|photo courtesy of clemsunivlibrary / flickr|
We’ve all been a little punch drunk over what happened in Santa Clara. It was a great game. And seeing the huge black Football player, Christian Wilkins with tears coursing down his cheeks said it all. And that was followed with the Parade back home and the almost filled-up stadium. It was a great time. And I’ve been thinking about that victory. And one of the wonderful things about that night was that some of those guys had never had many victories in their lives. Dirt poor. Raised by a single Mama or a Grandmother. Having so little—some of the guys experienced victory for the first time. And that ought to be celebrated.
But it nudged me to thinking—we all need a victory. Everyone of us. And you wouldn’t be here today unless somebody cheered you on and helped make it happen.
So I have been looking back over the years at some of those that helped me find a victory. They helped open the door and it never really closed after that. Somebody or a whole lot of somebodies said: You can do it. You can do it.
As a little boy I got down many days. And I was sitting at the kitchen table one morning moaning about just about everything. And the black woman that worked with us part-time came over said;”Mr. Roger quit crying. Just your wait! Just you wait! "I don’t know how many times she did that. But when I wrote the first book I ever wrote—I sent her a copy and inscribed it: “Nancy—you kept saying'Just you wait!" You were right.” When she died I spoke at her funeral in Hurstboro, Alabama. And I told that story to a sea of mostly black folk that day--Nancy was right, I told them, Just you wait! It is a word for us all.
Coming out of that cotton mill village, riding the school bus about ten miles to the country school—we had very little. And nobody in my family had ever gone to college—many didn’t finish high school. Like my parents they came out of the Depression where they had to leave school in the seventh or eighth grade and helped their families mostly on the farm. But there was a Journalism-Spanish teacher—short, fat and divorced—which didn’t happen much back then. But she took a shine to me and about the tenth grade she started saying “Have you thought about going to college?” Well…not much. But she kept nudging me until I started checking out schools and finally found one and went off to college. And it was a great experience when more doors opened than I knew were possible. And my Mama, working in the mill, sent me fifteen crumpled dollars every week to live on. And about once a month a homemade cake would come in the mail.
There was a women in our town named Birdie. Went to church with me. And when she was little she fell into a fire and was hopelessly scarred and her eyes especially were affected. She could hardly see. And she worked in a knitting mill. And she pulled me aside one day after church and said: “You’re going off to college and I want to help.” And she out of her little paycheck took money and helped pay for my tuition.
And in my first church 25 and green as a gourd—I was way out in the country—and the church was hard on preachers. At least it seemed that way. And I didn’t know if I could pull that off or not. And I’d go down the road—Alternate 54 in Philpot, Kentucky and sit on Mr. John ’s porch and pour out my frustrations. He’s sit there smoking his little pencil thin cigars and didn’t say much. And then he said: “I’ ve been around here for a long time and seen a lot of preachers come and go. We can be hard on you Reverends. But let me tell you something. You are doing a good job and you are gonna make it.” And it helped.
And at every juncture there was somebody or more than one somebodies who said: You gonna do it. You are gonna make
it. And I guess I did because I wouldn’t be standing here today without a whole lot of people that stood on my sidelines and cheered me on.
|photo courtesy of clemsonunivlibrary / flickr|
And as I watched the game the other night and watched tears streaming down Christian's face I thought to myself we all need a victory. And you wouldn’t be here today unless somebody out there whispered in your ear—you’re gonna make it. And if you have had any victories—and you have—it is because of all those folks that made it happen for you. Yep—everybody needs a victory. And I don’t talk about this to make myself look big and important. But I do it so that you will stir up your own memories and imaginations and know that without them you could never have made it.
Nobody is self-made. And those that think they are are not the kind of people we want to be around.
Somebody asked a social worker who worked with a lot of troubled down and out people. Hard job. And he’d done it for a long time—and didn’t make a lot of money. And one of his friends said: “Why do you keep doing this? It just seems impossible. Everybody you work with is so needy and their lives are so messed up. Why do you do this?" And the man said: "The only way I can get up and come to work is that I rejoice in the smallest of victories."
The smallest of victories. They are all around us. And if all we do is play this: “Ain’t it awful game” —and things are a mess. But if we open your eyes to the smallest of victories around us—and remember some of our own—it changes the whole picture.
So I guess our job is to just pass on what has happened to us. We all can be part of somebody else’s victory. I think about all those twisted terrible people that took a gun at Sandy Hook and Charleston and Las Vegas and all those other places. More than we just about count. But I think most of them fell through the cracks. Because they never had a single victory in all their lives. Mostly loners. Kept to themselves. Many from screwed-up families. I think some victories in their lives would have made a difference.
I know a lot of us are retired but that doesn’t mean we cannot reach out and help somebody else. There are a whole lot of people out there hanging on by their fingernails that need somebody to pat them on the back and say you can make it.
Little Clayton was going to have a birthday and his parents asked him what kind of a party he wanted. And he said: "Why don’t we let everybody dress up like Kings and queens." And his Mama said: “ How would that work?" "Well we’d get crepe paper and make some cloaks. And we’d get some sticks for scepters. And we’d get some paper and help everybody that comes make a crown. It’ll be great.” Well—that’s what happened. The kids came and they dressed up and they took their stick scepters and made their crowns and put them on. And after Clayton had opened all his presents and the lighted the candles on his cake—his Daddy said: “Now make a wish.” And he did. And then they decided to have a parade and they marched up and down the streets dressed like kings and queens.
That night before Clayton went to sleep his Mother came in and said: “It was a great party.” And Clayton smiled. And his Mama said: “You made a wish when you blew out your candles—want to tell me what you wished?” And he said, “I wished that everybody in the whole wide world could be a king or a queen.”
|photo by Tyler Howell / flickr|
(I made these remarks at the Sertoma Club in Central, SC, November 14.)
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com