Friday, July 31, 2015

Success,, Failure, Praise, and Criticism

So much of life we have control over and so much of life we have no control over. Sometimes those most likely to succeed don’t or maybe they could not. Sometimes the least gifted hit upon a good idea or make the right connections and experience success beyond anyone’s dreams. Sometimes we make mistakes that place a damper on all we do for the rest of our lives. Yet some folks can overcome the greatest of mistakes. Sometimes there are accidents and illnesses that limit lives or end lives much too soon. And sometimes the sickest among us manage to live long past the expected three score and ten. Some people are equipped with the best of tools. But sometimes the people who have the best tools are unable to use them. Sometimes they refuse to use them. Sometimes people pick up broken tools and remnants and manage to build something great. Some people can hear hateful words and it rolls of them like water off a ducks back. Other people can hear the same words and they sting the soul and act as a curse forever. Some people can take charge of their lives and some people cannot. I do not understand all of that but such is life. And since that is the way it is we probably need to be a little more reserved in both our praise and in our criticism.

My grandfather Williams was a country preacher. I remember him but I was four years old when he died so obviously I did not him well. Most of what I know about him comes from the stories my mother told me. My mother often quoted an old saying that she had heard from him. “There is so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us”. Sounds like a wise word to me.

Robert Lonnie Suffoletta

I met Robert Lonnie Suffoletta in the summer of 1968. We got on a bus together in the parking lot behind the police station in Georgetown, KY early one Monday morning.  The bus took us to Monticello, KY where we spent the week at conservation camp. We went swimming and boating and shot bow and arrows. We learned about hunting and fishing and gun safety and ate together in the mess hall. We were in the same cabin. I slept on a bottom bunk. Robert had the top bunk next to me. We were to be 6th grade classmates that fall. It would be a new experience for both of us. The school system had built a new school named Southern Elementary and they had done some redistricting to prevent overcrowding in the other elementary schools. I would be coming in from Eastern Elementary. I think Robert would have come from Great Crossing Elementary. We gathered with excitement for the first day of school in Miss Edward’s classroom. But Robert was not there the second day. He had doctor’s appointments. The word quickly came back that he had Leukemia. No one had to tell me how serious that was. I had already known people who died from that disease. I had seen the grief in their loved one’s eyes. The Leukemia took Robert quickly. He died within the week. Our principle Jack Wise came to our class to give us the official word. Mr. Wise cried. I don’t think you christen new school buildings. But after only being open one week the new Southern Elementary School had received a baptism by fire.

The community saw to it that Robert was remembered. They named the new city park and swimming pool after him. I remembered him as a friend I never really got to know. The sign said Robert Lonnie Suffoletta Memorial Pool. I suppose, particularly after the passage of time, that people read the sign and wonder who Robert Lonnie Suffoletta was. But I know who he was. I wonder who he might have become. It is a blessing to be granted the opportunity to become. Being granted that blessing I hope to become all that I was meant to be.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quinton Rutledge

Quinton Rutledge was in my 5th grade class at Eastern Elementary School in Scott County, KY. Miss Carpenter was our teacher. I recollect that Quinton was slender and had brown wavy hair. He sat parallel to me in the row to my left. I remember him as being a quite person. I don’t recall him complaining about not feeling well. But one day he went home from school and had an appendicitis attack. They took him to the hospital but his appendix had ruptured and he died. He left school one day and the next morning we got the news that he was dead. You don’t get much school work accomplished after giving or receiving that kind of news. Quinton’s mother was the secretary at our school. So she had to come to work at the school where her son was supposed to be and watch the activity of other children and then go home without her son. Quinton’s father was a farmer. He had to work the fields around their farmstead with the constant reminder of the emptiness left by his absence. The school bus I rode went by the white two-story weather boarded house where Quinton lived.  Every day I would look at that house and sense the sadness and pain that surely dwelled within those walls. I listened to my own mother express sorrow for the family. Mother always shuddered when a family lost a child the same age as one of her own. That has been 48 years ago. But that is the kind of thing one does not easily forget.

