Archive for category Christian Civility

An Attitude of Gratitude

Christmas 2015 – Raven, Christopher, Carol, Suzanne, Joel, Mitch, Michael, Colin, Nancy, Christina

According to Cicero, “Gratitude is the greatest virtue and the parent all other virtues.” Gratitude is my word for the year and I hope it is my attitude for the year. There are so many things for which I am so grateful. I am grateful for my larger family, but I am especially grateful for my children and my sister. J am grateful for my friends. We have not been able to get together much during the pandemic, but that does not diminish their importance to me. I am grateful for my home and all the wonderful memories it holds.  I am grateful for my church and all the relationships that it represents. Our Sunday school class is exceptional.

I am grateful for my country. I am a proud American. I am patriotic. We are not perfect as a nation but we are moving in the right direction. I am grateful for my city and state. I owe a great debt to the public schools, to Mars Hill College, Furman University, the University of Alabama, Louisiana State University and Lander University. I am grateful for my home town and all the wonderful people there who helped me grow. I am grateful to Northside Baptist Church and all those wonderful people who encouraged me. I am grateful to the Board of Directors of the Charleston Speech and Hearing Center. They not only gave me a job, they gave me a life.

As I start a new year I am mindful of the two great loves of my life. Liz, Suzanne and Michael’s mother, stretched me in every way possible. She took a chance on me when only love could have made that possible. Carol rescued me from hell after Liz died. She brought joy and adventure to a tortured soul. I grieve that they went on without me, but I am grateful that I had them for as long as I did. They brought love, beauty, challenge and comfort into my life.

I am simply grateful for life and all that entails. I live in a beautiful city, I have wonderful neighbors. I have books, music, an inquisitive mind, and a restless spirit. When I look at my grandchildren, I am confident of the future. I am an incurable optimist. The world will not end today because it is already tomorrow someplace else. I have a faith that sustains me. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

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Bring No Bitterness into the New Year

Many people regard New Year’s Resolutions with the same disdain they attribute to the much maligned fruitcake. I am a proponent of both. For several years now I have made the same New Year’s resolution and I ask God to help me to keep it.  I will take no bitterness into the New Year. Whatever has happened during the past twelve months that tends to sour my disposition, I resolve to let go. Whatever offenses I have suffered will not be dragged into the New Year.

Forgiveness is not as easy as it might sound. Partly it requires developing a thicker skin and realizing that I take far too many things personally. I need to lighten up. This is one of the concepts my friend, Dr. Monty Knight, discusses in his book, Balanced Living; Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Your Weakness. Continuing with Monty’s philosophy, I don’t have to go to every fight to which I am invited. That is a major concept. Let it go. Tom Newboult, a minister of religious education, once told me that sin is giving more importance to the moment than it is worth. In other words, don’t dwell in the negative. I think Tom hit the nail on the head. What a great concept!

Turning a negative into a positive is another methodology for dealing with difficult situations. Since I administered a not-for-profit agency for most of my career, I would often be attacked with, ”Well, Mitch, you are just an idealist.” My reply became, “Thank you. I hope so.” The main thing about forgiveness for those of us who are Christian to remember is that we are able to forgive because we have been forgiven.

Bitterness is a terrible task master. It will ruin your life and suck all the goodness you receive into a dark hole. I recommend a proactive approach. Go on an active campaign to make those around you glad that you are there. Build them up by helping them feel good about themselves. Say something nice. Compliment him or her in a real genuine way. Call the person by name. Offer a specific compliment about a real accomplishment. On the other hand when you receive a compliment acknowledge it graciously with a simple “thank you.” In my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, I discuss the power of words, but I am by no means the first to come to that conclusion.

Practicing my resolution of taking no bitterness into the New Year has helped me live a more productive, less stressful life. I believe you will experience the same happy results if you give it a try. I warn you that this is not easy and requires a proactive intentional effort.

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Something to Celebrate

Whatever your traditions for the Christmas season may be, they are probably on hold for this year. There will be no midnight Christmas Eve service for me. My sister and brother-in-law probably will not be able to come and my daughter will remain in Tennessee. I cannot say that I am filled with my usual Christmas spirit. I am grateful for my family and friends. My children have really been a constant help this year. I have so much for which to be thankful.

