It Had To Happen

Laughter seems to be virtually forgotten these days given 1,000 deaths a day from Covid-19, economic issues, political unrest and natural disasters.

However, a friend shared some PANDEMIC PUNS with me and i wanted to pass them along.  You may groan at some, but hopefully you will also chuckle.

  • Finland has just closed their borders.  No one will be crossing the finish line.
  • So many coronavirus jokes out there, it’s a pundemic
  • Due to the quarantine, I’ll only be telling inside jokes.
  • Now is not the right time to surround yourself with positive people.
  • There will be a minor baby boon in 9 months, and then one day in 2033 we shall witness the rise of the quaranteens.
  • The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract Covid-19.  Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released.  To be clear, WHO let the dogs out
  • Why do they call it the novel coronavirus?  It’s a long story.
  • I’ll tell you a coronavirus joke now, but you’ll have to wait two weeks to see if you it.
  • I ran out of toilet paper and had to start using old newspaper.  Times are rough.
  • Grocery stores in France look like tornadoes hit them.  All that’s left is de brie.

Remembering James Parrish

It’s now been 11 years ago this week that I lost one of my dearest friends, James Parrish of Ashford, right outside of Dothan.  A longtime high school football official, he was refereeing the first ball game of the season when he suddenly fell dead.

It was Friday night and I had been to dinner somewhere in Montgomery.  My phone was in my car.  When I got to my phone, I was surprised to see that I had seven missed calls.  I knew something was wrong.  Bad wrong.

One returned missed call and I was stunned.  How could this happen?

I lived in Dothan from 1985-95.  I don’t recall exactly how or when I met James.  My best guess is that it was at Ray’s Restaurant on the south side of town.  Look long enough and you can find a Ray’s in most every community.  Locally-owned with a clientele of mostly good ole boys who gather for breakfast and to dispense wisdom to one and all.  The place that is on the “must do” list of any politician.

It was where we gathered each Saturday morning to see who was playing golf that day and where.  Folks like Curt, William, Ralph, Ken, Bill, Wade.  They were coaches, salesmen, business owners, etc.  Their stock in trade was irreverence and most any comment they felt would get under someone’s skin.  For sure, not all rules of golf were strictly adhered to, but the outings were fun and we kept coming back for more.

After learning what happened Friday night, I got up early Saturday morning and drove from Montgomery to Dothan to Ray’s Restaurant.  It just seemed the right thig to do.

James grew up in Geneva and went to Troy.  He was a year younger than I was.  And like me, Auburn was his team.  So I joined many tailgates prior to Auburn games with James and his sweet wife Donna.  And at least twice we went to Baton Rouge to see Auburn tangle with LSU.

James and I had at least one other thing in common.  We both realized that you could vote for a Democrat and lightening would not strike you.  (Though in this time and age, I doubt you could find many others in the Wiregrass who would agree with this.)

I think about James from time to time.  He died in 2009.  Cam Newton showed up at Auburn in 2010 and Auburn won the national championship.  Oh how James would have enjoyed that season, how much fun would he have had with his buddies at Rays?

And how much fun would he have shared with his grandchildren in the last decade.

James Parrish was a good guy.  The kind of person who makes our communities and our way of life meaningful.  I will always miss him.

 

 

Federal Court Rebuffs Betsy Devos

Editor’s note:  If there has ever been a less competent and less qualified U.S. Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos, I can’t find out who they were.  President Trump’s appointment of DeVos has been decried by public school advocates from day one.  Time after time she has favored private schools over public schools and seems to have gone out of her way to help them.  One of the latest examples was her decision to divert more Covid-19 relief funding to private schools than Congress intended.

Fortunately, as reported here by longtime education writer for The Washington Post, Valarie Strauss, a Federal judge has just ruled against DeVos.  Here is her article:

“A federal judge in Washington state temporarily blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from enforcing a controversial rule that directs states to give private schools a bigger share of federal coronavirus aid than Congress had intended.

In a lawsuit filed by the state, U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein on Friday issued a preliminary injunction and castigated the Education Department over the July 1 regulation about the distribution of federal funds. The money, about $13.5 billion, was included for K-12 schools in Congress’s March $2 trillion-aid package — known as the Cares Act — to mitigate economic damage from the pandemic.
Rothstein slammed the Education Department for arguing that states would not suffer irreparable damage if forced to implement the rule and said there was cause to put a preliminary injunction on the rule while the broader issues are worked out.