There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. I have been right in the middle of a lot of it. The longer I live and the more I see and the longer I reflect the more I am determined not to be involved in fussing about small things. There are too many important things and hurtful things that need my attention and emotion. I cannot solve all or even most of the problems I encounter. But I can soothe them. I can share the truth of God and exercise the love of God and pray for the power of God. And my feeble lips can deliver a word from God in the hope and belief that it will bring hope and comfort to tortured souls. Life is too short and often too tragic to do otherwise.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Forty Year Reunion

In the spring of 1975 I graduated from Scott County High School in Georgetown, KY. That was 40 years ago. They held a big reunion this past week end but I did not go. I have not been to any other of my reunions either so I am certain my absence was not a surprise to anyone. With the exception of one person I have not really kept any contacts with my high school friends. It has been much too long to make any real connectivity now. Besides I work every weekend and I live a lon...g way away. So the time and expense would be much too great for a rendezvous with people I barely know. Besides I am not that good at parties. I had lots of good excuses. So I ignored the invitations and pleas to come to the reunion and decided to let high school remain a distant experience from the past. In recent years however I have re-connected with a few of my classmates via facebook and somehow I got added to a group called Scott County High School Class 1975. The morning after the reunion people started posting pictures and I got curious. I did not recognize some of them. Of the ones I did recognize I was a bit relieved to discover that I had survived the 40 years as well as most of them had. There were 152 of us in that graduating class. I was saddened to discover that 16 of those have died. Surely in this age of modern medicine that is way too many. I mean I am only 58. That is not old is it?

That got me to thinking about the brevity of life. Indeed I have way more years behind me than I can expect to have in front of me. When this life is over there will be a glad reunion in heaven and I plan to attend that one. Indeed God has put eternity in the hearts of mankind. But since life is brief I want to live well and do something of significance while I am here. The British missionary C. T. Studd wrote a famous oft quoted two line poem: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last”.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reynold's Family Cemetery

On Thanksgiving Day, 1950, my Great-Grandfather John Cloyd died. The ground was muddy and it would have been difficult to make the trip to the Cloyd Cemetery. So my grandfather went in search of a closer place to bury his father. He went first to the Farris family who owned the farm next to him. They understood the predicament but told him that they wanted their cemetery to remain just a family plot. My grandfather said thank you and walked a little further to the next neighbor, the Reynolds family, who agreed to let our family bury in their family cemetery. I was not there but knowing my grandfather as I did I expect his response was something like “much obliged” accompanied with a promise to do “our part” in the upkeep and expenses of the cemetery. So on a cold November day our family made the procession from the family farm and home to the Reynolds Cemetery where we buried my Great-Grandfather. Come spring, in keeping with his promise, my grandfather bore the expense and labor of building a fence around the cemetery. Nearly three years later the family made the same trip for my Great-Grandmother Sally Cloyd. Then on Mother’s Day, 1957 my first cousin Vicky Lynn Cloyd, born just 3 months before me, died when I was but six weeks old. In June of 1964 my Uncle John Bowyer, who was married to my Grandfather’s sister Flo was buried in this place. The following year McKinley Cloyd my Grandfather’s half-brother was buried there. Then in June of 1967, Aunt Flo was laid to rest beside her husband. By this time the Cloyd family had carved out a section of the cemetery. It would be nineteen years before we took one of our loved ones to this place again. But on a cold February day in 1986 I gave the eulogy and led the procession as we buried my Grandfather, Charlie Cloyd. Sixteen years later, in 2002, I did the same for my Grandmother, Ada Cloyd. Six days shy of a year later I did it again for my Uncle Thurman. This week our family gathered at this place for the 10th time. This time we buried my cousin, John Charles Cloyd. That makes five generations of Cloyd’s that are buried in this plot of borrowed land. The stones around us witnessed the names of two others who will someday join them.

So for us the Reynold’s cemetery is hallowed ground. The name above the gate does not bear our name and it does not belong to us. But we have kept my grandfather’s bargain and we have done our part and thus lay claim to a corner of it.  It is precious soil. For now ten times we have disturbed this clay and laid the bodies of our loved ones in it and then closed up the earth again. The Cloyd family treasures this spot. Here we have grieved as our tears have watered this patch of earth.

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