Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Words and what they can do, has been described and discussed throughout history. Used correctly they remove the gap between the effluent and pauper. Mark Twain once stated, "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." But the power of words was demonstrated to me in this way. As the preschoolers lined up to board the bus I did a quick survey of the little ones. A small girl with bouncy little pig tails and a sweet little smile stepped forward to explain to me why one of her class mates had gone home and would not be riding the bus. "Mr. Brandon," she said with a serious look " he had to go home he had diary." I guess he was moved by the word.
Friday, November 7, 2014
The bus made several slow turns down into the river bottom. During the night it had rained washing everything clean. Now the rising sun was glistening off the gold of the hickory trees, the reds of the maples, and the yellows and browns of the oaks. Turning I followed the edge of the river, off to the right deer were browsing in a corn field that had been harvested. Squirrels scampered across the road as they collected the bountiful harvest. God through nature had painted an autumn picture that not even the most talented artist could attempt. Ignoring the racket behind me I thought, “How could this morning be any better?” As if in answer to my thoughts a young lady handed me a rectangular piece of paper that had writing on it. She said it was a 99,000 dollar bill and she wanted me to have it. Icing on the cake. Retirement just moved a little closer.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Friday morning after the bus route my wife and I headed for Arkansas. The state where there is a razorback on every other building and unlike many states where there are in state rivalries, in Arkansas they all holler, “Soooooooeeeeeee Pig”. After crossing the mighty Mississippi at Memphis you make your way down through rice country where it is wide open and flat, and the fields are plowed with tractors that look big enough to pull a house from its foundation. Small share cropper shacks from a time past still line the roads as you make your way through little farming communities like Forrest City, Wynne, Parkin, and Bald Knob. As you leave the rice country, the landscape becomes rolling hills and you come to a very ordinary, unassuming town called Searcy. Though it may not mean anything to most of the people that I associate with each day, this was our destination. And on this weekend, it was the destination of many just like us. In this small Arkansas town in the foothills of the Ozarks lies Harding University, our alma mater, and it was homecoming weekend. I know Universities all over the country have homecoming weekends every year, yet for a little over seventy people of two social clubs, it was a reuniting after thirty plus years of being apart. We made the turn that comes into the north part of town to be greeted by store after store that were unfamiliar, with restaurants that can be found in any big city. Where was the five for a dollar burger joint? We did see the place where my wife and I used to buy groceries but it had a new name and it was weathered by time. We both instantly said, “Do you remember the Coke war?” It was a time when the store decided to sell as many Cokes as they could and you could return the bottles for the deposit and get more back then what you paid for them. Not recognizing much, we decided to turn and make our way down to where we had lived in our very first apartment. At the time, they were called the “Old married students apartments”, not that the students were old, but it’s that the apartments were old. As we slowed to take a look where we had started our home there was nothing to see, it was now over flow parking for the football stadium. We then made our way to the campus. We knew where to find that….unlike over thirty years ago when I followed a car with a Harding College bumper sticker hoping they would drive past the campus. We parked and made our way onto campus. I did the man thing and reassured my wife that I knew exactly where we were. After many turns and unfamiliar buildings I finally admitted defeat and said, “I don’t have a clue where we are. I just hope we can find the truck again.” We found the book store, which in days past held only academic supplies and four different college t-shirts. It was now called the “HUB” with shelves full of mugs, banners, a section of computers, and enough sporting apparel to outfit any pro sports team. In the student center there was a coffee shop for the fashionable university students, who didn’t look old enough to be here, to set and pass the time drinking coffees that I can’t pronounce. Where were the wobbly old tables at the snack bar, and what had become of the dusty old bison head that had graced the front wall? We then made our way to what we were sure would be unchanged. We were not disappointed. Opening before us was the lawn of the main campus in front of the administration building. There stood the tall oaks that had been there before the university itself. Scattered across the lawn were the familiar Harding swings, a great place to pass the time, talk to a friend and sometimes where friendships became something even more. We stopped two young girls who were busy on their phones and ask them if they would take a picture of us together in a swing that we had our picture taken in long ago. We spent the afternoon talking of old memories and looking at all the new. When the time finally came for us get together with those who were there for the same purpose, there was a sense of trepidation. We were headed to the President’s and his wife’s house for supper. The President of the University and his wife are a wonderful Godly couple but we felt an extra sense of pride, for they were also one of us, class mates and club mates. We had shared ball games, classes, campaigns, picnics and prayers together. The First Lady of the University actually cut my hair a few times while I set on a stump on the front lawn of the University. As the people started to arrive small groups huddled together and said, “Who is that and who is that?” Time had not only changed the looks of the campus but of us also. Then the strangest thing happened. When they smiled and you looked into their eyes and heard familiar voices, the years passed away and the room was soon filled with nineteen and twenty year olds that were just coming from a ball game or class or planning some trip for the weekend. People were called by nicknames that they had not heard in years. Silly songs were sung that mean nothing to anyone but us. There was talk of those who were not able to be with us and there was talk of those who have gone before us and wait for us in eternity. We had left school many years ago started filling our homes with little feet and now here we were, our homes empty again, except for the occasional sound of our grandchildren’s feet. We were starting careers and now were talking of retirement. A whole lifetime had passed since we had seen each other and we were talking as if we had never been separated. For several hours there was no gray hair, or lack of hair. The extra pounds were gone. Joints didn’t hurt and we were young and ready to conquer the world again. As we held hands and prayed together, before we left, there was no such thing as separation or time. This morning I held my back as I got out of bed. My knees and ankles popped as I started to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror, the gray hair and pounds had returned. But I think at least for a while, there will be just a little more youth in my steps, if only in my mind, thanks to my dear friends that are a part of me no matter the length of time or distance measured in miles. For there is something that holds us together that is more than the bricks and mortar of an institution. It’s a spirit, a feeling that is far beyond words. A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24