Some Body Got To Have Some Relief

We’re now less than a week away from election day on Nov. 3 and insanity is the order of the day.  Accusations are flying from both the Trump and Biden campaigns.  Every day gets more outlandish.  Millions and millions of dollars are being spent in these final few hours to drag in what few uncommitted votes are still out there.  According to one news source, more than 300 law suits  have already been filed contesting how votes will be counted and the election conducted in state after state.

And true to my form as a senior citizen I harken back to days of long ago and something that speaks to this time.

Some of you are old enough to recall a country humorist of decades ago named Jerry Clower.  A native of Mississippi, Clower played football at Mississippi State before taking his degree in agriculture and becoming a salesman for Mississippi Chemical Company in Yazoo City in the 1950s.  Before long, wherever two or more were gathered, there was Clower telling tall tales about growing up and peddling his fertilizer.

Rural southerners could easily relate to his humor and as time went along, he became more entertainer than salesman and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1973.

One of his best-known stories was about a Mississippi coon-hunting trip with local legend John Eubanks.  As the tale drew to a close, Eubanks had climbed a tree so he could knock the coon out–except the dogs had treed a wildcat, not a coon.  As Eubanks and the varmint tangled in the top of the tree, Eubanks repeatedly pleaded for someone to either shoot the critter or himself as he said, “Some body got to have some relief.”

Which brings us to the mess we’re in across this country.  Click here to go back to a Mississippi night long ago while Clower relives this story.

Editor’s note:  I was an associate editor with Progressive Farmer magazine from 1966-1973.  I was also the volunteer state chairman for the Alabama Jaycee’s Outstanding Young Farmer program.  One year we had our state banquet in Foley with Jerry Clower as our speaker.  He brought down the house.  For some reason, I remember that we paid him $2,500 to appear.  The check was cashed at a general store in Mississippi.

When Adults Do Childish Things

It was the spring of 1961.  Senior night for those of us in the Theodore High School class of 1961.  There were skits and music and various and sundry silly things dished out for admiring parents and others.

It was the night I learned a lesson I have never forgotten.

Jimmy Sims and I were reading the “class will.”  We had conjured up various things to leave to our junior classmates.  At some point I came to the last name of a junior I could not pronounce.  And so I tried to make light of the person’s name.

On the way home that night, daddy mentioned what happened and told me in no uncertain terms that it was not good form to belittle someone’s name.  The lesson stuck and I’ve never been tempted to do the same again.

It’s a lesson U.S. Senator David Perdue of Georgia apparently never learned.

Perdue, who is running for re-election this year recently spoke of his colleague Senator Kamala Harris at a Trump rally in Georgia.  However, instead of pronouncing her name correctly, he made fun of it.  Perdue is 70 years old.  He has served with Harris since 2017.  In other words, he is old enough to know better.

But his spokesperson said, “Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name, and he didn’t mean anything by it.”  This was as weak as the spokesman saying that General Sherman just marched through Georgia to admire the scenery.

Politics is a contact sport these days.  And we’ve reached the point in this election year when political instincts take over for political correctness.  And each time it happens, our democracy is the loser for it.

Common Sense For Uncommon Times

Editor’s note:  Dana Hall McCain is a columnist for AL.com  She writes about faith, culture, and politics and is a member of the 2020 Leadership Council for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Here she does an excellent job of shedding light on these very uncertain times:

“It’s almost cliché now to say it, but our nation has never been more divided. Our politics have migrated further and further toward the right and left ends of the spectrum, leaving the center a ghost town.

The media landscape has responded in kind, with many news outlets choosing to survive economically by catering to a particular demographic. It goes without saying that this leads to distortions of editorial integrity, and creates journalists who tell their target audiences what they want to hear and will come back for. The result is that Americans no longer work from a shared set of facts in the conversation about how to address our most pressing problems. We exist in two separate bubbles.

Objective truth still exists, of course. But you’ll have to take the emergency hammer and break your bubble to find it.

