Finding Inspiration

Inspiration is defined as “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions.” Most of us acknowledge its effects on our feelings, but we also recognize inspiration during those “AH HA” moments. What’s wonderful is inspiration can come from so many different areas.
Many of us find inspiration from celebrities. Sometimes actors or actresses put their support behind a project, and in doing so, they inspire others to join in. Recently, local hero Peyton Manning donated half a million dollars to the Pat Summitt Foundation fighting Alzheimer's. Those of us who have always idolized the former quarterback are more likely to pour money into this foundation because of his act and because the person for whom the organization is named is also an icon around here.
Children often find inspiration in the athletes whom they watch. All it takes is an outstanding performance on the field or court, and a young person will be off in a minute to practice the moves his hero displayed in the latest game. When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my inspiration. “Charlie Hustle” outworked most ball players, many of whom had superior athletic ability. Rose made up for his shortcomings by playing all-out. No, I never emulated his play on the field, but he so inspired me that I tried to instill that same work ethic in players I coached through the years.
Even the seasons offer inspiration. Yes, I love Christmas time, but spring and summer strike perfect chords with me. Waking up on a spring morning, I lie still and listen to a chorus of birds chirping as they build nests and tend to their young. Summer and its warm weather call me from the bed and into the yard to mow or to the golf course to play a round and enjoy the early morning sun.
In my lifetime, inspiration has been sparked by some wonderful ministers. The first man was Bill Menees, a Methodist minister who served a church where I attended college. Another person is Bob Landry. A Disciples of Christ minister, his sermons were like beautiful prose that painted pictures that forever have remained vivid in my mind. Doug Meister also inspired me. One of the two best friends in my life, he and I talked about and debated theology, and because of his patient and knowledge, I developed a stronger faith. Now, Catherine Nance, minister at Beaver Ridge Methodist Church, inspires me. I never leave a service without her words having moved me and given me the desire to “do better.”
Like most folks, my inspiration most often has come from family. In the case of my parents, it wasn’t until I became an adult that I understood just how much their actions had guided what I wanted to accomplish. They valued education, even though Daddy didn’t have much, and that inspired me to earn a college degree, as well as my brothers and our wives have. It also reached to our children who have completed their schooling and hold degrees.
My wonderful wife has inspired me for nearly forty years. Her kindness, intelligence, and wisdom have given me the strength to take risks and pursue such loves as the one I have for writing. Amy has also inspired me to work hard so that we can give a portion of our earnings to things important to our lives. Most of all, she’s accepted me, warts and all, and that goads me to be as open in my dealings with all others.
Even me children and grandson inspire me. Their love of life and balanced approach to it have caused me to re-evaluate long held beliefs to the point that I now see that many things aren’t so important after all. Their smiles and laughter and love make me want to spend more time with them than I have in the past and to get to know them as individuals, not just my “young-uns.”
An inspired life is one lived to its fullest. It’s important that each of us find it in our work, relationships, or our faith. Without inspiration, living is little more than marking the minutes until we cease to exist. Maybe we should work to be that inspiring force in another’s life. It would be a great accomplishment.

