Saturday, September 26, 2015

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In Congress

The Declaration of Independence includes the statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To understand a little background, I need to point out that there were only thirteen states at the time of that writing. It had been a long hard fought battle to break away from England. England had been the land of serfs, slaves and debtors’ prisons. The people were not treated fairly, and the representatives of the people were determined life did not have to be that way. People were already beginning to have different religious views, such as believing or not believing in a higher power. Everyone did agree that voters should have the right to elect leaders according to the most votes. America has always, and continues to be democratic, in that the majority of votes win. Although people profess to have the same belief systems now, and feel we have evolved, there are just as many problems now as then. Leaders often had less than desirable outcomes.
We still believe that each person was created equal. It is our belief that due to unforeseen circumstances, and for whatever reason, there is a separation of people. Education certainly separates people. Often disease, or financial stresses can cripple a livelihood-even a whole family to the point that it is not easy to recover from and it takes its toll. Those who are more fortunate should help those who are less fortunate. In that sense, we are our brother’s keeper, but only as long as he continues to help himself. Once the tide turns, he is expected to pick up the pieces and rebuild. The responsibility of repayment is to give to others. There is usually no way to repay those who gave to you.
For the most part, I believe the fundamental text in the Declaration of Independence and other such documents should be absolutes. However, the morality has changed for many of the people in today’s world. Everyone does not have to hold the same moral system that I do. Freedom is what makes this nation great. Freedom to live in our society any way we choose is why our forefathers fought. It is a shame we cannot all live together in harmony as America was intended. “Your rights end where my rights begin,” means that while we may have different beliefs and customs, you cannot force your behavior on me. Each individual must be strong enough in his or her own convictions, that they must not be swayed by their neighbor.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Getting Hurt

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Normally, I am not a betting man.  However, right now I would almost wager that my Labor Day “break” lasted longer than the average person’s.  On Saturday of the long weekend, I was going to enjoy the day by floating down the Chattahoochee River on a tube with my friends.  Our fun-filled trip to the river was uneventful.  There were no surprises.  We stopped for breakfast, got back on our bus, and headed for the rest of our day.

The first half of my journey down the river was fun.  The girls were looking good for the last blast of sunshine and warm weather before the chills of winter set in.  About half way down the trek, we found a flat rock, suitable for standing on to stretch our legs.  A few of us took turns jumping off the rock into the river, enjoying our afternoon.  That is when my weekend took a dramatic turn for the worse.  I made an attempt to jump back into my tube after a quick water break.  I thought I was lined up just right to land inside.  My feet, evidently, hit the inner tube on the right and my ride shot out from under me like a rocket.  My life flashed before my eyes!  My left knee struck a rock hidden underneath the water.  I wasn’t in any pain.  Perhaps the water was too cold, or it all happened too fast.  I definitely was aware that I now had a gash in my knee that was the length and depth of the Grand Canyon!  Not everybody knows that I have a blood disorder and my blood doesn’t clot fast enough.  A severe wound of this magnitude could do me in.  My doctors have cautioned me how to handle such a situation.  Actually, it’s no different than what I have learned in Boy Scouts.  Close the wound to stop the bleeding.  

Miraculously, bleeding was not an issue.  I needed to complete my river ride to get to first-aid and my phone.  I was forced to wind my way on down the rushing water.  The rapids denoted a new danger for me as I rode the foaming waters.  After assessing my predicament, and texting pictures to my parents, we determined I was able to continue my action packed evening.  It would have taken my parents several hours to reach me to bring me home.  I could be home just as quickly by following my route.  

Pain was beginning to stab my knee as I tried to smile and enjoy my friends.  Everyone was checking on me.  I didn’t like the feeling of being an invalid, but my knee began to ache more and more.  I was very relieved to get home that night.  As expected, my parents took one look at my knee and took me to the emergency room.  It was ten o’clock Saturday night by the time we got there.  Infection had already set up in my body.  I had to spend a week in a hospital in Atlanta.  I even had to have surgery to scrap out the infection.  My Labor Day Weekend turned into a week-long rest (of sorts).  I am still recuperating from my adventure. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

An Early Reader

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I have a great uncle in my life who truly stands out in my mind in the beginning of my education.  Perhaps, I should have said I had a great uncle, because he is not with us anymore. Instead, I’d rather dwell on the good times we had together.  

Uncle Kenneth bought me books before I was born.  He was a school teacher, so, I guess, that’s where he got the idea.  He believed in getting an education; he even joined the army so he could go to college on the GI bill, because he didn’t want his parents to have to pay.  He was not stuffy, though, or hard to talk to.  He was really a lot of fun.  He knew all about football and was an avid golfer, and I hear, a pretty good poker player.  He loved to fish.  He never took me fishing, though.  As I think of it just now, he didn’t do any fun things with me.  I never realized it before, but I didn’t ever do any activities or sports with him.  He was totally focused on teaching me things. They were not just school subjects, either. 

He taught me a lot about life, honesty, and loyalty.  He never married, so his niece and nephews got extra attention.  He bought them computers when they first became available. I was the second generation to be blessed by his wisdom and knowledge.  He, and my parents, have instilled in me the drive to do well in all I endeavor to do.  The first step of doing anything involves reading and preparing a plan.

I have fond memories of calling my uncle every night on the phone to read to him after school.  I’m sure he had many, other more important things to do, but, hour after hour, he listened to me patiently.  When I stumbled on a word, he would ask me to spell it to him.  Then we would talk about the word, if it was a word I was not acquainted with.  After talking about it a minute, I could easily read the word again later.  Uncle Kenneth would ask me to explain what happened after every event, or page. He would question me about the characters in the stories, and how they related to each other and to the overall plot.  By the time we were through reading, I knew the book in depth.  

Along with books: flash cards, bulletin boards, magnetic alphabets and numbers were gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Gifts were from the heart, and provided hours of recreation plus education. He created a love of learning in me, as I’m sure he did with his students.

Yes, Uncle Kenneth is gone now, but I still have those books I will pass to my children. Better than that, I’ll have the love for books that I will pass to my children and grandchildren. I’ll pass it along to nieces and nephews. Perhaps, I’ll pass it along to children I’m not familiar with, too. I’d love to be remembered like my Uncle Kenneth Yates.