Have A Grand 4th Of July (And Respond To Our Survey On Your Way Out The Door)

Click this link to join the more than 850 others who have given their input into our latest survey about having an appointed state board of educating vs. an elected one.

Then enjoy family and friends on this very special holiday.  My memories of the 4th of July are primarily that for one day in the summer, work on the farm came to a halt and somewhere along the way was homemade ice cream and watermelon.  That was back in the day when the cream was churned by hand and the melons were homegrown.

And more than likely lunch (or dinner as we say in the South) was fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans.  As we cranked the freezer, Daddy told about his own memories of the 4th were not much different than mine now are.  About daylight, someone would hitch a mule to the wagon and head for the ice house in Red Level where they would get a block of ice, cover it with sawdust and head for home.

Grandpa had a sweet tooth for sure.  Which he passed along to me.  And the homemade ice cream that came with each 4th of July was a welcome treat.

So here is wishing you a safe and happy 4th.  The day we pause to remember that we are celebrating the greatest political statement ever made.  One that has survived challenge after challenge and still remains a symbol of  what should be right and good about the best of what mankind has to offer.

Elected vs. Appointed State School Board. Take Our Survey.

In addition to voting for candidates for president next March 3rd, Alabama voters will decide YES or NO on a constitutional amendment as to whether to switch from the present elected state board of education to one appointed by the governor.

If approved, the amendment gives the governor the authority to select a nine-member Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.  Appointments would have to be confirmed by the state senate.  Members would serve staggered six-years terms.  They would appoint a state education secretary.

The proposal also includes a directive for the new commission to set new standards to replace Common Core curriculum standards.

What do you think?  Here is your chance to be heard.  Respond to our survey which you find here.

It will take three to four minutes.  As always, your response is anonymous.

We hope you will fill out this survey and that you will also pass it along to friends and colleagues and ask them to as well..  The more, the better.

Results will be posted in a few weeks.

Heading West

From time to time I have mentioned my friend, Charlie Johnson of Fort Worth, TX and the group he started a few years ago, Pastors for Texas Children.  This effort encourages churches to partner with local schools, as well as advocate for them.  They now have more than 1,000 churches in their network.

Learn more by visiting their website here.

Charlie is a Baptist minister who grew up in Monroe County, AL.  He has a brother who is a retired teacher and lives in Mobile.  What began in Texas has now spread to a number of other states.  Tennessee and Florida come quickly to mind.  Charlie and I have had a number of talks about the need for such an organization in Alabama.  I think it is an excellent idea.

PTC is having a luncheon in Dallas June 18 and I’m going to get a closer look at how they function and to see first-hand their support.  I look forward to being there.

Consequently, I will be away from my computer for a few days next week.  In the meantime, I share comments Charlie made to a group a few months ago:.

Progressive Christians should acknowledge every child’s right to quality education as a justice issue, and conservative Christians should recognize neighborhood public schools as the third pillar—alongside the church and the home—for building responsible citizens with moral vision, Charles Foster Johnson told a Dallas audience.

“Public schools are the place where we create a public consciousness,” Johnson, founding executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, told workshop participants at the Red Letter Revival, a movement of Christians who say they want to apply the teachings of Jesus in society. “We need quality, fully funded public schools where every child is accepted.”

Public education for all is a moral duty, and public schoolteachers work in a “holy sanctuary” of learning, said Johnson, former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and Second Baptist Church in Lubbock.

“They work long hours at low pay, often serving the poorest children,” he said.

Serious followers of Christ need to recognize public school advocacy as a vital part of their public witness, he asserted. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” Likewise, public schools invite all children to receive an education and attain their God-given potential, Johnson insisted, adding, “All means all.”

In contrast, privatized approaches to education serve only those who can afford it, he said. At the same time they serve a select constituency, proponents of vouchers for private schools divert tax dollars—funds intended for the common good—away from underfunded public schools, he asserted.

Charter schools are “a little trickier,” he acknowledged, particularly when they offer educational alternatives to underserved neighborhoods. However, even the best non-profit charter schools typically are governed by self-perpetuating boards in distant locations, and the people they serve have no voice in decision-making, he said.

For-profit schools simply are out to make money for wealthy investors, he emphasized.

“They are making commodities out of our children and markets out of our classrooms,” Johnson said.

In an increasingly polarized society, public schools offer a unique place that can bring together children of varied races and religions—children of privilege and children in need—to learn together and create life-changing relationships, he asserted.

Johnson urged concerned Christians to develop friendships with school superintendents to learn about local needs and nurture relationships with elected representatives, particularly in the Texas House of Representatives, to advocate for public education.

A renewed commitment to public education “can solve a lot of other issues in society,” he insisted.

Churches can make a difference by adopting public schools—providing school supplies, praying for educators, sponsoring teacher appreciation events and inviting members to become mentors and tutors for students, he said.

“If you want to change the world, read to a kid—particularly a child in the third grade or younger—for two hours a week,” Johnson said. “It’s the most Jesus-led, Spirit-filled act you can do.”

A Blue Sky And Thoughts That Go With It

The sky was brilliant blue.  Not the sorta kinda blue that you see in a big city, but the blue of open spaces.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Not even the feathery trail of a jet five miles high hurrying people across the country.

I was in a place I’ve been many times.  Off to the right were evaluated concrete slabs for “dinner on the ground” on fourth Sundays when people come to the Primitive Baptist church sitting 25 yards away.  No doubt mama’s sister, Aunt Lela Mae, had plopped down a huge bowl of her chicken and dumplings on one of those slabs.  After all, she was the best maker of chicken and dumplings in the whole universe.

And both of my grandmothers, the one we called “Big Mama” and the one who was just “Grandma” had set out bowls of butter beans or fresh creamed corn or fried okra.

