My United Hometown

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I reflected earlier this summer – on our 4th of July holiday to be exact – on how the celebration termed as our ‘Independence’ Day seems to be lost at times to those of us that live in this great country we call home.  Lost in the sense that we may take for granted that freedom is not an entitlement.

As the news stories played out across our televisions this past Sunday, many of us recalled where we were on that fateful morning fifteen years ago.  Where we were, what we were doing when shock took over as we watched and felt the horror take residence in the heart of every American, young and old.

As I watched on Sunday, I thought again of our men and women stationed in countries across oceans, far away from loved ones, who are there for the sole reason of defending this county we move freely in.  Where we, at any time of the day or night, can choose to live our lives with the comfort of not having to worry of such things as missile strikes, combat zones or constant bombings.  Those soldiers are working and laying down their lives to ensure that freedom that all of us cocooned in safety can so easily relay into a ‘right’.

On Monday, in my mind and heart, those soldiers overseas became joint partners with soldiers of a different uniform.  Those wearing the badges of city and county police officers.

As the hours ticked by throughout the day, I kept watch for emails updating the condition of a police officer from my hometown who was shot while serving a warrant over the weekend.  Late Monday afternoon, we learned he had succumbed to the injuries.

And my hometown is united like it hasn’t been since 9/11.

Office Brackeen’s patrol car is standing guard at the police station, covered in flowers.  Our picturesque courtsquare is adorned in blue ribbons.  Restaurants are selling blue lapel pins to raise money for the family.  Students at schools throughout the county will be wearing blue in honor on Friday.  Off duty officers in full uniform are seen standing talking in groups all over town.  Facebook is filled with beautiful tributes.  Just to give you a visual.  Our hearts are broken for his wife and four year old daughter.  For all his friends and fellow officers.

We’ve all heard the news reports of officers killed in the line of duty.  And I am ashamed to admit it to be so, but until this tragedy hit ‘home’,  I had mainly been only aware of officers as my foot got heavy on the gas pedal and feared being caught.  Personally speaking, that is. Also, I remember telling my granddaughter that they are there for us to call if we’re in danger and need their help.

My, how things have changed.

In the volatile currents that are wrecking our society, these officers are truly soldiers on the battlefields of home.  Just as the soldiers overseas are defending our nation as a whole, these brave men and women step out each day into situations that can take their lives just as easily as those in the war zones of our world.  They are officers because of a heart’s desire to serve and protect – an oath they make to each of us.

I urge everyone reading this to examine your thoughts.  Have you, like myself, failed to give due respect to those who have sworn this oath?  I can say without a doubt that if I had to tally them into a column, the column would be headed as “Protection I’m Entitled To”.  The last forty-eight or so hours have opened my eyes.

This morning I actually saluted an officer driving in the lane beside me on the way to work. I realize as a civilian a salute may not be proper, but as each of us here struggle to come to terms with this happening in our own backyards, a salute summed it up for me in the space of moments I had in his eyesight.  I have awakened to a  great respect and appreciation for the protection they fight daily to blanket us with.  My heart goes out to them in a way like never before.  And now, with my granddaughter having been a part of the prayer vigil on the courtsquare Monday evening, I have a feeling she may be giving me a lesson on the freedoms they protect and not just there if we need them.

Please join me in searching out ways to let these protectors in our midst know that we stand with them, that we appreciate more than words can express the many ways they cloak our days in protection.  Chances are very high that we know very little of the actual dangers they have experienced in any given day.   I will seek ways to express this appreciation, but in the meantime, I will continue to salute.

My prayers and gratitude are with each of our soldiers.  Everywhere…

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At Every Bridge Bringing Officer Brackeen Home

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Saluted All Along the 45 Mile Ride

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To Protect And Serve

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United at Every Mile

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Standing Guard

 

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A Curious Monday

Drake Birthday Party with Taylor and Trey

Lighting was terrible and phone battery was too dead for flash!

Hello Friend,

I am very interested in knowing how your Monday fared.  As you were out and about today – running errands, shopping, doctor visits, etc – were you aware at all of any difference in the people you came into contact with?

In so many of the comments to posts during the last five or so days, I’ve mentioned many times of how I, even more than normal, am being conscious of watching for opportunities to be a positive influence in our broken world.  As a confirmation that I wasn’t imagining differences, there were four instances today where someone else other than me instigated a positive moment.

To start my day, I arrived at LabCorp for blood work.  As I sat down to wait for my turn to be called, I dug a book from my bag and found my place.  Before I had gotten through the first sentence, I heard a gentle voice say “How are you today?”  I am most always aware of my surroundings, so I knew that myself and an elderly black man were the only ones in the room.  As I looked up, he said “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your reading.”

I closed my book and he and I had a wonderful conversation of how our grass gets cut in this scorching heat, which led to him revealing a wonderful story of how the son of his best friend, who had passed away last year, takes care of his yard.  We ended up talking about how blessings come around through the most unexpected places.