I think that we can best celebrate Christmas and the year ahead by being the best of ourselves we can be and by making life brighter for others. A woman in Virginia celebrated her 53rd. birthday by doing 53 acts of kindness. She has the right idea. What are those things we can do to make life a little better for someone else? These need not be expensive things. I can’t leave a $!,000 tip for a server, but I can leave a little more than usual. I can call someone who lives alone or has no nearby relatives. I can be more thoughtful toward those I meet as I go about my daily or weekly routines. I can listen more and talk less. We may have voted differently in the recent election, but we can be more respectful of one another.

If we all are a little more thoughtful and a little less abrasive, we can turn the tide on incivility. That will be something to celebrate.

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Christmas on the Mill Village.

When mother and dad still worked at Abney Cotton Mill and we lived on Woodruff Street, Christmas was very special.

Every year my sister and I were in the Christmas pageant at Northside Baptist Church just a few doors away from our house. There was always a huge Christmas tree in the sanctuary. I was always a shepherd or wise man which required wearing my bathrobe.  One year while waiting to go to the church, I got too close to our heater and burned a hole in my shepherd’s bathrobe. It didn’t matter to anyone but my sister who was in charge of me. I knew that she wouldn’t tell our parents.

After the pageant and the congregation singing of a lot of Christmas carols, Santa Claus came and everyone from the oldest to the youngest received a present. It was great fun. As we walked home everyone was laughing and talking. Children were told to hurry to bed because Santa would not come to their houses until they were fast asleep.

Christmas was hard for mother and dad because dad was sick most every winter, a combination of asthma and allergies to cotton dust. Money was tight and the Second World War was still raged. There was no metal for toys, but Christmas mornings were exciting. The boxes we put out for santa were filled with fruit and nuts and one or two toys. We were soon outside playing with the other kids. Some years there was a smattering of snow.

By early afternoon the entire family, except for those away in service, were gathered at grandmother Carnell’s for Christmas dinner. It was a grand feast. Everybody brought something. Aunt Alice always made homemade rolls and ambrosia. Mother brought a fruitcake which she had soaked in grape juice for weeks. Dan Stone, a friend of my grandmothers, came early and made real eggnog. I never understood this, but it was a tradition. Tee totaling Baptists could drink spiked eggnog once a year at Christmas.

Of course grandmother was the focus of attention. My grandfather Carnell had died years before I was born. There was usually some kind of drama with Uncle Wells, dad’s brother. One Christmas I was fascinated that he had driven a rental car from Gastonia, North Carolina. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Everyone gathered in the living room for the handing out of gifts: chocolate covered cherries, candies of all sorts, jewelry, cheap perfume, pen and pencil sets, toy cars and books. One year I got a book about the Lone Ranger with print too small for me to read. Another year it was a cardboard horse racing set. These were grand events. We were a very close family.

Our family left the gathering early enough for us to go to my other grandparents who lived in the country about five miles away. The same exchanges would take place but on a much smaller scale because there was less family. Mama and Pop Gossett, mother’s parents, had very little money, but the food was always wonderful. I loved their big two story house with its log burning fireplace in the combination living dining room. There was a huge ice box on the side porch. Uncle Jim, mother’s brother, and his family were usually there. Uncle Jim and Aunt Norma had four children. They were a fun loving group.

One of the best parts of the season happened before Christmas when the mill gave generous baskets or bags of fruit and nuts to each employee. Since both mother and dad worked in the mill, they each received a basket. It really was a wonderful gift. Looking back I am sure that is the only Christmas extras that some families had but I was not aware of the more human conditions at that time. Life in our small town was good. Our family was happy and together. It was a wonderful time and place to grow up. Our lives revolved around family, church and school.

President Roosevelt died while at Warm Springs in Georgia on April 12, 1945. The reaction to his death was so strong that one would have thought that he was a member of our family. The war also ended that year. Uncle Jack and other family members came home. Dad left the mill for a job in town. In 1946 mom and dad bought a house and we moved away from the mill village. I changed elementary schools and my sister, Jean, was in high school. Nothing would ever be the same.

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