Thanksgiving 2014

 

On this Thanksgiving Day my heart overflows with gratitude. I am thankful for my faith that sustains me whatever the circumstances of my life. I am thankful for my family immediate and extended. My late wife, Liz, was a blessing to everyone who knew her. Carol gave me my life back. Suzanne and Michael are constant sources of blessings and joy. No one has ever been blessed with a more wonderful sister than I have with my sister, Jean. Her husband, John (Bunky), is more than a brother-in-law. He’s my brother. I am thankful for my grandchildren: Christopher, Christina and Colin. They are wonderful young adults. I am thankful for my parents who sacrificed so that Jean and I could have a better life.

I am thankful for the church I attend that has guided people of faith for 332 years. I am thankful for the United States of America. I had no part in being born here and I have no disregard for any other country, but I am eternally grateful for my good fortune. I am thankful for my hometown of Woodruff, South Carolina and the values I learned growing up there. I am grateful for the people of Northside Baptist Church who encouraged me in all that I attempted to do. I am thankful for my teachers. All of them gave of themselves that I might have a better life. I am thankful for the influences of Mars Hill College, Furman University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University for their part in lifting my vision for what could be.

I am thankful for my friends who are truly gifts from God to my life. They give me strength when mine grows weak. I am thankful for those with whom I have disagreed over the years. They have helped to sharpen my thinking. I am thankful to the many that served on the Board of Directors of the Charleston Speech and Hearing Center. They allowed me to have a career that was fulfilling and meaningful. I am grateful to the many staff members over the years who helped me grow and forgave my failures. I am thankful for my colleagues and students at Webster University where I have taught for 35 years. I am grateful to the contributors to my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. They are a remarkable group of extremely dedicated and talented brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am thankful for all the committee members and speakers for the John A. Hamrick Lectureship for their devotion to a cause that honors the life and work of this great servant of God. I am grateful for all of those who have helped to make Say Something Nice Day and Say Something Nice Sunday successful movements that continue to gain support. I am thankful that at this point in my life that God has given me a new vision for helping people of different faiths, the same faith, and no faith talk with each other in a more productive and respectful way. I am thankful for my adopted city of Charleston, one of the most beautiful and hospitable cities in the world. I join with the psalmist in singing, “My cup runneth over.”

On this Thanksgiving Day of 2014, I am more aware than ever and humbled by the realization that I cannot count my blessings. They are too numerous. As I recount one, ten more spring to mind. Join me as I strive to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Celebrate this Thanksgiving Day with joy, gratitude and peace.

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The Sound of Music: a Memory – National Day of Listening -November 28, 2014

Carol loves the musical, “The Sound of Music,” so much that we planned a European trip around it. We flew to Prague on the first lap of a wonderful trip. Prague is an extraordinarily beautiful city. We visited all the important historical sites and the Baptist International Seminary which has now moved to Amsterdam. The people of Prague were welcoming and happy to have visitors from the states. Unfortunately we left too much of this city unseen. We took the train to Vienna.

Our small hotel was a short block away from the Opera House. We were enchanted with all the sites. There is music everywhere. We visited the Webster University campus and received a royal welcome. I could live in Vienna. We took the train to Salzburg.

What a beautiful place. We wandered the streets. Got lost in a rainstorm and didn’t mind a bit. Everyone sang along with the music on the, “Sound of Music” bus tour. We got off at every stop. The scenery is spectacular. We went down in a salt mine. You should have seen us on the slide that took us to the bottom where we boarded a barge to cross the underground lake. We ate ice cream in Berchtesgaden. It was time for our train to Munich.

Munich, unlike Prague, was bombed during the Second World War. Everything has been rebuilt or restored. Never-the-less it is a beautiful place. Of course, we visited the soccer stadium. We ate in sidewalk cafes and took the tours. We flew back to Prague and home.

On a later trip in June of 2007, we visited the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont for a few days. Earlier we met a nurse in Middlebury who attended the real Maria von Trapp when she was hospitalized in Morristown. The lodge is beautiful. The views are spectacular and the flowers are glorious. We took a tour of the villas and dreamed of winning the lottery. We could not turn down another viewing of, “The Sound of Music,” showing in the basement.

I am telling you this story because Carol no longer remembers it.  November 28 is National Day of Listening, a day set aside to tell and record family stories. Learn from our experience. And share your family stories. They are important.

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The Wedding Ring -National Day of Listening Nov. 28, 2014

The Wedding Ring – Christmas Eve 1997

On Christmas Eve 1997 Carol and I went for a drop-in at the home of Joyce and Dean Murphy before going to the Christmas Eve Service at First Baptist Church. Carol was a little more than annoyed with me for adding another event into our busy week-end, but when she experienced the warmth of the hospitality at the Murphy’s home that quickly faded. The church was bathed in candlelight with poinsettias and candles in every window.

As the congregation stood to sing the closing hymn, “Joy to the World,” ushers started down the aisles lighting the candle of each worshiper sitting at the end of each row. As they approached the pew two rows away from us, I reached for Carol’s hand? “What do you want? Do you want my bulletin?”  I slipped the diamond engagement ring on her finger. It glistened as I lighted her candle from mine. Carol was startled and excited. My strategy had worked.

The people around noticed something taking place. Jane Hamrick was the first to see the ring. The word quickly spread as we made our way in the midnight air to the parking lot. It was Christmas morning.

I am telling this story because Carol no longer remembers it. Black Friday is also National Day of Listeningy. It is a day to tell and record your family stories. Take a lesson from us. Don’t wait. Your stories are important.

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International Kindness Day – November 13, 2014

International Kindness Day

How will you celebrate International Kindness Day on November 13th? If you are like most other people, you will simply ignore it.

It is not really that hard to celebrate it. Just take an extra minute to be polite. Say something encouraging to a counter person.  Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. Give an older person your place in line. Open a door for someone. Say something affirming to your children or someone else’s children. Leave a bigger tip than usual. Call an old friend. Visit someone who doesn’t get many visitors. Write a thank you note. You will feel good at the end of the day.

Dr. Arthur Caliando, retired pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York, said it well. “Be kinder than you think it is necessary to be because the other person needs it more than you know.”

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