My Bearded Friend

Recently, I was in the library on my laptop searching, researching, pining for a miracle and so forth. I like the library because I enjoy being around books. I like the smell of them and I like how smart I feel when I gaze through them. As a matter of fact, yes I’m still writing one. As a kid, my mom brought my brothers and me to the library in the summertime and I’m certain that’s when my smell of books fetish began. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. Always a writer, but reading wasn’t thing I fancied. Not until I became an adult did I appreciate literary works that took me away from a bad day at work or a nasty stranger’s attitude.

I made a new friend at the library. I don’t know his name, never got it. I will call him my bearded friend. I was in a small conference room with all glass walls and door by myself for a while. It was enjoyable. I noticed an older man with a long gray beard walking up to the door. He looked at the paper taped to it and then he walked away. I didn’t think anything of it. A few minutes later, he walks into the room and proceeds to sit with what I thought was a laptop, but later I found out it was his bible. If you know me, you know I don’t meet strangers, so the bearded man and I became acquainted right away.
He said,” Would you mind if we sit here?” He had a bit of a grin that I could see through his beard. I said, “Sure! I don’t mind at all.” Then it dawned on me maybe he reserved the room for his group of friends. I asked him if he reserved the room and he said yes, but I could stay if I wanted. I told him I didn’t mind moving.

As I was gathering my things, we chatted. He told me he belonged to a small Bible study group of three people. He called it Bible study and learning. I assumed he meant they were taking a class about a particular subject. My bearded friend was very proud to tell me about his class. He told me he learned to read about a year and a half ago and got his GED. I didn’t ask him is age, but I’m guessing late 50s, early 60s. He was so proud of himself and rightfully so. The other people in his group are a teacher and another gentleman who also learned to read. The three of them chose the Bible to keep learning to read. An excellent choice I think. I congratulated him. Because of his successes, he is a wonderful testimony to what God can do. He said, “I’m a minister.” I said,” Really?” My bearded friend says, “We’re all ministers.” Oh! Yeah! We are, aren’t we?

My bearded friend said he used to be ashamed of his illiteracy, but he wasn’t bothered by it anymore. I understood his feelings and respectfully I let him disclose his life to me. I am honored he trusted me enough to chat about his journey. In his youth he worked in tobacco fields to help his family so he didn’t get to attend much school. My father told me about people, namely young men and why they didn’t go to school years ago because of their families raised tobacco. My father and his brothers worked in tobacco as well. I’m sure many people from decades ago sacrificed a basic education to help keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table. Certainly any teenage boy would rather be fishing or playing baseball instead of sweating in a field for little to no pay. These young souls may not have gotten an education, but they developed character and work ethic that took them places in life just the same, if not better.

My bearded friend didn’t seem to hold on to any resentment about his childhood circumstances. He commented that it’s just the way things were back then. His voice was actually very soothing and calm during our conversation. My assumption is that is his nature as well. We said our goodbyes as his other two friends arrived.

I couldn’t help but think about my bearded friend and his freedom from illiteracy. I take reading for granted, like breathing. Being human, I tend to think about what I can’t do or don’t have. Meeting my bearded friend made me realize I have very few limitations except the ones I’ve given myself. What’s more profound is the thought of people sacrificing a basic education and a youthful life with the idea they may never learn to read or write. Yet, they are blessed many years down the road with the education they so deserve. The bearded man is my hero. He’s so awesome.

The underlying moral to this story is also patience. Sometimes its patience with expectancy. Sometimes its patience for something you can’t see or imagine. Being educated may have always been a dream of my bearded friend that kept him going and gave him hope. He definitely had a fire in him to pursue his dream and when the time came, he made it happen. Now, let’s ask ourselves. Am I the bearded man with a dream or a goal that I’ve been patient for and do I have a fire in me now? One day we’re going be the bearded man and we will have a youthful eye looking at us as we tell our story? Sure, there’s a generation just waiting to be motivated by our experiences.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25
And endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:4
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe. Honest Abe Lincoln. President Abraham Lincoln comes to mind to me quite often these days. For those of you who do not know the complete history of Abraham Lincoln, let me give you a crash course.

Abe Lincoln suffered losses as a child and a young man. His little brother Thomas died in infancy, his mother died when he was 9 years old and his sister died when he was 18 years old. Abe Lincoln had no education past the age of 11 years old, but he borrowed books and educated himself while he worked odd jobs to support his family. At the age of 21, Abe moved with his family from Kentucky to Illinois where Abe began the first leg of his political journey with a speech for improving navigation on the Sangamon River. He ran for legislation in the Illinois general assembly and lost. Abe became a business owner, but lost all his money with the death of his business partner. Abe ran for general assembly again and won. Abe studied law. He suffered the loss of his girlfriend Ann Rutledge due to a fever. Abe was re-elected several times to the general assembly and received his license to practice law. Abe married Mary Todd and had three sons, one of which passed away as a toddler. Abe was practicing law, then becoming a Representative for Illinois. He attempted to run for Senator in Illinois, failed twice, but did get nominated for President of the United States and won in 1860. The history of Abraham Lincoln is truly worth the time to research and read.

Adversity was no stranger to Abe Lincoln. From the time he was a boy until his demise. Not many of us would have kept pressing forward with our goals and dreams, however Abe Lincoln faced them with amazing courage and complete faith in God. He did not let his lack of education, money, social status or support from his family keep him from pursing his quest for greatness. Abe Lincoln always remained true to his belief in himself.

Abe Lincoln understood oppression. He understood that bondage on any level is not meant in human existence. His own journey through life kept him humble. His peers named him “Honest Abe” because he could not hold back the truths as he knew them. Honesty, integrity, and humility are definitely the characteristics of a true leader.