News Informs, Doesn't Entertain

Americans watched as another senseless act of violence took place at the Boston Marathon. The two explosive devices tore through innocent bystanders who were cheering runners as they approached the finish line. No thought was given whether children were present. Of course, that’s the twisted moral compass that terrorists have.
            That was the first terrible act against this country on April 15. The second one came afterward. The guilty parties this time were the television news stations. They jumped on the story and for days rode it like a galloping horse.
            I’m all for news and keeping the public informed. I’m also a big fan of news media outlets; the papers have for several years afforded me the forum for my columns. However, at some point, common sense has to take over.
            I doubt that the public wants to have “continuing coverage” of tragedies. Sure, we all want to know what is happening, but eventually, most folks have to return to lives and jobs and families.
          The first time I remember continuing coverage of any event was when President Kennedy was assassinated. The country took a punch to the gut, and the only thing we knew to do was view the three networks. I watched the day Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. To this day, I can hear the mournful sound of muted drums as the Kennedy’s coffin traveled down the streets to its final resting place.
            We all wanted to view the early space flights and kept up with the first American to orbit the earth and walk on the moon. In later years, space shots lost their glamour, and people didn’t tune in as much. The explosion of Challenger immediately had news programs going.
            What’s so annoying is the way national news programs make entertainment of tragedies. Within minutes of an event, names have been assigned to them (“Terror in Boston”), and each is introduced with its own special music. Of course, networks manage to work in plenty of commercial breaks during air time.
            On April 15, the NBC news devoted its entire regular program to the terrorist explosion during the Boston Marathon. That wasn’t enough, so the network added a second half hour, and then at 10:00 p.m. they were back with “in-depth” reporting. Brian Williams was still at his seat, and Matt Lauer had been dragged from his bed to stand on the street as close to the bombing site as possible. He interviewed three people who had little information. The young woman was pregnant, and one of the men was a block away from the blast when it occurred. That’s all right because anything is used to make the coverage go on and on and on. Analysis by dozens of people numbed the minds of viewers.
            I figure that this terrorist act netted a handsome profit for the networks. I also am certain that the anchors feel the need to report live from Boston. Never mind that the folks already in the field do fine jobs of covering stories; it’s all about appearances.
            Many Americans believe that this kind of coverage is just what culprits want, and it serves as reinforcement for those who might want that fifteen minutes of fame.
A better way to cover such events is to play “Joe Friday” and “just give the facts.” Then give only brief updates on future broadcasts. Don’t give the criminals all that free publicity. Instead, report the news OBJECTIVELY and let the public do the speculating. At the same time, this approach will allow agencies to do their jobs and more quickly bring criminals to justice.
            I, for one, long for the days of Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley. Those men reported the news; they didn’t interject themselves as parts of it. News should inform viewers. We can find other ways of being entertained. The only continuing coverage I want to see is information about a vicious storm or tornado bearing down on my home. The truth be told, television could learn a lot about reporting from newspapers.

Heroic Efforts

I’m as big a sucker for “feel-good” movies as any person around. Unlike most tough guys, I can watch a “chick flick” with Amy. In fact, one of the best movies I’ve seen is “The Notebook.” There’s something about it that speaks to all of us who’ve been married for most of our lives.
            Just the other day, I watched “October Sky” for the third of fourth time. Maybe I was in one of those moods that comes along every so often, but whatever the reason, I found myself wrapped up in the scene where the father talks about a famous scientist being the son’s hero. The boy counters that his dad is his real hero.
            Bang! Just like that, I’m flooded with emotion. It’s one of those lines that all dads want to hear their kids utter. I know I have. Of course, many of us who are fathers make too many mistakes to ever see ourselves as heroes.
            I choose to believe that most dads do the best the can…or the best they know how to do. That’s what was true for me. My dad died when he was 53 and I was 13. Even in that short time, he grew to hero status in my eyes. The man was a stern, no-nonsense individual that did not suffer fools or silly sons well. He played ball with us one time, and I saw him in a bathing suit once for just a few minutes. The rest of the time he stayed in our rented cottage on the beach and swept the sand out the door.
            His hero status grew more after his death and during my maturation. I realized how much he sacrificed for our family. Without an education, he slaved at a paper mill from the time he returned from the army where he served as a cook. Rotating shift work in a place that would today be declared a hazardous site sapped his strength and health. Still, he provided for us.
            My dad was short on education but long on intelligence. He sat at the kitchen table with a green mug filled with motor-oil thick coffee, a pack of Winston cigarettes, and a small pad. There he figured out the budget for our family and how to stretch too little money over too much month.
            He was wise too. Daddy rarely uttered negative comments about others. He stressed education and demanded that we boys perform well in school. Most of all, this man expected us to behave at all times. My dad often told us that we might not be able to do well in all subjects, but we always could behave. A bad conduct grade was worse than a poor academic grade and brought about a strong lecture, a pronouncement of disappointment, or even a “tanning of a behind.”
My dad, Dallas Rector
            Even as he faced the last months of life, Dal Rector showed his heroism. He had scraped enough money together to hide in places, and he would give instructions to our mother as to what drawer she was to look to find cash and toward what bill it should go. He left us with a small insurance policy that made life just a bit easier for Mother as she faced bringing up three boys on her own.
            I tried to emulate my dad in some ways. Like him, I demanded that my children behave at all times, and when they didn’t, swats across their bottoms came with swiftness. I pushed and prodded them about school and am proud to say that both earned college degrees.
            Unlike him, I played with my kids. I pushed them to play baseball for one year and later continued to push them to participate in that game, soccer, and band. Yes, I was overbearing on many occasions, and yes, at times my kids resented me and that pushiness. I only hope that they understand as I came to understand my dad’s demands.
            In the end, every dad would like to be his child’s hero. Such an honor makes the tough times easier to bear. If not that, just being told that these men have done a good job is welcome news. Dads are proud of their children; they can only hope the feeling is mutual with the own children.

