I love learning that I’ve been wrong; no, I mean that. And this is new for me. Used to be, my fences, and defenses, were strong and tall. I have never been a debater so, often times, people never knew that I disagreed with them; I would just not agree, kept my piece, and turned a deaf ear to opinions that differed from my own.
At about the same time that I lost everything last year, I also lost those tall, strong fences. I am not only able to receive information that I filtered or blocked before, I am also able to change my mind about stuff…particularly stuff about people and events in history.
I am old and at an age where I should know all about the events and people contained under the umbrella and shadow of the 60’s and 70’s. I was there…but, because of how I was raised, I assimilated the views of my parents. I was raised to believe and accept what they said was truth; I did not start formulating opinions of my own until I had children of my own and had to deal with life as it was dealt to me. For example, mine was the first divorce in my family. For those who don’t know…that is huge. Divorce was “not done” in my family but I was not in a position to prevent it. My life has been unlike that of anyone else in my family. No one before had retired on disability…and certainly not because of mental health. To my knowledge, I was the first to go public with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
My children are now grown, my disorder all but healed. On top of that, I love how my children will enlighten me as to my own culture…facts, events, personalities, music, writing,…that are new to me now but were prominent and influential (to everyone but me) during my teens and twenties. Yes, I admit, I have been clueless. This past weekend, in fact, my daughter played episodes of a documentary about the 60’s that revealed a great deal that I knew nothing about. She skipped over parts that she knew would be too upsetting to me…bless her heart.
This morning, I learned aspects of the personality, character, words, and actions of Muhammad Ali that I never knew about before. (To give you a clue, he was referred to as Cassius Clay, in our house.) Ali was…is…the proclaimed “greatest hero” of the priest at St. George’s and I now have a profound and welcomed attitude adjustment toward Ali. I won’t elaborate on what the priest said, unless you ask me to, because I am sure you can read about all sides of the story and legend, yourself.
I would like to express, however, my gratitude for the priest’s viewpoint, for several reasons: 1) I did not know the whole story and in today’s world, as it was in the 60’s and 70’s, it is advisable that I have at least a cursory awareness of all sides of an issue before I speak out and voice an opinion. 2) No, “1” is enough; “1” says it all.
I want to add, however, that I loved…love…my father; I have mentioned him several times in my writing. He was a good man…very patriotic (I get my habit of standing during the National Anthem from him, as well as my tendency to cry when I sing it. He and I also cried at the end of every episode of Lassie.) My father had his prejudices but he was very generous at the same time: he allowed poor people, particularly the elderly, to buy plumbing supplies and fixtures on ‘credit’ when no one else would. (I recall one tiny black woman who would come into the sales office every month to pay a dollar or just 50 cents toward her account. My father would accept the payment graciously as if she were paying off all of his own debts.) He was honest and a gentleman…and he loved politics. He was an elder in our church and was a northerner who adopted the southern way of behaving. (We were not allowed to curse, use slang, or take the Lord’s name in vain….much less use any of those other words.)
The priest at St. George’s emphasized something else this morning…well worth passing along: God can and often does speak through people that I would not expect to be a spokesperson for God. Ali was one such person. The homeless, the grieving, the drug-addict, the affluent, the prison inmate, the men fishing from the pier,…any one of these people could be speaking wisdom from God. It is my intention, therefore, to keep my fences down and my ears open for bits of wisdom and guidance from God through the words of others….both likely and unlikely.
Thanks be to God and to God be the Glory.
(Yes, you’ve seen that picture before. I took the photo myself and used it for a very early post: “Do Fences Really Make Good Neighbors?“)