Decatur

Decatur (n) a city in Eastern Indiana

 I’ve always tried to take my little and make it more.

I don’t think it was solely based on pride.

I felt a calling to make things better and more harmonious through the use of common sense and humor.

That being said, there is a danger with aspiration. To aspire often means we need to perspire, and even expire.

Putting forth effort often invites futility.

So long, long ago in our country, which seemed far away, I had a music group. We met a fellow in Detroit who was an ex-drug addict, was very clever, comical and had a good message. It occurred to me that we possibly could get him into some schools to speak on the dangers of drug addiction, and that our music group could “play him on” and “play him off.” I shared this idea with a young minister at a Christian church in Decatur, Indiana.

He was so enthralled with the idea that he enacted it.

Yes, he scheduled our group and our ex-druggie friend into three schools in the county, with a rally in the evening to be held at the City Auditorium.

It was big. At least, big for us.

It was especially promising when our friend from Detroit agreed to drive down and do the schools and the rally. He arrived, we went to the first school—and everything went pretty well.

I was a little uncomfortable with how freely he bragged about the drugs he took as a way of communicating to the students that he knew what he was talking about.

It was worse at the second school. Matter of fact, the only times he really connected with the students were when he was promoting his former drug use instead of his conversion.

I was upset.

I asked him if he could calm down the drug talk a little bit, and he explained that without him appearing hip to the students, none of them would listen.

I disagreed.

To my surprise, he became upset with my intervention, stormed out of the third high school before the program began, left and went back to Detroit.

Our little white Middle-America group was left alone, to do the third school and the evening rally.

I would like to report to you that it went great.

I would like to say that we didn’t need our Detroit friend. But when the students arrived for the rally that evening, they were greatly disappointed that Mr. Cool was not in the building and they were stuck with us.

It was a long night.

I really don’t know what the moral of this story is.

I suppose you could take away that making a stand in the middle of something that’s been pre-planned is a dangerous idea. Or you could say that objecting to something you disagree with is always necessary, no matter what the repercussions.

But I have to tell you, even as I relate the tale to you now, I sure would like to know how good it would have been if our Detroit token toker had stayed around.

 

Bandstand

Bandstand: (n) a covered outdoor platform for a band to play on, typically in a park.Dictionary B

Summertime in Middle America is a collision of tradition and revision.

Because right in the midst of the Internet generation are the simple pleasures of small towns, gathering a handful of local musicians to hold 25 rehearsals to play 12 songs in a bandstand in the center of the town square, to the delight of the old folks, and an opportunity for the younger generation to meet together on summer vacation outside the confines of the local school.

It is a sight to behold.

The musicians are a little nervous, uncertain of themselves, yet self-possessed with the importance of the moment.

The director has dressed for the occasion and struts around like he’s Leonard Bernstein at the premiere of West Side Story.

And the old folks sit in rickety wooden chairs, turning to one another and conversing about as many inane topics as possible before being silenced by the orchestra tuning up (and never quite achieving pitch.)

The little kids run and play, and the teenagers yearn for dusk, when they can slip away from their parents and investigate the pleasure of one another’s bodies in the alcove of the staircase next to the local library.

It is America.

It is the blending of the old with the new, in some sort of temporary agreement over a poorly performed Sousa march.

It is something we must never lose, although we should never regale it as being more important than mercy and justice.

The bandstand sits quietly the rest of the year, part of the time covered in leaves and on other occasions nearly hidden by snow.

But when it is ready, and when it is time, it encircles the warmth of feelings which can only be expressed by those who awkwardly care for one another.

 

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Alternative

dictionary with letter A

Alternative: (adj.) available as another possibility: e.g. the various alternative methods for resolving disputes

Webster’s dictionary definition is very generous.

In a world where the status quo is extolled as not only being common, but nearly godly in its significance, a concept like “alternative” is almost always associated with being out of the flow.

  • Alternative rock: another name for “your rock band has no chance of being played on Top 40 Radio.”
  • Alternative lifestyle: a warning shouted by Middle America to discourage you from moving into their neighborhood.
  • Alternative political party: a guarantee that you will only receive votes from family members.
  • Alternative worship experience: the real one is happening at eleven o’clock, but we’re going to let the kids play around at nine.

Here’s what I know about alternative: if I’m in a room discussing an issue with friends, family, acquaintances and by-standers, and somebody offers an idea that may be contrary to the norm but addresses a need that no one has yet considered, it is no longer an alternative view, but rather, a necessary inclusion.

Bluntly, just because people don’t agree with me does not mean they don’t possess smart ideas that are required to form the solution.

It doesn’t matter what issue we are trying to finagle–from gun control to abortion to immigration to war to homosexuality–well, the list goes on and on. What is required to make the requirement is to listen to others tell you what they require.

What we are calling alternative opinions are often pieces of the puzzle which must be kept in readiness, so when we get to the end and find out we’re incomplete, they can be placed in their needful position to form the picture.

It reminds me of the story of the feeding of the five thousand from the Good Book. After the initial miracle of providing grub for a large crowd with limited funds for the menu, Jesus tells the disciples to “gather up the leftovers, that nothing be lost.” I am sure they thought it was stupid. Everybody was stuffed; they had gorged themselves on food. What was the purpose of carrying around twelve baskets of extras?

Simple. He was telling these fellows that somewhere along the line they were going to need them.

If we throw away every idea that is not part of our own philosophy, when our reasoning breaks down, we will not have the available knowledge to know how to address the issue.

In 1961 in Birmingham, Alabama, there were many white persons who were fully aware that segregation was not only filled with error, but useless. Yet because alternative views were not allowed on the subject matter, we were forced to produce a bloody conclusion instead of an intelligent one.

I know what I think. But I also know I need to think.

In order for that to work, I must realize that the alternative values of today may very well become the mainstream thinking of tomorrow.


Africa

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

 

Africa: the second-largest continent, a southward projection of the Old World land mass divided roughly in half by the equator and surrounded by sea except where the Isthmus of Suez joins it to Asia.

I am shocked.

I sat down to write a clever essay on today’s word, Africa. when I dug into my Middle-America, middle-class, middle-intelligent and middle-conscience mind,  all I was able to conjure were images which I must be honest and tell you, seem quite racist.

Because when I think of Africa, I think of missionaries, cannibals, lions, monkeys, tribal rituals, Apartheid, jungles, Serengeti, antelopes being chased and killed, and people with black skin talking with extremely articulate British accents.

I thought about trying to come up with something different, pretending that I am cultured and aware of modern Africa and the progress the people have made. Or tip my hat to the notion that Africa is the “mother land of the whole human race,” but I realized it would be phony, and I would just be another American trying to appear that I am free of prejudice, when the truth is that, contrary to that fact, the continent reminds me of Tarzan and Jane.

I do not think we become better people by hiding our iniquity.

I do not think that I can fool you into believing I am a cosmopolitan world traveler who is free of my Central Ohio upbringing, and still walk away with a pure soul.

Here’s what I WILL say about Africa: most of what I learned as a child about this magnificent continent had something to do with either the zoo or the Zulu.

No one took the time to teach me anything else.

So even though I am grown and people insist that I’m set in my ways, I am unsettled enough to accept this meager representation of a great history and people. So I apologize for my lacking by trying to increase. Now that I have been alerted to my limitation, I will attempt to expand my borders.

We will never know what Africa could truly be today because it was invaded, attacked and robbed of its citizenry by white people who thought they were better.

I am an ancestor of such folk. For this I apologize.

But the best way I can express my contrition is by continuing to learn instead of assume.