By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
January 2, 2002
Cleaning out the shoebox
It is an exercise I go through every year about this time. I call it cleaning out the shoebox.
The shoebox can be anything: a room, a desk, a drawer, a file folder. Maybe even a life.
The idea is go back over the year just past and do some culling.
For the most part, my culling involves notes scattered throughout the house. I write things down compulsively: ideas, quotes, feelings, vibrations, signs, gems of wisdom anything that strikes my fancy.
I jot them down wherever and whenever they pop up. I wake up in the middle of the night and jot something down on the pad on the bedside table.
More often than not, I think, Now this is something Ill put in a column someday . . . or in the book Ive been working on for five decades.
Again this year, as happens every year, I have no idea what some of the notes mean and I wonder why I saved them. Consequently, most of them eight or nine of every ten go in the trash can, and one or two stay in the box for further consideration.
Of the multitude of thoughts I committed to paper in 2001, one stands out above all the rest. The event leading up to its inclusion in the box what it meant to me then and what it means to me now will influence me the rest of my life.
I made the one-word entry in a small 3x5-inch notebook I carry in my back pocket while on my morning walks. I remember the date and place well. It was September 11, 2001, at 1755 Morton Road in east Clarke County.
I dont know who lives there. I think hes a policeman. I see him, in uniform, riding a motorcycle occasionally.
What he was doing on 9/11 was standing on the bed of his pickup truck, hoisting a huge American flag high above the fence post at the corner of his lot.
I caught his eye as I walked by, said thank you, and, without thinking, saluted. It was an impulsive thing. And in an instant, 60 years of my past life flashed before me.
I was 18 years old, walking down Granby Street in Norfolk, Va., looking forward to my favorite dinner (lunch) meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and English peas at the Elite Café. I was planning to catch a movie that afternoon. I never made it to the café or the theater.
Jeeps loaded with military policemen and shore patrolmen appeared out of nowhere. On their bullhorns they commanded servicemen to return to their bases immediately.
Back at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, I learned what the commotion was all about. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
It was Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, and this 18-year-old high school dropout from McLemoresville, Tenn., population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens, had never heard of Pearl Harbor and had no idea where it was.
I remember what I did next as if it were yesterday. I sat down on my bunk and wrote my Mama a letter. Dont worry, I said. The war will be over in six months.
That was further evidence of how smart I was 60 years ago.
Every day I walk by the flag at 1755 Morton Road. And every day coming and going I salute it. And every time I salute it, there is the flashback to another time and another war, when a young sailor saluted his flag out of duty and patriotism. Then a healthy, energetic, gung-ho boy hankering for a fight. Now an old man whose shoulder hurts every time he salutes.
He continues his morning walks. And each morning he cleans out the shoebox. But now the box includes stuff not just one year old but six decades old. And most of its good.
Its not so much what he put in the box, but what family, friends, neighbors and strangers contributed.
He walks by that flag, salutes, and flashes back to December 7, 1941. He looks in the shoebox of his soul, and one by one counts the blessings a great nation and its people have bestowed upon him.
An opportunity to serve. A chance to go to college and get a good education. Work in both the private and public sectors, and ability to see the contributions each makes to the whole: the private sector paying the taxes, the public sector educating its children; industry producing the goods, government building the roads to deliver the goods.
An opportunity to vote and freedom to speak. Great places to work and play. Churches and institutions for endless worship and study. The oceans, the mountains, the plains. Big cities and small towns. Friendly neighborhoods where the elderly die in peace and the young grow in wisdom because they knew the elderly. A place to watch children and grandchildren grow up.
Youve probably guessed by now the one word I wrote in that little notebook 114 days ago. Im reminded every day of why I included it in the 2001 box. It means more to me today than when I first pledged allegiance to it a long, long time ago. And I am more thankful for the Nation for which it stands.
God bless America!
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
January 2, 2002
Time to return to being Southern
One thing I have noticed during my years at the University of Georgia is the desire of Atlantan suburbanites to transform themselves into Southern good ole boys once they get to Athens.
They drive jacked-up Chevys, wear their never seen mud work boots and dress in unused camo and Carhart work pants. Truth is, most of those guys have never seen more than three trees in one place at a time, and their idea of fishing or hunting is a guided tour somewhere in Minnesota.
But they think that dressing differently and trying to put on a Southern twang makes them a good ole boy. Fact is, theyre missing the point.
Being Southern isnt how you dress or what you drive. It isnt about hunting or really even fishing. Being Southern is a state of mindits an attitude.
Being Southern is holding the door open for ladies, and even the guys that follow them. Being Southern is knowing your neighbor by first name and respecting your mother and father.
Being Southern is a firm handshake, a warm smile on Sunday morning and a simple thank you, youre welcome and yes maam. Being Southern is having honor, integrity and respect, and giving out the same to others.
But somewhere in our world here in the South, many of us, myself included, have forgotten this.
Instead of holding the door open, Ive seen young guys knock old ladies out of the way to get into a warm restaurant. Instead of thanking someone for refilling our glass or bringing food to the table, we yell at them for making a minor mistake.
We talk loudly on our cell phones during meals at restaurants, and we honk and flip off other drivers when we cut them off in traffic.
Rare are the times when cashiers in stores treat customers like they want them to return to the store to shop. And rare are the times when customers treat cashiers with respect and compassion.
Rare are the moments when we smile or give a friendly nod at the person on the aisle in the grocery store. And rare are the moments when we expect to get a smile or a nod.
How many times have you seen people rush onto an elevator before everyone gets off?
How many times have you or I stopped to help a family change a tire on the side of the road in the cold?
When was the last time we visited our neighbors or said good morning to a stranger or helped someone carry their bags?
Being Southern has somehow gotten lost amongst the country music, blue jeans, boots and pickup trucks. But those things mean nothing when we forget the one thing that makes us Southernersour attitude.
And as we start a new year with a new evaluation of where we stand as a country, its time for us in the South to return to the hospitality that made us famous in the first place.
So while we make our resolutions, we all should resolve to be nicer, friendlier and more Southern in the coming year. Because the only thing that really matters anyway is how we treat one another.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. His email address is email@example.com.