Both LabCorp women that I came into contact with were black women.  The receptionist and I were laughing over the wording of the orders for blood work – and the woman who actually drew my blood was ranting to me about how the cleaning crew fell behind in their duties over the weekend – “Please tell me you can’t smell that dried blood in the contaminated waste bucket!” she emphatically said. (She most definitely was right!)

I stopped at the grocer on my way home and as I headed for the car, there was a young black boy, I’d say 12 to 13 years old, sauntering through the parking lot.  And come on now, who of us didn’t saunter at some point or another at that age?!  I know he saw me, like I say – I’m always aware.  I didn’t acknowledge him any more than he did me.  That is, until I backed up and started to pull away.  He then turned around, smiled, and waved to me.

Folks, this is not a normal day.  I know that gentle man made an effort.  I know those two women associates at LabCorp made an effort.  And that young boy practically had me so stunned that I almost stopped the car.  And I had spoke such bravado!  All of them, as the day is ending, opened my eyes that I’m the one whose got to try harder.  As I go out each day, I’ve got to wait until I get home to stick my nose in a book and look up and around me while I’m out in the world.  I feel almost like a young child whose been caught doing something careless.  These people taught me that just talking about it with a good intention doesn’t cut it.  They showed me with their kindness that I now have another reason for being aware of my surroundings.

The picture above, and I apologize for its lack of clarity, was taken at a birthday party I took my granddaughter to on Friday evening.  That’s my granddaughter and the birthday boy in the picture.  They both attend the same summer camp and both were ecstatic when two of their favorite counselors, pictured here with them, showed up to skate.

Children, unless they are taught to do so, do not put the color of a person’s skin in the determining factors of whether they like that person or not.  That’s just a statement – this is not a post about racial differences.  The people I’ve mentioned above, yes, were black.  But for the first time, I can honestly say without a doubt that I saw these people today just as my granddaughter does, without regards to the color of their skin.  And at the same time, I think it’s entirely possible that they saw me the same way.   And they were the ones to step out and make a difference.  I’ve been humbled today, gratefully so.

On White Privilege and Taking Sides

I reblog this article as a small way to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’ to raise awareness of ways we can help:

Jena Schwartz

Tutu“It’s like someone getting killed during a funeral service.” – Scott Woods

I do not want to hide behind whiteness or succumb to numbness. So I am going to tell you a story — a story of white privilege. My own.

“Castile is at least the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a Washington Post database that tracks such shootings.” :: read more  

These are people’s LIVES. Not hashtags, not statistics. LIVES. The insanity of sanctioned racism and murder has got to stop. This would never have gone down this way if he, Philando Castile, his girlfriend (who was HANDCUFFED while police “sorted things out” — this after she watched her boyfriend die of four gunshot wounds), and her four-year-old daughter had been white. If you don’t believe me, you are part of the problem.

A few weeks ago, I got pulled…

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Independence Is A State of Being

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I’ve recently returned from my holiday on the beautiful island of Maui.  I’m taking liberty to borrow the term ‘holiday’ from the British as the glorious days spent there were in all facets of the word – a holiday.  I’ve been fortunate to have taken vacations in many beautiful locales, but Maui has given new meaning to where and how I spend precious days away in the future.  I plan a post detailing my trip.  But on this Independence Day, 2016, my thoughts are in a different direction – yet my recent days on the island have contributed greatly to my perspective on this July 4th holiday at home.

My habit is to set my DVR to record Good Morning, America each day and catch up in the evenings with all that’s going on in the world.  And unless you are one of those individuals who have tucked their head in the sand and decided you can take no more of the insanity and uncertainty happening daily, you know what a large dose of detriment to our psyches is being doled out.  For the sake of my point, let’s disregard media’s ability to steer opinions and consider only the headlines themselves.

Details aside, I have been watching for many months the devastating weather patterns that have ravaged our country from one side to the other, many perishing in the wake, countless others being robbed of all they own with no idea of how they’ll recover.  The horror of attacks across the world, both by terrorists on a large scale and by close members of victims’ own families on an even more hard to understand level.  The hatred.  Absurdities. And has there ever been a more head-shaking presidential campaign?

All of this and so much more is absolutely mind boggling.

Keep this in mind, and allow me to shift gears for a moment.

Before I experienced it for myself, Maui presented itself in my mind as one of the ultimate tourist destinations – think Disney World with the not-to-miss list of sights to see as the attractions.  From that visualization, take away the well paved parking lots with attendants to direct you.  Take away billboards luring you to exorbitant entrance fees.  Take away hearing sales pitches.  And replace all that with God’s green earth, towering vistas, and sparkling blue water as far as you can see from a vantage point that’s always just around the next corner.  Yes, there are resort areas – there have to be to accomodate those of us who sojourn there.  But the paradise that can easily be described in one word – Eden – is found on your own.  Out exploring the island.