Party Lines and Clothes Lines

Lots of us older folks worry about the shape the world is taking. We worry that our kids’ lives won’t be close to as happy or full as ours have been. The lack of intimate contact is one reason things seem to have gone so wrong.
            I marvel at the communication skills or the younger generations. They can stay in constant touch with friends, family and even strangers without ever uttering a monosyllabic grunt. Technology offers a variety of ways to communicate without actually speaking. Twitter and Facebook and texting are avenues for dispersing information without having to look at a person eye-to-eye or listening to another’s voice. Email by the billion zip across the Internet without even the simplest personal touch of a hand-written signature. Too much of life is lived in a faceless state.
            Perhaps the time to “go back” is at hand. Yes, I know that such proposals are absurd, but isn’t it just possible that communications of a few years ago were much more effective?
            During the 1950’s and 60’s, most homes had landline telephones. Our first number was “5385.” It grew in length until it was set at “588-5385.” My mother did most of the talking on the
phone, usually splitting time with family members and church friends. The farthest the phone would reach was across the kitchen, and that was only because Mother installed a long cord that allowed her to cook and chat at the same time. Sometimes she’d perch upon her two-stop, yellow stool, crane her neck to one side to hold the phone and sew a hem or grade a sixth grade paper at the supper table while she yakked to someone on the other end of the line.
            My kids find it difficult to comprehend the idea of a party line. Back then, folks shared a line with one or more families in the neighborhood. No, it wasn’t like Andy Griffith speaking directly to the operator. Instead, the user picked up the receiver and listened to make sure that no one was using the phone, and if it were clear, she’d call the number by turning the rotary dial.
            When the phone rang, no one jumped to answer it. First, folks listened to the ring pattern. Ours was one long ring. Our party line’s signal was two short rings. After making sure the ring was the right one, a person would answer.
            Sometimes sharing was a pain, especially when the other party made a life of talking on the phone. Nothing was more irritating than constantly getting a busy signal or picking up the receiver to make a call for an hour or more and hearing the neighbor clucking. If emergencies arose, a person could interrupt the conversation and ask to make a call.
            Neighbors kept up with each other by simply connecting on party lines and talking. They all knew that help was as close as next door or just a couple of houses down the road, and everyone knew his neighbors well enough to call them by name.
            Hanging clothes on the line also led to good communications. Women of the day would tote a basket of laundry to the poles and lines in the back yard and hang shirts, socks, and underwear to air
dry. They’d stop for a while to catch up on the latest news of the community or to talk about common interests. Again, the family next door knew if an illness hovered over a neighbor’s house, and if it did, folks offered help in the form of meals and free labor to make the times easier.
            These days, people have abandoned landlines in favor of cell phones. They answer based on who’s calling or the moods they are in. My kids will send texts all day long in favor of making a call. I can complete an entire conversation in less time than it takes to type a message. Dryers have made clotheslines, as well as communications between neighbors, obsolete.
 Sure, our world has made plenty of progress in technology, but somehow, it seems that we’ve also managed to severe the ties that bound earlier generations through party lines and clotheslines.