“The department claim that the state faces only an economic injury, which ordinarily does not qualify as irreparable harm, is remarkably callous, and blind to the realities of this extraordinary pandemic and the very purpose of the Cares Act: to provide emergency relief where it is most needed,” Rothstein wrote.

The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment about the decision.

U.S. legislators from both parties said that most of the funding was intended to be distributed to public and private elementary and secondary schools using a formula based on how many poor children they serve that had long been used for distributing federal aid.

But in April, DeVos said she wanted money sent to private schools based on the total number of students in the school — not how many students from low-income families attended. That would have sent hundreds of millions of dollars more to private schools than Congress had intended.

Critics blasted the plan, saying DeVos was pushing her agenda to privatize the public education system and build up alternatives to public schools.  When the rule went into effect on July 1, it had been modified from DeVos’s original plan. It limited the aid going to private schools, saying school districts charged with distributing Cares Act funding could base the amount for private schools on the number of poor students enrolled.

But public schools could then use Cares Act funding only to help poor students — a directive that opponents said was not a real alternative for school districts. The Council of the Great City Schools, a nonprofit organization that serves as the voice for the 76 largest urban public school districts in the country, said in an amicus brief that the rule would divert hundreds of millions of dollars “of desperately needed funds” from public schools serving at-risk students.

Private schools also were eligible to receive loans — which could be forgiven — through another part of the Cares Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, which public districts could not tap.  Private schools, including some with endowments worth millions of dollars, obtained PPP funds.

For example, Sidwell Friends School, where former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had sent their daughters, won $5 million in PPP funding, which was intended to help small businesses and low-wage workers during the pandemic. Sidwell has a $52 million endowment but says it is restricted in how it can be used.

The Washington lawsuit was not the only one filed against the Education Department’s new rule. Eight states, including DeVos’s home state of Michigan, as well as the District of Columbia and four school districts sued the education secretary in July.

At a hearing held virtually last week before U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Neil Giovanatti called DeVos a “Reverse Robin Hood” who was trying to take from the poor and give to the rich. The lawsuit says DeVos does not have the authority to dictate how the Cares Act money should be distributed.”

And A Child Shall Lead Them

We’ve all seen countless examples of children making an effort to make this world a better place.  Each one touches our heart.  And so will this story about seven-year Alden Young of the Birmingham suburb of McCalla who raised $1,000 to buy pack packs and supplies for students at his elementary school.  Here is how television station 33/40 told Alden’s story:

“Aiden Young has been ready for school to begin for months. When he returned to McAdory Elementary School for the first time Wednesday it was to make sure his classmates would be ready too.

Young walked into the building draped with brand new backpacks. The backpacks were purchased thanks to the seven-year-old’s determination and some lemonade.

Aiden Young raised over a $1,000 in lemonade sales. The 7-year-old used the money to donate backpacks to classmates at McAdory Elementary School. (Stephen Quinn | abc3340.com)

Aiden’s mother said it started after her son spotted a box of Crayon’s at Walmart. Aiden decided to use a lemonade stand to raise the money he needed for the crayons. The result was something even sweeter. Aiden successfully raised more than a $1,000 with the stand.

“There are definitely families that their parents or grandparents are out of jobs right now and so I think that has boosted the needs that we previously had.”

The backpacks were filled with school supplies for the age of COVID-19 including hand sanitizer and headphones for virtual learning.

Brenae Young hopes her son has learned a lasting lesson which goes beyond the classroom.

“I truly believe if you give out or give to others in need than it will come back full circle for you.”

McAdory Elementary School encourages students to be ‘world changers.’ Aiden appears ready to do just that.

“I feel like when all of this is over and all of that I feel like the world is going to be a whole different place, like with people loving each other and all in the streets,” said Aiden standing in the lobby of his elementary school, “A lot of things are going to be happening.”

Editor’s note:  Go here to see the story as it appeared on air.  It is impossible to learn of someone like Alden without contrasting it to the endless examples we are bombarded with every day of politicians and their campaigns trying to bully us with their accusations of how evil others are.  May God continue to bless Alden Young and so many more like him.

Tackling Technology

My teenage years and those a ninth-grader faces today are daylight and dark.  Really mind-boggling really.