And as I explored the island, I brought home a blessing that I was not expecting.  There is one side of me that hates the terrible things that are going on in our world today, that the tides of hate may dictate how the balance of my granddaughter’s future will pan out.  But there’s also the other side of me that has hope, a hope that I had lost sight of – and possibly never even had – until I was within the spectre of the intensity and power of the beauty on Maui.  That beauty is not man-made.  And neither is the Bestower of that power. Standing within the breathtaking awesomeness of just one small piece of God’s creation, I felt His power give me the confidence to know that I can be still and know that He is capable of providing the ability for us to rise above the insanities of this world.  And the beauty equips us to be partners with the positive, enabling us to carry on.

As we look for the beauties in our days, we need to remember that we are not entitled to the freedoms that we have.  Those freedoms have been and continue to be bought with the lives of many soldiers who are out there doing their jobs to ensure that we remain free.  It’s easy to get caught up in the monstrosities that plague our world today, to let them make us bitter, or complacent, or reckless, or I could go on and on with the symptoms of our weary world.

But we must make a choice.  We are free to make the conscious choice to see the beauty of this world and each person we come into contact with.   There’s beauty in each of us because each of us are also one of God’s awesome creations.  We are all fighting for independence in one way or another and if we can learn to see independence as a blessing and not a right – without letting hatred be our guiding force –  we will begin to see more beauty in our moments. Call me a dreamer, but I believe those moments will begin to spill over onto those around us and we can all be enablers of the positive kind.  There’s by far too much of the devastating negative kind.

So choose to be in an independent state of mind – rising above the awfulness of this world – replace the bad with the good – and never forget that there are those always giving their all, sometimes their very lives, to allow us this choice.

Happy Independence Day to you all!

 

 

 

Look Out Kids, I’m Gonna Embarrass You Now!

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Me with Dr. Sandra Schultz

I told the truth when I said I hadn’t been anxious about hearing the results of my mammogram.   And it remained the truth until about twenty minutes before my appointment time.

As I walked in the door, that anxiety disappeared as I was greeted by the smiling Dr. Schultz herself.  She was sitting at the front desk, a highly unusual sight, and she laughed at my astonishment and told me not to get used to it that she’d be moving in just a second.  I stopped her before she could get away and asked for a picture.  She said “Certainly, come on in and we’ll get it in front of the tree.”

Before my cancer was discovered, I had known of a woman who had been diagnosed with a very rare, fast and almost always fatal form of this vicious disease.  Her doctor went to work determined to save her life.  She contacted colleagues all over the country with her immediate research.  Armed with all the knowledge available, she used her innate ability to read cancer and started an agressive attack.  I’ll not go into the details because those aren’t mine to share, but years later this woman is still cancer-free.  I believe that if God had not deemed it so, that would not be the case.  But I also believe that He placed her care in the earthly hands of Dr. Sandra Schultz, just as He did mine.

This is a story that could be repeated all day long.  There’s visual evidence of these stories all over the office in the form of quilts hanging on the walls, pink wreaths adorning the doors and artwork all up and down the hallways – all given in gratitude by patients and their families.  Not only is the care given by Dr. Schultz that of which gives hope, but the atmosphere of her office conveys an instant feeling of warmth, making her patients feel like family from the first visit forward.

As you walk up to the window to sign in, you are immediately swathed in that warmth by her receptionist, Brenda McCombs.  Of my many, many visits, never has this sweet lady failed to greet me with the most genuine smile and positive attitude.  The other members of the office – Stephanie, Lindsay, Ruby and Leanna – make the picture complete and they all bounce their warm spirits back and forth amongst themselves, drawing you into their amazing circle of healing.

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Brenda MCombs

My granddaughter doesn’t know it yet, but on June 3, she and I will be joining Dr. Schultz and her team, The Blazing Pink Flamingos, at the Relay for Life Walk in Kings Mountain.  Brenda said she would surprise my granddaughter with her own pink flamingo:

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Have you noticed the artwork and wreaths I mentioned?

As Dr. Schultz and I chatted in the examining room today, she asked how the trip plans were coming along.  I looked at her, astonished that she had remembered my telling her last year of our upcoming trip.  She grinned at me and said she’d made a note on my file so she wouldn’t forget.

In addition to being the tremendous doctor and surgeon that she is, Dr. Schultz is also a very large supporter of non-profit groups in Gaston County.  There were several raffle baskets in the office today, with proceeds going to various organizations.

From the standpoint of being a patient, it is very rare to come across this type of environment.  The dedication of Dr. Schultz, and her staff, is evident to any who find themselves in the midst of their care.  Not only was I blessed that my cancer was found so early, but my blessings were greatly enhanced by being under the care of this wonderful woman.  Her expertise is undeniable, her depth of caring is unquestionable.

Now, to my daughter, my son-in-law and my granddaughter, I say:  Look out paradise, here I come!  No holding back, no fears.  My feet will be as if they’re not touching the ground and I’ll be dancing to music, even if I’m the only one who can hear it.  I’m Maui bound, and I’m cancer-free!