For Christians, the cost of living inside either bubble is even greater than political polarization and government gridlock. Inside the bubble, it’s easy to become so frustrated and jaded toward our ideological and political adversaries that we forget who is who in this equation.

What I mean is: we begin to believe that our political opponents are our enemies rather than our mission field. Thus, we treat them as foes to vanquish more than the lost in need of the Gospel. We forget that our first calling is evangelism rather than the acquisition or retention of political power.

Don’t get me wrong — we have a mandate in the word of God to live and speak the truth, to advocate for the oppressed, and to promote justice and righteousness. Those things required that we remain active in the public square and the political conversation.

But we must keep our roles rightly ordered. If our primary identity is rooted in the Great Commission, our political engagement must take a tone and form that doesn’t impede first-order business. We can’t undercut a task of eternal importance in service to achieving things that will not last.

Much of how we see ourselves and our responsibility in the political moment rests in our theology. Do we operate out of an eternal perspective rooted in the acknowledged sovereignty of God, or is every election Flight 93?

Political operatives are masters of creating Flight 93-level anxiety to motivate you to act or vote as they wish. Professing Christians on both the right and the left succumb to it easily, all while white-knuckling a bible that tells them that fear is not of God. (2 Timothy 1:7)

We freak out about doing God’s business, with no sense of irony.

What’s more, when you brand every election as The Most Important Election of Our Lives, it loses its zing after a while. Admittedly, they’re all important. Elections have consequences. But every decision in your life has consequences, many of them far more immediate that whatever nonsense is going on in Washington, DC.

When we take a deep breath and reorient ourselves to the fact that God will still be on the throne no matter who is President next year, we give ourselves space in which to simply be obedient, and trust God with the outcome. No need to be angry or panic if others disagree on what Christlike citizenship looks like. Just pray and act as your conscience dictates.

We can afford to disagree respectfully — especially with your brothers and sisters in Christ — because our God is sovereign. You don’t have to burn bridges and destroy unity over every little thing. I would even argue that boorish, divisive advocacy is the least effective kind, because it is an indication that we are working in our flesh, rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have been given much grace. Let’s choose to pay it forward in the coming weeks for the good of the Body of Christ, and the good of our national unity.”

 

The Good That Gets Ignored

Editor’s note:  Thanks to the keen eye for a great story by AL.com’s Michelle Matthews, we bring you the wonderful story of DeKalb County’s Hunter Norwood.  It is a story of real devotion to family and mankind and for what is actually important–not the contrived and convoluted braying of those seeking our vote.

“At the 50th annual convention of the International Association of Ice Cream Distributors and Vendors last November, Hunter Norwood caused a stir as guest of honor. His suit couldn’t have been more perfect for the occasion: a bright turquoise jacket and shorts, with a matching tie, covered in an ice cream print.

His mom, Michelle Norwood, found the “infamous ice cream suit” online for him to wear to Las Vegas for the convention, where the crowd went wild. “He was like Elvis,” she says.

Back at home, he’s something of a rock star in his own right. He is the CEO of A Little Something Extra, an ice cream truck based in rural Dawson, Alabama – “the first ice cream truck of its kind in America,” Michelle says, which explains the suit and his presence at the convention, which was “one of the best experiences” in a life filled with wonderful experiences.

As CEO, Hunter, who has Down syndrome, oversees a team of “ice cream experts,” all of whom have exceptionalities.

At 19 years old, Hunter is at the center of a loving family which includes his mom; his dad, Anthony; an older sister, Hope, 22; and a younger brother, Brodie, 14.

Both of his parents grew up in Dekalb County, attending rival high schools, Crossville and Geraldine. When Hope was 21 months old, the couple had a second daughter, Victoria, who was born with a heart defect. She passed away just six days later, on the morning she was supposed to be flown to Boston for treatment. The family still celebrates Tori’s too-short life.

Thirteen months after Tori’s death, Hunter was born. “I was in a season of life where I thought maybe God was mad at me,” Michelle admits. “That couldn’t have been further from the truth. He gave us an extra blessing with Hunter.”

