More Jackson County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 8, 2004


Column

By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
September 8, 2004

Looking for courage in a shoebox
Those skinny-as-a-rail fashion models I was talking about last week are also very young.
I suggested we take the scanty unmentionables (skimpy panties, bikini swimsuits, lacy bras, see-through sleepwear, etc.) off the models and put them on fat folks. I said this might be a way to motivate fat folks to slim down. It would not be a pretty picture, but it would be effective.
And it would be fair. If two-thirds of us are fat, two-thirds of the fashion models should be fat. It is time the fashion folks and their advertisers stop discriminating against us.
Today, I am taking our slim down motivation to a higher level. I thank the skinny-as-a-rail, very young models for the idea. We not only are going to put their unmentionables on fat folks, we are going to put them on fat folks who are old.
And that’s not all. Many of the very skinny, very young models are also caught up in the tattoo fad (I hope that’s all it is) that is sweeping the country. So we are going to put their unmentionables on old fat folks who are covered with tattoo art. (Art?)
To say that would not be a pretty picture would be the understatement of the century.
But look at the motivation potential. It would cause those of us who are a bit old and a bit overweight to shape up. And it just might cause the younger generation to think twice before defacing their bodies with tattoo garbage. (Garbage?)
Those butterflies, flowers, hearts, fish, dragons, bracelets, crosses, emblems of love, etc. on their shoulders, arms, ankles, thighs, lower backs, buttocks and other body parts and appendages may be pretty now.
But in 40 years? Yuck! By then, the beautiful rose will be a faded, wrinkled flower in a hanging basket.
* * *
Oh, you think I ought to take this epistle to a higher level?
OK, check out this paragraph in the August 31st AJC:
“It’s a cavernous, 403,000 square-foot structure of concrete and glass built at a cost of $60 million. It has 7,500 theater-type seats, $2.5 million in digital audio and video equipment and 20-foot circular corridors. Its parking lot, with 3,600 spaces on an 83-acre campus, uses four trolleys to move people around.”
What is it?
It’s a church, for crying out loud!
I don’t guess there’s anything wrong with a hugemongous church, but it’s a long way from McLemoresville, Tenn. (population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens), where this country boy grew up.
Does anybody have church in homes anymore, like they did way back when?
* * *
Speaking of church, would you believe this long-haired, radical, leftist, hippie-type, tree-hugging, bed-wetting, liberal Democrat and Methodist was invited to teach Sunday School last Sunday at a little conservative Baptist church in Oglethorpe County? The people who asked me didn’t even get permission from the deacons. There is hope for the ecumenical movement!
There were 13 “students,” all of them senior citizens, and not a fat one among them. The title of the lesson was “Take Courage,” and we were supposed to talk about being courageous in defending our faith in the face of ridicule.
My first thought, as I under prepared for the lesson, was of Ma Stumphf, and I went searching in the shoebox for the column I wrote about her more than 24 years ago. You don’t forget somebody like Ma. I thought she was a pretty good example of a courageous Christian, and I wanted to tell the class about her.
Ma died of cancer in June, 1980. Doctors told her, 40 years before her death, that she had six months to live. She lived to be 71.
Ma never went to school much. She learned to read and write as her own kids learned to read and write. She took in washing and ironing to see those kids through high school. Ma was proud of that.
The Lord never helped Ma do anything. She always talked about how He “hoped” her. She used “Amen” and “Glory” and “Hallelujah” and “Praise th’ Lord” for commas and periods, and if she ever spoke a sentence without making a grammatical error, I never heard it.
I know enough Ma Stumphf stories to fill the paper. I believe the one I shared with the class last Sunday shows a lot of courage.
One night she got an “obnoxious” phone call. At least that’s what Ma called it. Most people call them “obscene” phone calls.
Anyway, Ma was home alone, in her little basement apartment in Marietta, when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver and this voice said, “Is this Mary Stump?” (That’s how just about everybody pronounced her last name.)
“Yes, it is,” Ma answered.
“Well, let me tell you something, Mary Stump,” the voice said.
Ma said she didn’t understand everything the young man was saying, but what she did understand was some of the dirtiest, filthiest language she ever heard.
The correct thing to do in that situation is to hang up and call the police. But Ma never was hung up on correctness. She heard the young man out.
Finally, he ran out of garbage and, after a short pause, asked, “What do you think about that, Mary Stump?”
“Young man,” Ma replied. “I don’t understand a lot that you said. But I don’t like it. It nearly makes me sick. I am praying for you. And I want you to know God loves you. I love you, too. I am here by myself, but if you will come over here, right now, and visit with me a little while, I would like to tell you about my Jesus.”
That ended that conversation.
Months passed and Ma forgot about the incident. Then one night, about a year later, the phone rang again. The voice asked, “Is this Mary Stump?”
“Yes, it is,” Ma replied.
“You don’t know me, Miss Mary,” he said. “I called you about a year ago. I just want you to know that I met your Jesus, and He is making a difference in my life. Thank you, Miss Mary.”
I found myself wondering if that young man was in the crowd at Ma’s funeral. I like to think he was. I like to think he was one of the young men on the back row, singing at the top of his voice, “Joy to the World.”
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: Susan Harper
The Commerce News
September 8, 2004

Help For The Hapless Gardener
Come into the garden, me darlin’, Come into the garden, me duck.
Come into the garden, me darlin’, and I will give you a flower!
So began the longest-running comedy in British history, “Beyond the Fringe,” with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. At least, it began that way on the night I saw it, in 1963.
I think of that little rhyme now and then, because taken literally it implies a “cutting garden” or cottage garden – a staple in gardens of old and in some of today. My neighbor Mary Frances has a cutting garden so lovely it could make you weep; I have seen drivers pull over and just sit gazing at this little piece of paradise, this field of zinnias, brown-eyed susans, and I don’t know what-all. (Of course I don’t.) “She grows them from SEEDS,” my mother says in an awe-stricken whisper.
I nod mournfully. Mother’s garden, which I helped her plant, has one zinnia this year – a good zinnia, but still. And you could come into my garden and not find a single flower to walk away with.
But as the old hymn tells us, there is balm in Gilead. I have found help and hope where I so often find them: on the Friends of the Library book-sale table, this time in a book called “Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden,” by Eleanor Perenyi.
I’m not sure what made me pick it up, let alone pay 50 cents for it. I’m not the type to buy gardening books, as you have doubtless gathered. Call it instinct. It was borne out when I read these words: “Sooner or later every gardener must face the fact that certain things are going to die on him.” Certain things or even many things, I thought. Here was a gardener I could relate to. I read on. “Not all failures are self-imposed,” the book said. “It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn’t a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing.”
In other words, my daphne laurels had simply run out of time, and nothing could have saved my moonlight broomsedge; its number was up, that’s all. Sort of a Presbyterian approach to gardening, I thought: a belief in the predestination of plants. Such a relief, too, after years of guilt and remorse, and furtive horticultural funerals.
And how’s this for laid-back? “A little studied negligence is becoming to a garden: it blurs the edges. The voluptuous untidiness of Italian gardens has been part of their charm to painters – and everybody else. We gardeners needn’t kill ourselves in the name of order.” This definitely sounds right to me. In fact, I think we gardeners should be sitting around reading novels and eating bonbons.
The beauty of it is that I can carry this book around, with its green cover and green title, and no one will know that I’m reading subversive literature, unless you tell them. I’d be grateful if you didn’t mention it to my garden club.
Susan Harper is director of the commerce Public Library.


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