop fully and to enable us to learn what we needed in order to catch up with our classmates in the other classrooms.  I remember that she always brought us food, cakes and cookies and other treats from her home to give to us especially during the Christmas holiday season.  But the one thing I remember most about Mrs. Pollard was her faith in God. She always said a prayer with her students.  Apparently, that was something you could get away with in the public schools in those days.
    Before school let out for Christmas break that year, I remember she gave all the students a candle and a piece of paper with a printed version of the "Lord's Prayer" on it.  She told us to light the candle on Christmas eve and place it by our bedside and then read the prayer to ourselves aloud. The world was in turmoil then like it is now.  Things have not changed a lot in some ways. America was still dealing with the Vietnam war and the civil rights and hippie movement was still going strong.  A lot of families in the nation's suburbs and inner cities were beginning to struggle with domestic social issues such as alcoholism, drugs and divorce especially after women's lib and the sexual revolution had surface in the concourse of America's landscape.  However, that Christmas eve, I did light the candle, read the prayer aloud and I fell peacefully asleep shortly thereafter.  Now I can still see the candle's bright, misty glow in my mind when I shut my eyes.  It takes me back, long ago when I was just a little boy and it helps me remember all those warm and special teachers such as Mrs. Pollard who made a big difference in my life. Thank you, Mrs. Pollard, and Merry Christmas to you wherever you are.  I'm sure you are in heaven now.  I will light a candle this Christmas eve in your honor and place it by my bedside. Then I will say the "Lord's Prayer."

Monday, December 8, 2014

College Town At Christmas, 2014

BOWLING GREEN, KY. __ Usually Patty, my wife, will call me on my cell phone when bad news happens. This year it happened twice and I was out of town both times. Once was in the early fall when a young lady from our community sat down on the railroad tracks in front of a moving train less than a block from our house and killed herself. Another time, Tony's (our son) best friend's little brother was killed recently in an vehicle accident on his way home from Nashville in the early morning hours. Then, one Saturday morning, I woke up just a couple of weeks ago and found out that one of our young local musicians from the BG Music Scene was killed in a two-vehicle collision on Smallhouse Road. He was killed by a 19 year-old boy driving a Jeep who was taking a powerful antipsychotic drug while drinking on top of it. Also, a sophomore Western Kentucky University student died in a Bowling Green house fire at the end of October. Tragedy has struck our town this year with the loss of young life.

I also attended a memorial service for my elderly neighbor's son-in-law who was just a little older than me and it was a very emotional but beautiful service for somebody that I only knew casually and his body had been cremated. Near the end of the service, the hospice minister who was presiding asked two poignant questions, "What joy do you have in your life and what joy have you brought to others?"
I suppose that's the two questions for me to ponder this Christmas season. What joy do I have and what joy do I bring to others? Right off the bat, I find joy in the small things (or the big things I should say) of life. My home, my wife, my son, my job, my church and my community. And I hope and pray that I have managed to bring some joy into other peoples lives in my 52 years on this earth so far.

However, my wish for this College Town At Christmas In 2014 is that I pray for healing for the families that are hurting from the loss of their love ones that I mentioned above. Beyond all the hustle, bustle, money, materialism, excitement, parties and decorations, may they somehow find peace, comfort and joy in their hearts and minds this Christmas. Help them not to be lonely, bitter, depressed or hopeless. Help them to know that there are others in Bowling Green, who care and are hoping and praying that they somehow they find the Christmas spirit this year in our college town.