I am always heartened when I find inspiration that motivates me to live my best life.
Thankfully, that inspiration can be found all around us – sometimes we have to look for it, sometimes it shows up unexpectedly.
The latter happened to me a few days ago, when I read a quote from the longest-living president in American history:
“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
No matter your politics, I think we can agree that former President Jimmy Carter has been an example of an honest man with integrity. During his post-presidency, he has remained active in public life and has consistently demonstrated his convictions, based on honesty and spirituality.
Even in his twilight years, the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, continues to provide lessons about peace, justice, fairness, honesty and integrity, while promoting and expanding human rights.
We can all learn something from his words of wisdom (cultivated by 95 years of living and 73 years of married life).
I, for one, will strive to make my life count for something by doing whatever I can to make a positive difference.
We should always be kind to others because we never know what people are going through.
Those words were uttered by one of my nephews during a recent conversation.
I responded with a resounding “Amen!” — affirming his truth — because I believe everyone can appreciate acts of kindness.
As I reflected on the conversation, I began to realize just how important his observation is, especially during the holiday season.
While the holiday season is considered a time of joy, laughter, love, and giving; it can be an exceptionally lonely and challenging time for many. In fact, depression and mental health issues often increase during the holiday season.
As you go through your daily life this holiday season (and throughout the year), remember that many people are experiencing difficulties – some are struggling financially, some are alone or lonely, some are consumed by the grief of losing loved ones. Remember that the season can be a harsh reminder of their lack of happiness, joy, laughter, love, and acceptance.
So, if you choose to do one thing this holiday season, I encourage you to be kind to others because you never know what a person is going through.
I’m pretty sure most people know the name Jesse Owens, who dominated the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, winning four gold medals.
But what about track legend William “Harrison” Dillard, four-time Olympic Gold Medal Champion?
Harrison Dillard — the only male runner in history to win Olympic gold in both a dash and the high hurdles and a member of the U.S. Army 92nd Infantry, the famed all-black “Buffalo Soldiers” who fought with distinction during World War II — will be laid to rest this week in his native Cleveland, Ohio.
I admit that Harrison Dillard had fallen off my radar, but came back into full view in April 2015, when I was visiting the Baldwin Wallace University campus – on the same day that he was present for the unveiling of his life-size bronze statue. Dillard, 96, was an alumnus of Baldwin Wallace.
That day, I was reminded of how people like Harrison Dillard don’t have household names — how they are not included in the history of our nation that is taught in schools and how it is seemingly not important to know their names.
That stark reality struck me again last week (on the heels of Harrison Dillard’s death), as I watched a television news story about the life of Azellia White. The news station – along with several other media organizations – was reporting Azellia White’s death. One of the news reports started like this:
“Azellia White, one of the nation’s first African American female pilots, earned her pilot’s license just after World War II and found freedom flying in the skies above the Jim Crow South.”
Like Jesse Owens, I am pretty sure the name Bessie Coleman, who soared across the sky as the first African American and the first Native American woman pilot, rings a bell (at least I hope so). And let us not forget that because of racism, she had to earn her license from France’s Fédération Aéronautique Internationale before touring America and Europe. But what about Azellia White?
Well, here’s a tidbit: Azellia White, her Tuskegee Airman husband, Hulon White, and two other Tuskegee Airmen (Ben Stevenson and Elton “Ray” Thomas) created a flight school, delivery service, and airport in the Houston area with a mission to serve the black community during segregation,after World War II.
And here’s a real eye-opener: White died on September 14, and was buried a week later in her native state of Texas. She was 106.
Here’s my question: Why did it take more than two months for national news outlets to figure out who she was?
While I am distraught over the fact that it took so long to acknowledge Azellia White’s legacy, I find comfort in the fact that she was (finally) recognized; and I am heartened by the timeliness of the reports about Harrison Dillard’s death.
For me, this illustrates that while we have made some progress when it comes to inclusion, we still have a long way to go. It reinforces, for me, that structural racism still persists, that people of color are still viewed as “other”, and that there is an unwillingness to view “black history” as American history.
Harrison Dillard’s longtime friend, Ted Theodore, described his death as “a loss for humanity” and said “he was an example for all of us, how to live our lives, with never an unkind word for anyone. He was a champion, a true champion.”
Isn’t it time for us to honor and celebrate all of our champions who have contributed significantly to history in America?
Does the name William Felton Russell mean anything to you?
If not, maybe you know him by Bill Russell — the 11-time NBA champion, five-time MVP, 12-time All Star, Olympic gold medalist, two-time NCAA champ and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who fought for civil rights his entire career, financially supported the movement as one the NBA’s biggest stars, held his Boston Celtics team’s fans accountable for their racism, and convinced his entire organization to forfeit a game because a restaurant wouldn’t serve black customers..
Did you know that just last week he accepted his Hall of Fame ring, despite being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975?
What took so long for the basketball legend (and the first African-American player to be elected to Hall of Fame) to acknowledge the honor? (He essentially boycotted the ceremony back in 1975 for “his own personal reasons”)?
We got the answer last week, after he accepted his Hall of Fame ring in a private ceremony at his home – he was waiting for the NBA to induct Chuck Cooper, the first African-American player drafted by the NBA (in 1950).
That finally happened this year.
The moral of this story, for me: We are all standing on someone’s shoulders – benefiting from the work and experiences of those who came before us.
Whose shoulders are you standing on?
And who is standing (or will stand) on yours?
“You have been paid for. Each of you, Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Red — whatever pigment you use to describe yourselves—has been paid for. But for the sacrifices made by some of your ancestors, you would not be here; they have paid for you. So, when you enter a challenging situation, bring them on the stage with you; let their distant voices add timbre and strength to your words. For it is your job to pay for those who are yet to come.” — