The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
“When Three Strangers Met”
By Julie Terry Cartner
Recently I went to a small pottery demonstration in downtown Mocksville. I had no expectations other than to watch skilled artisans create their crafts. Being, by nature, a quiet person, I went silently in the room where they were working and sat down to watch. Looking back, I don’t even know how the conversation started. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened next. Three total strangers, three people who had no reason to meet, did meet and for the next couple of hours became sisters of a sort.
We were talking about Lewisville, and I mentioned that one of my son’s nurses, one of our favorites, lived in Lewisville. They then asked why he had a nurse, and I explained that my youngest child was born four months prematurely, and he was in the neonatal intensive care unit of Forsyth Hospital for about three months. As a result of his prematurity, he has cerebral palsy, and he’s visually impaired.
They, of course, asked how he was doing now, and I was proud to tell them that he’s 24 years old, he recently graduated from law school, and he passed the Bar. However, because of his disabilities, he is often treated like he’s mentally handicapped which is frustrating and hurtful to him as well as those of us who love him. One time we were at a bakery and a total stranger came up to me, right in front of him and asked, “What’s wrong with him? Is he retarded?” I can still remember the look on my son’s face. Our day was shadowed by the hurtful words.
Not meaning to have gone that far in my conversation, I was surprised when one of the other ladies told me she totally understood and had the same kind of problems with people being misinformed and hurtful. Her daughter has spinal bifida. We shared stories of experiences, successes and failures. We laughed and cried together. Nothing gets to me more than knowing my children are hurting or being treated unfairly, and this lady totally understood.
Then the third woman spoke up. She and her husband moved here from another state. Shortly after they arrived, they were in a serious car accident, leaving him in a wheelchair. She told us that ever since he’s been in a wheelchair, people treat him differently, talking louder, slowly enunciating words, and overall, just treating him like he’s mentally incompetent. The three of us commiserated on the frustration of seeing our loved ones treated this way.
I went to the pottery exhibit, to be honest, in a melancholy mood. We’ve had a rough year with loss and grief, and mostly, I just wanted to watch something beautiful and get out of my own head for a while. I really had no other expectations. I got all that, but so much more. I don’t know these ladies’ names. I will probably never see them again. But for that moment of time, we became sisters. Much needed not be explained because we had all felt the anger, the frustration, and the grief when our loved ones were treated unkindly. We had all lived through this multiple times, and we all knew it would happen again. But for those few moments we were in complete accord. For those few minutes we bonded with kindred spirits. For those few minutes we were not alone.
I truly believe we were put on this earth to be caretakers for others. And for those moments we were each others’ caretakers, and it made a huge difference in my day, hopefully also in theirs. We should live our lives that way. When we meet strangers, we have no idea what heartaches they are struggling with. We have no idea what’s been going on in their lives. So, as we go through this holiday season and throughout the coming year, let’s put a greater emphasis on being kind. That’s what matters. Be kind.
“Love of Reading”
By Gaye Hoots
Reading fascinated me from the time I learned my ABCs. I remember sitting in Carolyn Hartman’s first grade class when the second grade students began spelling lessons. I tried to spell the words myself and attentively listened as she read stories to us. One of the sad stories she read was, “The Little Match Girl.”
We went through the “Dick and Jane” books quickly, and reading was the love of my life. When I finished the eighth grade, I had read most of the books in the library there, supplemented by the books from the bookmobile. Our minister’s daughter loaned me her collection of Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and Hardy Boys books.
Reading also caused some conflicts with my mother. She insisted my lights go out early on school nights. I often read with a flashlight until the wee hours. I could feel this the next morning because I had to get up early enough to milk our Jersey cow before school. Once Mother told me she was going out to work in the garden and told me to watch a large pot of pinto beans she had on the stove. She told me to add water as needed to keep the beans from scorching.
“You had better not bury your head in that book and forget my beans,” was her parting remark. I pulled a stool over to the stove and continued reading with my nose a few inches from the pot of beans. The next thing I remember was Mother coming through the door yelling that she had smelled the beans burning all the way out in the garden. There I sat with my book and the smoke curling past my nose oblivious to the problem.
When my children were born, I read to them from infancy until they learned to read themselves. They were born before the controversy referred to as The Cinderella Complex became a news item. One view was that the stories influenced young girls to expect a handsome prince to marry them and provide all the luxuries of life for them.
I was ahead of the curve on this one. When a story ended with, “The handsome prince carried her off to his castle where they lived happily ever after,” I improvised with, “The prince carried her off to his cold, dark, drafty castle where she had to scrub the floors, wash his clothes, cook his meals, and bear his children.” They believed this version until Cami started school and heard the story from someone else.
