The parson took a deep breath, following the washing of the dishes after the completion of the gourmet dinner he’d prepared (he’d provide the recipe but it would make too many jealous), then he moved into his study, powered up the computer, clicked on PBS, and then selected “American Masters: Billie Jean King.”
The program brought memories of how the parson’s life changed the day after Christmas in 1967, when his daughter arrived. Three years later, Billie Jean King convinced nine of the top professional women tennis players to organize the Women’s Professional Tennis Association. Nine of the top players - Billie Jean King Rosemary “Rosie” Casals, Kristy Pigson, Jane “Peaches” Bartkowicz, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Kerry Melville, Julie Heldman, Nancy Richey, and Judy Dalton - withdrew from the existing professional tennis organization in protest against male player making ten to twenty times as much money in the same events.
Two years later, when the parson’s daughter was five, the United States Congress passed Title IX, which provided for the inclusion of women’s sports in educational institutions.
In 1973, when the parson’s daughter was six, Billie Jean King kicked Bobby Rigg’s ass.
You’d think acceptance of women in sports would by this point become a foregone conclusion.
But change in sports comes almost as slow as accepting women int he pulpit. In the 1982, because there was no female soccer team at the parson’s daughter’s high school, she tried out for the boy’s team. On the last day of the tryouts, the coach cut her. At a team meeting of the returning players from the previous year, some of the male players said to the coach, “But, coach, she was better than the ones you accepted.” The coach replied, “Yeah, but she’s a girl.”
Two days later, the parson was in the office of the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, not a good friend but an acquaintance of the parson. The parson said, “Okay, Herman, hear me out on this. First, I’ll give you a two statements. And then I’ll ask you two questions. the first statement is this: “Coach Jefferson cut my daughter from playing on the soccer team. The second statement is: When the returning players protested she was better than those not cut, he answered in front of eighteen witnesses, ‘Yeah, but she’s a girl.’ Now, Herman, here are the two questions. The first is this: Have you heard about Title IX? The second is this: Do you want to talk to me or my lawyer?”
Two weeks later girls’ soccer was institute in the system the parson’s daughter was a student. Looking back on it, the parson considers it one of his better moments.
I'm tired. I have to tell you, I don't like it particularly when
someone reminds me of my age. I like it even less when my own body
reminds me of my advanced age. I write this on Saturday night, before
Father's Day; and I've just been reminded by myself of my age. Like I
said, I'm tired.
tiredness results from a bit more than usual exercise. I cut the
grass today. I seem to cut the grass every Saturday. It harkens by to
my father. He insisted the grass be cut on Saturday. That way the
yard looked good when people viewed it as they were participating in
their Sunday drive. Back then, in the last century, families went for
a Sunday drive. I never saw anyone drive past our house because we
were on our own family Sunday drive.
cut the grass Saturday like I did back then. Folks don't take Sunday
drives anymore, but my yard will look good if the custom comes back.
And then I cut my hospitalized neighbor's yard.
to thinking about that grass cutting as I remembered my Dad this past
weekend. Considering the grass I had to cut to receive my allowance,
I was well below minimum wage even before there was a minimum wage.
You see, Dad wasn't content with me cutting the grass at our house.
There were other places that needed my talent. Back then, there were
the neighborhood garden clubs. I'm not sure exactly what the purpose
of the garden clubs was, but one of them was maintaining a little
patch of ground on the right-of-way to the entrance to our
subdivision. Dad told them I'd be glad to cut it.
pretty good at it, I guess. I attracted the attention of some folks
in the neighborhood who did have kids they could pay a paltry wage to
cut the grass. Some of them asked me if I'd cut their grass also. I
agreed, for five dollars a yard. There was no negotiation. I cut the
grass; I did not trim; I did not rake, anything beyond simple cutting
of the lawn was extra. Over the years my I cut a lot of grass because
by my senior year of high school I was cutting twenty yards. I
remember it fondly: twenty yards at five dollars a yard came to a
hundred dollars a week. Not bad for a kid, and much more than my
every time one of those lawn maintenance trucks goes by I wonder if I
made a mistake going to college and seminary.
was that one time when I cut someone's grass for free. Daddy
mentioned that Mrs. Hardicourt, an old maid who lived a block up the
street, was in the hospital. He said she would be coming home on
Monday. After cutting the garden club's project, I headed to her
house and mowed her lawn. I was quite pleased with myself. A good
deed had been done.
evening Mrs. Hardicourt called. She told me she heard I had cut her
grass. I told her it was my pleasure. She then told me that a lawn
wasn't properly taken care of unless the weeds in the flowerbeds
pulled up. She told me whenever I cut her grass I needed to weed the
3:00 p.m. EDT, today, Diana Butler Bass and New York Times columnist
Ross Douthat will participate in a conversation about the “Future
of Faith.” The conversation is hosted by Yale Divinity School.
