The Cuban Missile Crisis – A Family Story

The death of Fidel Castro has brought a flood of memories and reminded me of one of the most unexpected and rewarding experiences of my life. I recorded this story in my book, Our Father: Discovering Family, published last year by www.WipfandStock.com. This began in October 1962 and continued for the next several months.

The Cuban Missile Crisis ignited while we were in Baton Rouge and the city was flooded with Cuban refugees.  Somehow I was asked to teach a course in oral English for them at the YWCA.  The television program, Sing Along with Mitch (Miller) was popular at the time; therefore my courses quickly became known as Speak Along with Mitch.  What a turn of events.  Remember I flunked Spanish at Mars Hill College.  This exposure and acceptance by members of a different culture broadened my knowledge and appreciation for people whose backgrounds were far removed from my own.  Again the teacher learned more than the students.

This is a story that has played an important role in my development and in my understanding of who belongs in God’s kingdom. Who would have ever believed that I would have this brush with history.

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Thanksgiving in Lincolnton: A Family Story

163001_10150109229056614_7707360Dwayne and Donna_nMy sister, Jean, and brother-in-law, John,John Wallace and Jean celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sunday before the official day because their sons and their families have other obligations on the big day. Jan drove Carol and me to Lincolnton, North Carolina for the annual event.

The food was wonderful and over-flowing, but the presence of family and friends provided the real joy. The three of us from Charleston and one friend, Vegas, from Charlotte were lost in a sea of Donald Trump disciples all wearing his trademark shirts. We took our beatings with humility. Most of this was for the torture of Liz, Wesley’s girlfriend, who works for Green Peace and is a staunch Democrat. She could not be present for the beat down or so she claimed. Wesley is my Republican grandnephew who is working his way up through the Deneise and Wesleynew Trump Swamp in Washington. I am rooting for him to become the most  important, “Deplorable.”

There was real joy around Allison, my grandniece, and her boyfriend, Jimmy, buying their first house. Allison is a history teacher in Hickory, and Jimmy is a police officer in Charlotte. Justin, grandnephew, has just finished trimming his house with stone. He did most of the work himself. Everyone gazed with pride at the pictures.

This is the real America. Megan, a young vibrant Methodists Youth Minister, led in grace as we all formed a circle and held hands. Megan, better known as Pest, is also my grandniece. Later there were Corn-hole games in the front yard.

The obvious devotion that Darrel and Dwayne and their families show to my sister and brother-in-law speaks volumes about the love that glues this family together. Before we left everyone was treated to a hug and an, “I love you.” Jean and Bunky have established a loving, kind oasis in a world of Chaos. We are privileged to be a part of it. Thank you. The first picture is Dwayne and Donna. The second picture is Jean and John. The third is Denise and Wesley.

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Tell Your Story. Celebrate National Listening Day

November 25 better known as Black Friday is also National Listening Day. This is a day to tell and record family stories. This gives a great alternative to spending the day or wee small hours of the night in the mall. StoryCorps started the event which has been widely celebrated and appreciated.

I am regretful that when I had the opportunity I did not pay attention to all those family stories freely shared at reunions, funerals, and other get–togethers. The ones I do remember enrich my life.

My friend Bob is writing his memoir. He sometimes reads portions to Carol, Brandy and me. What a treat that has become as he shares details of his life with us. Remember you are not limited by who constitutes family. It can be a group of friends, a church group or a social group as well as actual family members.

Record the stories if possible. Use a voice recorder, a video recorder or pen and paper. We all remember stories. As you remember one bit of information, dozens more will rush in. I recently wrote my spiritual journey, Our Father: Discovering Family, which became a book. The problem quickly became what to leave out instead of what to include. I was overwhelmed by memories.

A very important point is that your story is your story. Your sister, brother, mother, father, aunt or cousin will remember it differently, but then it is their story not your story. Of course you can make factual corrections when necessary. The important thing is to tell the stories and record them. Stories make us who we are. They span generations.

This morning my son asked me, “When did I get my first Lionel Train and where did it come from?” Those questions sent me back down wonderful memory lanes. That train was more than forty-five years ago. Luckily I made voice recording of all those early Christmas mornings to send to the missionary grandparents who were in the Philippines at the time, but they were on a reel to reel tape recorder. I hope that recorder is still in the attic. That quest will bring more memories.

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Kindness Is Always in Order – Celebrate World Kindness Day

Principal Rex Whitcomb at Morningside Middle School in North Charleston, South Carolina told his students, “If you want to know how to have a successful school year, just be kind.” What great advice. Kindness is always in order.

After that, I wrote a little book, Random Acts of Kindness. In it I listed 110 simple acts of kindness that cost absolutely nothing to perform. Of course, the list can grow and grow. There are millions of people who are hungry for a simple act of kindness. All of us have many gifts to share that would brighten someone’s day.

November 13, is World Kindness Day. We can all participate by performing a simple act of kindness. Call a friend. Acknowledge a stranger. Write a thank you note. Thank a clerk. Leave a generous tip. I never tire of the advice attributed to John Wesley which I quoted in my book.

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

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

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