As I read Abe Lincoln’s history, I felt empowered by his perseverance and strength. He nothing held him back and he attributed it all to his devotion to the Lord. Surely, Abe was human and at times felt like giving up, but he did. not He took each defeat and failure as an opportunity to grow. His walk in faith paved the way for generations to be free, not just from the oppression of slavery, but from the consciousness of lack and inequality. Abe Lincoln made many speeches speaking to the hearts and minds of his constituents that we are all God’s children.

We live in a time where all that is good and fair is not as important as what is entitled and owed. I am sure Abe Lincoln’s journey in some ways, was no different from our own now. We suffer losses of loved ones, jobs, and relationships. Sometimes we fail as much as we succeed. We question the actions of others that hurt us. Often we shake our heads at what we read, hear and see that at times discourages us from moving forward with our goals and dreams. What matters when all is not right within our own worlds, is our faith in God, and our resolution to succeed.

All these many people who have had faith in God are around us like a cloud. Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should. Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and is the One Who makes it perfect. Hebrews 12:1

Character is like a tree and its reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think if it, the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE

Growing up in a small town and a very close community of families taught me many things about life. As a child, I remember having the same routine for many years and unknowingly felt comfortable because of the routine. No worries would have been my mantra. I could count on dinner on the table by six because Walter Cronkite’s voice on TV meant it was time to eat. I knew when my grandfather shined his shoes, he was going into town the next day and we could watch cartoons, Soul Train and Lawrence Welk because it was Saturday. On Sunday mornings when the God awful organ music on the radio started to play, my grandmother demanded silence as the obituaries were being announced on the radio.  For the longest time things did not change. People around me did not change as well.

As children, my brothers and I enjoyed the pleasures of riding our bikes, creating adventures in the woods, using our imaginations to the fullest and getting into trouble occasionally because we tested adults to see what we could get away with, but usually never did. If we visited a relative or some adult family friends, the fear of God was put into us and the following rules always applied; say yes ma’am and yes sir or no ma’am or no sir, please and thank you. Do not ask for anything and by all means be seen and not heard. Good rules for adults, confining ones for children. Nevertheless, we tried our best of be perfect children when in the presence of adults. When we were not with our parents, the threat of punishment was doubled because any bad conduct did by one of us in the presence of another adult meant twice the reprimand. The adult would correct us and tell on us and in turn our parents would correct us. Usually the first warning was oral i.e., I am telling your mama! The second one was corporal. No need to explain the rest of what happens. Rest assured my brothers and I knew our place in the grown up world. While we knew adults loved us and provided for us, we also knew they were to be respected.

Adults knew their roles in the presence of children as well. I remember sitting in the kitchens of grandmothers, aunties and family friends listening to their stories about random topics like cooking, sewing or the news of the day. They usually labored and conversed at the same time. Preparing a meal or canning vegetables they often gave me a chore to do and I was always glad to do it until I got bigger and the chore as well. They made it a point to explain how things were done. They were very patient, wise and loving. When there was something I was not supposed to hear or know I was sent out of the room. “Go play outside” meant the gossip was getting good. I hated to leave.

The men folk were equally blessed with patience, wisdom and love. They offered advice and a helping hand to us often, but they were more likely to let us learn the hard way. When we did learn the hard way, we paid close attention to our mistakes because grandpas, uncles and family friends weren’t into bailing us out of trouble so much as they were allowing us to learn from our trouble. Tough love with a soft edge.

Adult logic seemed not to make sense to me when I was a child until I became an adult and life experiences warranted some wisdom and understanding I was so thankful I was armed with to help me. I may have acted like I was not listening or I did not care, but back in my head I stored the treasures of conversations, scoldings, and I told you so.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD

My network of village people, my parents, my grandparents, my aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbors and family friends all performed their roles to perfection. Leaving a legacy of unconditional love, conventional wisdom and all the tools to survive in this world, they are truly a blessing to me. I hope and  pray I am a blessing to my family and young adults I meet on my path.

You have a responsibility to your village children, whether they are in your own family or youngsters on your path.  Do not be afraid to step up because the fear of not stepping up is even greater! The enemies of innocent youth have had their ways long enough.

1 Timothy4:12- Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (Please feel free to share this scripture with a young person)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas! You can never count the number of times you’ve said, “Merry Christmas!” Nor can you count the number of times you’ve been told the same greeting. As an adult Merry Christmas is the polite and appropriate thing to say to fellow Christians and such, but then I thought to myself, I’m totally detached from what Merry Christmas means. It saddened me, yet it made me think.

My reflective thoughts sent me back to my childhood and a warm generous feeling of joy filled my heart. I smiled and stared out of my window wishing the day away. I can’t go back to my childhood, but thank the Lord for having a childhood and a good one. One of my favorite memories is Grandpa JC’s big brown paper bags filled with oranges, apples, pencils and candy. I enjoyed my parent’s gifts, but his gift was a sure surprise for years. I think my brothers and I were excited each Christmas we received them even though we knew what to expect. That excitement wasn’t only about the bag of treats, it was about routine, security and knowing unconditional love is always there for us.  That was a Merry Christmas!

As an adult Merry Christmas takes on a different, yet similar meaning to me. The comfort I loved and longed for from family and friends also comes from my understanding of having Jesus Christ in my life. Christmas is a great time to renew your relationship with God and his Son. His birth is an awesome gift. The faith of Joseph and Mary signifies trust. The story of the Nativity scene reminds me of God’s miracles. God is good!

What does saying Merry Christmas mean to you?