Bass' book, Christianity After Religion, addresses
the fact of religion, and particularly Christianity being reshaped by
today's changing world. She also suggests that religious life has
been greatly influenced by the Franciscan revolution, the Protestant
Reformation, the Wesleyan revival and the three Great Awakenings of
North America, and that we may be at the dawn of a new awakening.
Dr. Bass' blog on Huggington Post)
can watch the conversation live on Livestream.
epistle needs a qualification. That qualification is that the event
mentioned in the following paragraphs did not occur here where I
live. The event took place many, many miles from my abode. As a
consequence no one in my community needs to get in an uproar. I'm not
talking about you. Well, maybe ….
said the above and before I get to the below, I readily admit I am a
fossil. I am the product of an age that does not exist anymore.
Thanks to the advances of medical science in the latter part of the
twentieth century, there are more and more of us around. We are
readily identifiable. For instance, we hold the doors open for
ladies. None of us are unaware that ladies are capable of opening
doors, but, nevertheless, we hold doors open for ladies because they
are ladies. We can also be identified by our propensity to remove
our hats when entering a building. I have not the foggiest idea why
we do this, but we do it. Gentleman, Mama told me, don't wear hats
inside. It's called manners.
quaint mannerisms identify us. We always say, “Yes, Ma'am,” and
“Yes, Sir.” It's manners. We never put our elbows on the table
during a meal. We pull out the chair for women who are joining us at
the table. There are certain events at which we think it proper to
wear a proper coat, and, occasionally, a tie. Like I said, I'm a
fossil. I was raised on manners.
insist there are certain vestiages of the age in which I was raised
society would be well-served to hold onto. That brings me to my
a talent show for students at a middle school. It was a really big
middle school. One grade probably outnumbers the entire population of
a local middle school in my home county. That means, if you're going to
be fair to all the students, the talent show is going to take hours.
begins my remarks on a quality that seems to have been lost somewhere
in the abyss that exists between my generation and the one raising my grandchildren. To wit:
the school provides a designated space for recording videos, one does
not stand up when one is on the second row from the front to record,
thereby blocking the view of several hundred. It's called manners. Be
it known I don't drive eighty-five miles one way to hear two long sets of a
hard rock band composed of teachers at a middle school student talent show.
It's called manners. When one's own child is a performer in the
talent show and one's own child has just completed their talent, has
taken their bow, and the next child has just begun their rendition of
the latest pop song, one does not begin to exit from the middle of
the aisle, exclaiming loudly as one foot after another is stepped
upon, “Excuse me. Excuse me.” It's called manners.
the performance of any middle school child. one, who is
chronologically an adult, does not answer one's cell phone and loudly
discuss the latest acquisition of the company while my granddaughter
is singing. It's called manners.
finally, when one answers his cell phone while my granddaughter is
singing, I do not confront him face-to-face. I talk about him behind
his back, as is the case with this blog. It's called manners.
am not sure when this revelation of truth came to me. Perhaps it was in
a dream; perhaps in a sudden revelation as I gazed upon the eternal
vastness of the night sky; perhaps it was following some esoteric moment
of revelation. Who knows; whatever the source the truth came tumbling
down like the avalanche of incessant truth that here and there intrudes
upon our collective consciousness. Whatever the source it came to me; it
came to me in a flash of light; it came to me with the quickened
process of revelation. I cannot deny it and neither can you.
speak, of course, of that commonality which you and I, dear reader,
possess. That strand of humanity that binds us together as brothers and
sisters in the ever-evolving process of development as humankind., I
speak, well, you know, dear reader of which I speak. I speak of our
shared ability, our shared propensity for hedging the truth. Take note
of that phrase, please: “Hedging the truth.” It is a synonym for lying.