The stories I grew up with were the ones my grandfather and Daddy told me. They told stories about bears, dogs, hunting stories, and funny stories about the human condition. It was unusual to meet anyone from another country or culture when I was young. Books were my ticket around the world, and I immersed myself in them.
My father was a storyteller, and I never grew tired of his stories. I enjoyed them regardless of how many times I had heard them. He enjoyed telling them, and they gave glimpses of his childhood and his life views. His stories shaped my life. They reflected his enjoyment of life, and his ability to laugh and find humor in situations that would leave others sad or angry.
Everyone has a life story, and there is something to be learned from everyone. Different experiences, different cultures, and different traditions shape each life, but basic human needs are the same. Each culture values family, most have a valued religion. Conflicts in most cultures are settled by force. During wars, both sides have families they love and who love them and are praying for their safe return. Often both sides are praying to the same God.
I enjoy reading about the varied loves, losses, triumphs, and experiences of others. I learn from reading, but most of all I enjoy thousands of experiences I would miss otherwise.
“Measure of a Man”
By Shari Keller
I sit nestled with a soft blanket in the uncomfortable recliner as I make a concerted effort to write the anticipated obituary. Finishing the list of who’s who and accomplishments over 90-plus years, my thoughts are interrupted by his breathing, steadier now, far from the laborious efforts three nights ago.
As I look at the frail body of my Daddy, I ponder on what really makes a man. All the achievements, accolades, accomplishments and diplomas pale in comparison to the person he really was, and still is. A simple, humble man, he put God first in his life, loved his family dearly and always went out of his way to do for someone less fortunate. Living a life based on faith and trusting in the Lord at each turn of the road, he set the standard, sharing endless wisdom and exemplifying what unselfish love truly means. With a tender heart, a desire to rescue lost souls, befriend someone or care for injured animals, he always led by example.
The true measure of a man is not made by where he came from, not what he accomplished, but the memory he engraved on the hearts of those he loved, and those whose lives he touched. An immeasurable legacy defined by exemplifying humility, selflessness, love and nurturing, built on the foundation of loving Jesus Christ, sharing that love and watching it grow through countless generations, is truly the mark of a great man.
My heart always went out to those who lost loved ones at Christmastime. I could not imagine the sadness, the loneliness in a home once filled with joy and laughter silenced by a formidable empty space. Now I envision my own family, my mother, my children, my grandchildren, and the undeniable elephant in the room. How do you take such gut wrenching loss amidst the most festive time of the year with holiday cheer everywhere you look? Jingling bells become fingernails on a chalkboard, and once desired aromas become noxious to the senses. Familiar carols become painful reminders of happier times.
I look at my father, peacefully unaware of the machines, beeps, flashing lights, and the diligent nurses. They quietly appear, responding immediately to each warning sign, tenderly lifting and repositioning him for comfort as if caring for a newborn. It is then I remember finding a note Daddy had once written, When I die do not make the service about me – make it about JESUS!
My father is a Great Man, one called to be a messenger of The Greatest Story Ever Told. What position or responsibility could be any greater? Spanning almost a century, his life’s work is complete. The true measure of a man can only be determined by what is in his heart. I am comforted in knowing Jesus Christ resides within my father’s heart and Daddy will soon be welcomed into His loving arms.
I move to the chair adjacent to the hospital bed and drape my arm across his chest, lying my head on the pillow next to his. Silent Night is playing softly in the hallway, lulling me to sleep, and as his heartbeat seals itself in my memory I softly whisper, “Thank you, Daddy.”
Author’s note: Two years have passed since that silent night. Contrary to the doctor’s diagnosis and Daddy’s failing condition, it was not in God’s time to call him home. He continues to share the Word with anyone he meets, and I am confident that the Lord will not call him until his earthly work is done. Thank you, Jesus.
By Marie Craig
About thirty years ago, I was shopping in K-Mart in Columbia, S.C., when I noticed a mannerism from another customer that I thought was alarming. I don’t usually go around judging people’s behavior, but this one man was puzzling to me. I said to myself, “Marie, look the other way. Don’t make a scene. Ignore him.” But I found myself playing detective as I ambled through the big store, shopping near him.
As I was glancing around, I would spy him stuffing something into his sock. He was wearing sweatpants on that cool day and a sweatshirt. I was so sure he was stealing and hiding merchandise in his sock that I began to wonder if I should say something to an employee or ask to see the manager. It became an obsession with me and made me angry and disappointed that this man would literally and figuratively stoop so low.
I finally decided that he knew I was watching him, and he was timing these episodes while I was looking the other way. I wanted to be sure, but felt personally involved that I would be aiding and abetting if I didn’t report him.
I was very torn about what to do and then was so very relieved that I’d not notified someone about his supposed misdeeds. In full view of me he leaned over, pulled his handkerchief out of his sock and blew his nose because he had a cold and no pockets.
I’ve tried to totally ignore other customers since then.
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