Hunter, who graduated from Geraldine High School in May, is “a whole lot of personality,” his mom says. He’s “very tech-minded” and has managed to hack into her Amazon and PayPal accounts. He also has a dry sense of humor and “keeps people laughing,” she says. “He’s a great guy.”

Michelle even changed careers because of Hunter. A business major in college, she says her first individualized education program (IEP) meeting for him “was not a pleasant experience.” Wanting to educate herself on his behalf, she went back to school, earning a master’s degree in collaborative education, an education specialist degree and a second master’s in instructional leadership.

“All of that just to sell ice cream,” she says with a laugh. In addition to helping her husband and son operate the food truck business, she teaches special education.

Because the Norwoods live in such a rural community, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for people like Hunter, says Michelle. She used to worry that he “would never experience things that bring gratification, such as a paycheck and a job title.” At the school where she teaches, she and her students ran a snack bar where the kids were responsible for stocking the shelves and counting money. She thought to herself: “I need something like this for my son.”

When she was a child growing up in the country, Michelle dreamed about ice cream trucks. But she never actually patronized one until 2017, when she visited her sister in Memphis. She started dreaming about them again, only this time with the goal of owning one to employ Hunter and others with disabilities.

After months of research and writing down the ideas that came to her at 2 a.m., “Everything came together,” she says, “from the freezer to the ice cream distributor to the truck.” The name of the business, A Little Something Extra, refers to the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

The ice cream truck was launched in August of 2018. From March through October, it travels to businesses, nursing homes, schools, golf tournaments, birthday parties and other special events. The employees, identified on their nametags as “ice cream experts,” sell 22 pre-packaged frozen items like fudge bars, ice cream sandwiches and orange dreamsicles.

“The whole goal is to give them an opportunity to socialize, be seen and valued,” says Michelle. “I want the ice cream truck to be a tool for advocacy and awareness.”

Over the past two years, two dozen young people have trained to work on the ice cream truck. “I had high expectations, but each worker has come in and blown me away with their ability,” Michelle says. “It really has been amazing.”

After all, everyone loves ice cream. And Michelle has noticed that “there’s something about ice cream when it’s served by our ice cream experts. You might get a brain freeze, but your heart melts. It has restored my faith in humanity.”

When Hunter was born, his mom says, doctors tended to focus on his disabilities. “People didn’t look at my son and see a baby. They saw a baby with Down syndrome. But he has so many other wonderful qualities.”

Last year, she had the idea to write a book about her special son, “to pave the way for others to see that our life is so much better because we have Hunter.”

The title, “Stars in My Eyes,” refers to the Brushfield spots, or “stars” that are often present in the eyes of people with Down syndrome. “The stars are there to remind us of their purpose and ability,” she says.

Throughout the book, Michelle documents some of the major events in Hunter’s life, including the time in 2015 when he ran the final play and scored a touchdown in a football game, making headlines. She even immortalized the ice cream suit he wore to the convention, then to the Tim Tebow prom in Scottsboro in February of this year.

At the end of the book, readers are introduced to 10 of the experts who work on the ice cream truck. Each one includes a bio and their paintings of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

The first shipment of the books arrived on Michelle’s birthday, Aug. 19 – “an amazing gift,” she says. Among its fans are a local parent group in Huntsville, BUDS (which stands for “Bringing Up Down Syndrome”), which purchased books to go into a packet for new parents. “It’s an absolute dream come true to think new parents will get to see this,” she says.

Michelle has already written another book, inspired by a talk she gave to elementary-school students in February. While telling them about Hunter, she described his Down syndrome characteristics as “superpowers.” Thinking of it that way, she says, “could change their whole view of the world.”

She hopes that the same thing is happening with the ice cream truck, which she likes to say is “changing the world, one ice cream at a time.”

Over the summer, she spoke at Auburn University, where the two-year EAGLES transitional program was established in 2018 for students with intellectual disabilities. If everything goes as planned, she says, A Little Something Extra will be selling ice cream on campus next fall and offering scholarships for employees to attend the program.