And we both(Don't even attempt to deny it.) are complicit in the
deception. You and I, both, are consummate liars.
Herewith I present my evidence of your, and my, guilt:
phone echoes in the recesses of your mind. It takes a moment for you to
ascertain what is happening. With a determined effort you pry open the
lids of your eyes. The glow of the clock registers in an eerie glow,
penetrating the darkness of your bedroom, six in the morning. You answer
“Hi, this is your friend. Did I wake you?”
dear reader, I need go no further. Everyone in your acquaintance knows
that the sound of that phone waked you. But what do you say?
“No, I've been up for a while. What's up?”
a lie, my friend. You lied. You had not been up. Why didn't you just
tell your friend to stop calling as such ungodly hours?
know. You're going to tell me it's just a “little white lie.” True
enough; I'll grant you that. Nevertheless, I feel I must ask you as I
ask myself, why do we feel this compulsive need to tell folks they have
not inconvenienced us when they have?
Here's another example.
this if Francis. Hey, look, I know it's an inconvenience, but do you
think you could give Cousin Franklin a ride to the doctor next Thursday.
It would be a really big favor.”
at this point several things run through your mind. The first thing is
how much of a grouch Cousin Franklin is. The second thing is that
Francis' kids are all grown and have left home. The third thing is
Francis doesn't have a job and sits at home all day long. But you don't
mention those things; do you? You don't suggest that Francis get up from
watching General Hospital and take Franklin to the doctor herself. You
say, “Well, I suppose I could.”
Thanks for being a Samaritan; but you lied.
can probably think of a hundred more times you stretched the truth. But
I know the most consistent stretching of the truth you practice. It's
on Sunday morning. You know when. You walk out of the church and say
with a straight face, “I really enjoyed the sermon, Pastor.”
Not long ago I found myself in Banner Elk, North Carolina. It's a ski resort and the home of Lees McRae College, a school affiliated with the Presbyterian USA church. I've got to tell you, I don't know how those kids study being surrounded as they are by all the natural beauty of that mountain getaway.
While there I stopped, as any person seeking to fully experience the local customs would, at the Mast General Store. They should have a sign out front reading, “If we don't have it you don't need it.” What a place. It's like stepping back a century. Oh my glory, did I say stepping back a century? It's like stepping back into my childhood and Cheek's Store up the street from my house.
I was familiar with the location of every item in Cheek's Store. I was familiar because at least four times a week my mother would make me walk to the store to pick up some kitchen supplies for her. I'll never forget the day she sent me to get some corn meal. Mr. Pounds, the owner and my Sunday School teacher, sold me the corn meal. I took it home, handed it to my mother. It wasn't ten minutes before she called me and told me to take it back to show him the worm crawling around in the bag. I did. He told me to take it home and tell my mother he didn't charge her for the worm. I did. My mother told me to watch my brother and headed to the store herself.
You know, near the corner of LaVista and Oak Grove Roads was a good place to grow up. Gracious, when you consider that the walk to Cheek's Store passed beside Mr. Davis' orchards of fruits tempting a young boy known for sneaking out of the house late at night, it was a lot like a Biblical garden.
Bob Middlebrooks had a garage across the street from Cheek's Store. Bob couldn't read or write. But if it was broken and it was an internal combustion engine or if it was a car whose body needed fixing Bob Middlebrooks could handle it. I'll never forget that day I told my little brother he could back the car out of the carport. He did a great job except for the fact the driver's door he was holding open met the support pole of the carport and was jammed so hard it wouldn't close.
My brother panicked. I didn't. I calmly drove the car, open door and all, up to Bob Middlebrooks. I told him, without telling a lie, “Mr. Middlebrooks, my dad needs to get this door fixed.” Pretty good choice of wording; don't you think? Bob Middlebrooks walked back into his garage. He returned with a rubber headed mallet. He placed the head between the door and the frame of the car. He then slammed the door as hard as he could, popping it back into place.
I nodded my head in amazement, wondering why I didn't think of that. “How much does my Daddy owe you?” I asked him. “Not one red cent,” he said. “But you owe me five dollars to keep my mouth shut.” It was the best five dollars I ever spent.
Well, sorry to wax so nostalgic, but the world lost a lot when it lost that little country store and neighborhood garage.
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