Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Latest From Warren

The Weakly Reader
Vol. III, No. 1
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
25 February 2017
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Tired of the every-day grind?  Want to get away from it all?  Ever dream of a land of romantic adventure?  We offer you escape, guaranteed to free you from the four walls of today.
--Opening of old-time radio show: Escape.
I do not know about you but I need a break, a break from the unrelenting pounding my brain has been getting from today’s “news,” fake or not.  Thankfully, the introduction to my favorite radio program has made its way into my random thoughts.  
Those old radio programs were great.  It is giving me a good feeling this morning to remember those shows.  Do you remember… The FBI  in Peace and War (L, A, V, A, dum-dee-dum)?  
It makes me feel good to think about “simpler” times.  Perhaps you call them “the good-old days.”  I digress.  Today I want to offer you a different “escape,” the one I have chosen to get away from the suffocating and depressing news.  I implore you to embrace the day-to-day little things that are your life.  I am convinced that in doing so you will find a true escape.  This beautiful Saturday morning in the middle of North Carolina is perfect for an escape.  Let us get started….
Outside my kitchen window is a gorgeous pink magnolia in full bloom.  In a few days its delicate petals will flutter from its limbs and cover the ground with an incomparable softness.  Actually, the petals have already begun their descent.  It is such a wonderful feeling to see this tree at this time of year.  Look quickly or you will miss it.  
My “every-day grind” got off to an early start.  By 5:30 a.m. I had made the bed, started the coffee and checked my emails (There were none.).  Having accomplished so much so soon, I began to call myself “Butter.”  That is what you are when you are “on a roll.”  Next, in the predawn darkness I retrieved the Winston-Salem Journal from the sidewalk in front of the house.  It is always comforting to see the el papel.  I hope my high-school Spanish teacher, Ms. Foster, forgives me for bastardizing what she tried to teach me.  
Sadly, papers are out of favor, just like those old radio shows.  This morning, however, I found new life in the Winston-Salem Journal.  Did you know I worked there from September 1962 through December 1965?  Those were heady days.  Those were law-school days.  Those were days when the excitement of the Journal news room was all that saved me from the absolutely boring grind of Wake Forest Law School.  
It is hard to figure but today’s paper got my attention in a way that I found refreshing.  Oh, it had the usual gloom stuff, i.e. J.C. Penney says it will close up to 140 stores by middle of year.  Even the above-the-fold banner headline was a downer: Tweet prompts exodus at school.
Undeterred by this discouraging front-page news, I pressed forward and found ’One community’,  a front-page item about the opening of a mosque in nearby Clemmons.  The story was illustrated by four color photos, two on the front page and two on Page A8.  It was an encouraging piece about non-Muslims who had responded to an invitation to visit area mosques.  This was a counterweight to folks on the other side of the county who had been acting ugly toward Muslims.  
Not to be overwhelmed by this “good” story, those of us who cling to our newspapers were brought back into the darkness by this headline: NAACP urges boycott of N.C.  Gag.  I took a breath and slogged forward into the paper.
I was rewarded with Bill would legalize medical marijuana,  Page A4.  Things got even better.  On the op-ed page I found two columns of interest: The transformative power of gratitude by Nigel Alston, a local resident who is a weekly contributor, and A stubborn little hope by Sharon Randall, a nationally known writer who tells great tales about her “ every-day grind.”    
Here is an excerpt from Alston’s essay:  
There is so much to give thanks for, like the students at Ephesus Junior Academy, who are always excited when I arrive with the next book for them to read.  I will be visiting them soon with another special guest….
He said yes to an invitation to speak to the students and sit in the “hot seat” to field questions.  When I slow down enough, I can reflect on meeting him at a retreat, learning more about each other over lunch, which resulted in the invitation to visit the school.
I am grateful that people are willing to help without seeking anything in return.
And, I am thankful for notes of appreciation that are unexpected, especially from my young mentee, Michai.
“I just want to thank you for being my mentor,” he wrote in a card…. I met him when he was 3 years old and remember when his mother wrote the letters for him.  Now he is in middle school and growing into a fine young man.
“I got my grades up to A/B honor roll,” he continued.  “Thank you again for being my mentor.”
I read that note before writing this column.  I am grateful.
Don’t let minor things impact your gratitude.  
Sharon Randall has a different story but, like Nigel Alston, she conveys a message of encouragement.  In her case she has broken her ankle and she is trying to learn to walk again.  Here is what she says about her every-day grind:
Three times a week, I go to physical therapy where some very smart and patient (and, at times, hilarious) therapists, who are young enough to be my children, are teaching me how to stretch, strengthen and walk again, preferably without a limp.
It’s helping.  One of the best things about it is seeing others—some in worse shape than I am in—who are starting over, too.
If I need further inspiration, I call my brother, Joe, who was born blind with cerebral palsy and uses braces and a cane to find his way in a dark world.
This is not the first time I’ve had to start over.  In my senior year of high school, I wondered “What will I do now?”
I wanted to go to college, but held no means to do so, just a stubborn little hope that kept whispering in my ear, “By the grace of God, you will do this, and all will be well.”
Then a deacon in my church arranged for me to take a test for a scholarship that paid my way through college.
Years later when my children were born, and I felt so clueless as a mother, that same hope whispered again.
When I took a part-time job as a file clerk for a newspaper and ended up as a reporter.
When I wrote the first of what has been 25 years of columns.
When my dad took his life.
When my first husband lost his battle with cancer and I found myself alone in a four-bedroom house with five sets of dishes and no one to feed.
And, two years later, when my former editor, in a nervous sweat, confessed his heart and asked me to give him a chance.
Those times and countless others, I heard that whisper:  “By the grace of God you will do this, and all will be well.”
It was always just enough to help me start over—again.
If you are starting over, please know you are not alone.  Some of us do it every day.  And we all do it sooner or later.  Keep listening for that whisper of hope.
I haven’t quite lost the limp yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  Until I do, I’ll keep singing, “Dem bones gonna walk around.”
* * * * *
Now that I made you read the paper, let us get on with our “escape.”  I, too, have “a four-bedroom house and five sets of dishes and no one to feed” except me.  Toward that end I wanted bacon and eggs for breakfast.  That did not go well.  My unopened pound of thick-cut bacon was molded.  There was only a single egg in the carton.  I started over, opting for a “hole-in-one.”  It was yummy.  My every-day grind was off to a good start, no need to escape.  It got better.
The doorbell rang.  On my 110-year-old front porch stood my 49-year-old son who was taking his 8-month-old puppy for a walk.  The dog weighs about 80 pounds, has long curly, black hair and is full of what Tom Mix calls “cowboy energy.”  What a joy it was to see them.  
They stayed a short while.  I got the latest news about one of the local dog parks, how it is divided into two sections, one for big dogs and one for small ones (25 pounds or less).  I gave Java a bowl of water which she promptly spilled while trying to drink it.  A good time was had by all.  You see, there is little reason for me to get away from the every-day grind.  I am sure you can tell.  My daily life is as good as it gets.  So is yours.  Escape is not an option.  
Thanks for listening.  
The Weakly Reader
Warren Sparrow, Editor and Publisher