Ask Jonathots … February 4th, 2016

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I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and am considering going to Auburn for college because of a great scholarship offer in my field, which is art. I’m concerned about the cultural difference. I know you travel the country all the time–what are the differences between the different areas of the country–especially the North and the South–if any? Am I making a mistake?

One of the odd coincidences that occurs when you’re traveling on the road with people is that because you’re eating a similar diet, your bathroom habits become almost identical. (I know this is a strange way to begin my answer, but please bear with me as I try to make a point.)

If four people are consuming the same food, it’s reasonable to assume, with slight variations, that their daily routine will parallel.

So even though the media in this country, in pursuit of developing story lines, insists that various areas have differing views and approaches, the truth of the matter is, we’re all subject to the same diet of television, news and movies.

For instance, there wasn’t a Star Wars made for the South and another one for the North. There are not sitcoms viewed in Dixie and others favored in Brooklyn.

When you travel into the South, you will find minor cultural preferences, but overall, the people are citizens of the United States, and therefore, indulge in the same philosophies, laws and approaches of everyone else.

So I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve been blessed with a scholarship to Auburn, you should not only go, but travel there with the confidence that you’re going to run across outstanding American citizens who may have some attributes that are slightly unique, but possess a full awareness of what’s going on in the world around them.

Church attendance differs from one area of our nation to another, and to a certain degree, appreciation for lifestyles and culinary dishes may vary slightly.

But overall America is exactly what it advertises–a great melting pot.

The prejudice, bigotry and ill-founded conclusions which are drawn are put together by those who need to make a deadline for the news and stir up tales that create conflict so people will tune in.

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Untotaled: Stepping 63 (October 18th, 1970) Three… April 18, 2015

 

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Jane, Mike and Diane.

Three people.

Please remember their names. I will get back to them shortly.

Leaving Buffalo, Dollie and I had much to talk about on our way to Ohio. We had decided not to abort our child, but that particular determination did not take away the problem we were facing upon our return.

How do you tell people who are already disapproving of your relationship that you’ve lied to them about a pregnancy, and that the baby is due in about 3 months?

We tried to be mature.

It was very difficult.

We wanted to pretend a little longer, hoping we could gain some acceptance, and then spring it on people at the last moment.

But we decided that the parents needed to know, and that we would let it flow from there.

We tried to get hold of Dollie’s parents but they refused to take the call. So we wrote them a letter, explaining that Dollie was pregnant.

When we sat down with my mother, she shook her head, whimpered a little bit, and then told us that “she figured there must be something like that going on.”

We then told the pastor and his wife, and once those floodgates were open, we tried to inform everybody we knew as quickly as possible–before it became the grist for the gossip mill.

It didn’t take long.

Within 4 days everyone in the community was aware that we were in the process of having a baby out-of-wedlock. (It didn’t seem to matter that we were now married and were trying to make the best of the situation.)

The general consensus was that “they already knew,” they wished us well, and they were pretty well certain that our relationship was doomed.

There were three folks who stepped out of the pack, and to this day I remember their courage.

Jane was a friend from school who decided to come over and give her support to us. I don’t know why.

Mike, one of the guys who used to be in my singing group, continued to talk to me at church, sing with me from time to time, and never gave up on our closeness.

And Diane, my sister-in-law, stepped in the gap and let Dollie know about a doctor to visit, who would help her through the final 3 months of the pregnancy and the birth.

They were shining lights in the presence of dimness.

I would never want to portray that the people of our community were mean, nor that they were wrong in their assessment of our situation. It’s just that their form of evaluation left us out in the cold, without the warmth we needed to find our escape from the iceberg we had created.

It was a lonely week. I shall never forget it.

It often comes to my mind whenever I am encouraged by others to alienate individuals who may have fallen from grace. Reminding errant souls of their sin is similar to going to a dermatologist for treatment for your acne, and having him repulsed by your complexion.

We needed more than mercy–we needed some human tenderness.

Had it not been for those three souls who stepped in the gap to be grace to us, we might have turned completely sour, never to return to faith again.

From that point on, I wanted to make sure that I always found myself as part of the “chosen three.”

 

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