I remember our first black and white TV, a party-line telephone, a stick shift and a clutch, a window fan.  The closest I probably ever came to technology was adjusting the sprockets on a two-row Covington planter to switch between planting corn or cotton.

Kids today are in a computerized, push button life with the world at their fingertips.

And so, since my DNA never knew technology, I have basically had an aversion to it all my life.  Which is why I held on to my very old flip phone until a week ago.  It did not take pictures, was about to fall apart and did not have apps that allow you to check email, search the internet, get directions to where you are going, etc.

It increasingly dropped phone calls right in the middle of a conversation.  (It recently did that five times before I completed one call.)  So Monday of last week off I went to my Verizon store.  They asked me if I wanted to upgrade.  I told them that two tin cans and some twine would probably be an upgrade.

So now I have something officially known as an Apple iPhone SE.  It has more buttons than Carter has liver pills.  And I stare mystified at each and every one of them.  (And for the life of me, I do not understand why you spend hundreds of dollars for a new phone and get NO instructions whatsoever.  I mean, can you at least show me how to turn the damn thing on and off?)

Before my purchase, I emailed about 30 friends and asked them why kind of phone they had.  At least 90 percent had an iPhone.  This being the case, I figured that if I too got one also, I would have a lot more friends I could call on for help.

Which is what I’ve been doing.  One came to my house one evening and got some things hooked up.  I went to lunch with another trying to figure out which buttons to push to at least call someone.  Last Sunday I made the 350 mile roundtrip from Montgomery to Mobile so my son could share some knowledge with me.  (He apparently uses his phone to do everything except wash his clothes.  And for all I know, his phone may turn the washing machine on.)

One night I’m randomly punching buttons and suddenly there is a longtime friend talking to me, alive and in color.  I was startled.  I inadvertently hit facetime and there she was.  (Now just how I got her on the phone I’m not sure, but I do know that before you try facetime you should comb your hair.)

Pray for me as I fumble and bumble along.  Or just call it, country meets high tech.

 

A Prayer For These Troubled Times

To say these are troubled times is a vast understatement.  The entire country is gripped by the pandemic.  No one seems to know exactly what to do.  And with the opening of schools across the country, the uncertainly grows much more.

Indeed, if we have ever needed the comfort and counsel of a higher power, this is it.

Our friend, Rev. Charlie Johnson of Texas who birthed the organization, Texas Pastors for Children, sends along a prayer that is especially fitting.

“Heavenly Father,

We come to you on this strange first day of school asking for your blessings.

For the child whose first day of kindergarten will happen over Zoom,
Whose backpack full of school supplies will spend weeks collecting dust in the corner of her bedroom,
Who has been talking for months about “when I get to go to school,”
We ask for your blessings.

For the parent who wonders whether to bother taking a first-day-of-school photo,
Who bought a first-day-of-school outfit that’s still hanging in the closet,
Whose first-day-of-school tears are different than she’d ever dreamed they’d be,
We ask for your blessings.

For the teacher who spent hours decorating her vacant classroom,
Who won’t meet his students in person for weeks—and may never meet some of them,
Who will only see the smiling faces of children on a computer screen today,
We ask for your blessings.

For the child who longs to play with his friends,
Who doesn’t understand why the school playground is roped off,
Who feels isolated and alone,
We ask for your blessings.

For the parent who has become a full-time tutor,
Who misses the routine and the freedom of pick-up and drop-off,
Who has had to sacrifice her own pursuits to stay home with her child,
We ask for your blessings.

For the teacher who is learning on the fly,
Whose lesson plans and teaching methods are changing daily,
Who is trying to understand,
We ask for your blessings.

For the child who is closer to college than kindergarten,
Whose visions of prom and graduation have become murky,
Who just wants a normal year,
We ask for your blessings.

For the parent whose calendar is devoid of recitals and football games,
Who doesn’t know what to look forward to right now,
Who just wants a normal year,
We ask for your blessings.

For the teacher who is pondering early retirement,
Who wonders if this is all worth the hassle,
Who just wants a normal year,
We ask for your blessings.

For all who are disappointed and all who are excited,
For all who are angry and all who are hopeful,
For all who are afraid and all who are eager,
For all who are learning and all who are ready to learn,
We ask for your blessings.

This is the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Amen.”