A small sign on the fence told one and all that they could send donations to a McKenzie Post Office box to help with upkeep on the cemetery lying just beyond.  From time to time I have chipped in.

Why shouldn’t I?  Because here is the final resting place of many with whom I share DNA.  All four of my grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins of all sorts.  My Lee great grandfather, James Kenyard.  (His father, James Madison, never came home from the Civil War and no one knows where he is buried.  James Madison’s father, William Greenberry, is buried a few miles away at South Butler cemetery in McKenzie.)

I remember trips to this same spot as a boy.  At that time many of the graves were simply mounds of earth.  Some decorated with colored glass.  Some with mussel shells that stood on towers of sand that were not eroded when July thunderstorms came along.  One was fenced with a roof over it.  Over time, the roof came down and the shells were replaced by granite, or sometimes concrete.

Unlatching the gate, I entered this sacred ground.  There were daddy’s mother and father, one of his brothers and a sister who lived less than two months.  There were mother’s parents, buried in the same plot as my grandfather’s twin brother and his wife.  Uncle Earl Bennett who ran a grocery store in McKenzie and loved life.  Great uncles and aunts whom I vaguely remember and second cousins.

An usually chill April wind came out of the west as I did what I always do–wish I knew more about my people.  Oh how I would love to ask them questions today.  About the times they lived in, about going to church and plowing a mule and surviving the Great Depression.  Would love to swap stories with them.

Sure, I talked to my grand parents.  But it was the talk of a child and the questions were about childhood things, not penetrating questions that help you to truly look into someone’s life and sometimes their soul.

The church and cemetery are on a spit of Covington County sandy soil, about a stone’s throw from the Butler County line to the north and maybe two miles to Conecuh County to the west.  And as places go, most would consider it insignificant.  But just as southerners cling to their sense of place, I cling to here and the memories it shared with me under a brilliant blue sky.

 

 

 

The Joy Of Growing Older

As I was about to leave the house this afternoon, I realized I did not have my phone (a very old flip phone model) and checked in my “office” where I thought I left it.  Nope.  Then the dining room table, shuffling the papers that clutter it.  Nope.  Then kitchen.  Nope.  My bedroom.  Came up empty again.

So I started the routine again.  Office, dining room table, kitchen, bedroom.  And this time I checked to see if it was in the console of my car.  Now I am agitated at how I could manage to lose it.  No way it just up and walked off.

Clearly I needed help.  If it was in the house and I heard it ring, I should be able to find it.  Suddenly the thought occurred to me that since I sat at my computer for hours on end, I would turn to email.

Quickly I dashed off a note to several friends saying, “I have lost my damn phone.  Can you call me at 334-787-0410?”

Then I waited to see if someone would come to my rescue.  Sure enough, I heard it ringing in a few minutes and followed the sound.  There it was on the floor in my bedroom in a pile of dirty clothes.  The caller was longtime friend, John Hansen.  As soon as I answered, he said, “It is now official that we are old men.”  I corrected him by saying that I’ve known that for several years.

As some of you know, I am prone to wear overalls, I suppose in acknowledgement  of who I am and where I come from.  There is a pocket on the front of the bib where my phone fits handily.  And when I bend over, also slides out easily.  Obviously that is what happened.

And thanks to others who called later.  It’s comforting to know that there is goodness in the hearts of some, even when it is a matter so trivial.

So now I wait for my next dumb blunder.

 

 

Is There Life After Sweet Tea?

Like most deep-friend southern boys, I like sweet iced tea.  Like it a lot.  Never one for coffee, I have gulped down gallons and gallons of sweet tea, morning, noon and night.  A nectar of the Gods so to speak.  Regardless the weather outside, nothing beats a tall glass of sweet tea with plenty of ice.

But the recent diagnosis of being diabetic has brought this delight to a screeching halt.  And it has now been more than three weeks since  my last glass.  Now it is water with lemon.  Water with lemon.  More water and more lemon.

Even a night ago when I stopped by a BBQ shack to get some ribs it was water with lemon.  Just did not seem American.  At least American south of the Mason-Dixon line.

I have eaten so much lettuce in the last three weeks I may soon have a bushy tail.  Pecan pie?  forget it.  Chocolate pie?  Nope.  Off limits.  And just a few nipples of corn bread with my peas and greens.

When I was in the hospital a few days ago, one of the meals had cabbage.  About 70 years ago when I was in kindergarten, we had cabbage for lunch.  We also had chocolate pudding for dessert.  I ate the cabbage, got sick, and missed the pudding.  The hospital cabbage was the first I’d eaten since then.

So today I am at one of my favorite meat and three places here in Montgomery.  One of their sides was cabbage.  What the heck, I ordered it.  Now I know that I have not missed anything for 70 years and will not order it again until perhaps 70 years from now.

Adjusting my diet is not easy.  But I am trying.  And no doubt missing the mark by a long way.  But I prick my finger each morning and check my blood sugar.  Was 113 this morning.  Then shoot up with insulin every night.  Have been to see two doctors since my episode.  Both have been satisfied with how I’m doing.

Definitely need to walk more.  Bought a new pair of walking shoes and have climbed on my tread mill a few times.  My dear friend, Martha Peek, who retired last summer as superintendent in Mobile County, has lost 40 pounds since then.  She looks great.  Walking three miles a day has played a big part of her transformation.  About every day or so she emails me the same question: DID YOU WALK TODAY?

I got the perfect response to her question from a 4th grader at Bear Elementary here in town.  She said I should get a dog and name it “Five Miles.”  Then I can tell Martha that I walk five miles every day.

And who knows, after I walk Five Miles I might sneak a glass of sweet tea.  With plenty of ice.