In addition to being the CEO of the ice cream truck (where he frequently finds a reason to “fire” his parents), Hunter is currently in the Year 13 program at his high school, where he is “a self-proclaimed teacher’s helper,” Michelle says.

For years, Hunter has said he wanted to go to Auburn, where his sister Hope is a student. One day, maybe he’ll be a big man on campus there through the EAGLES program. Whether that happens or not, “Hunter has so much more to offer the world than just sitting at home,” says his mom. She’s making sure of it.

“Stars in My Eyes” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.”

The Things That Are Truly Important

Editor’s note:  I am a sucker for stories like this.  (But I could have much worse faults–and probably do.  So when I came across this on FB, I knew I wanted to pass it along.  Besides, I think this is the real world, not the BS that we’re told is politics these days.

“Well, today didn’t go as we hoped but it’s in the hardest of times we learn the best lessons and feel the most gratitude.
Buffy was scheduled to have her teeth cleaned and removed today but Dr. Mac had a gut feeling she needed to look at some lab work before putting her under anesthesia. She was right; Buffy showed signs of advanced kidney failure so anesthesia was not an option and as a family we decided that the kindest and most loving thing to do would be to let her go before she lost her will to live and stopped eating and drinking.

I wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving Robbie out of this decision or not allowing him to be part of the entire process so I immediately went and picked him up from school. On the way there he told me he wanted to be the one to hold her when she went to heaven. And of course, I gave him that honor. On the way home I told him how proud I was of him for understanding the importance of caring for old animals and helping to make sure they never ever suffer.

This is what he said…

(And for those of you who don’t know, Robbie was adopted from the foster care system after years of severe abuse and neglect.)

“I know how it feels not to be loved or cared for and I don’t want any animal of mine to ever feel that way. It’s only sad for us when they go to heaven. It’s a happy day for them. Thank you for being proud of me. Are you ok, Mom?”

From the mouths of babes.

(As our story is being shared more and more I feel like I need to add a little more context and also give you a deeper glimpse into the heart of my son. We adopt senior dogs. Robbie LOVES adopting senior dogs. He is sadly aware the longer a child remains in foster care the less likely they are to be adopted. He told me once “if all you guys had wanted was a baby, you would have never gotten me.” He relates to our “old people” (that’s what we call our senior dogs) in much the same way.

He has also reminded me on several occasions that it doesn’t matter how long you have something for how much you love it. I asked him what he meant and he said “well you’ve only known me for two years but you love me like it’s been forever.” (Yes, my son is the coolest.)

Credit: Maria Henry Gay

A Heart Warming Story

With bad news pounding us each day, a small glimpse at the goodness of humanity is more than welcomed.

Which is why I share the following story from The Montgomery Advertiser.

It’s pink, it rocks, it has tunes and the wheels light up. Just the thing for a 2-year-old Wetumpka girl.

Stella Kirkpatrick was born about a month early due to placental abruption, a condition where the placenta detaches from the womb before delivery. The baby is deprived of oxygen and nutrients.

She was without oxygen for 17 minutes and had a developed hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. She was also diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Because of her physical conditions she has mobility issues.

Enter the Wetumpka High School robotics team. Five students — Avery Pyles, Michael Fulmer, Alan Estrada, Rena Ward and Pierce Robinson — decided to modify a battery operated car for Stella, to give her the chance to play. The ride was delivered Monday afternoon.

“This is really awesome,” said Sarah Kirkpatrick, Stella’s mom. “It’s therapeutic for her because it helps in her development. But it’s going to be fun for the entire family. She doesn’t get a whole lot of opportunities to play.

“She likes to play, but most toys aren’t built for her.”

Stella, who turns 3 in December, is Sarah and Russell Kirkpatrick’s only child.

The pink Jeep took about 30 hours, spaced over two academic years, to modify. Work started last fall, then schools closed due to the pandemic. The team worked about an hour after school for a month to get the work done.

The pink Jeep took about 30 hours, spaced over two academic years, to modify. Work started last fall, then schools closed due to the pandemic. The team worked about an hour after school for a month to get the work done.”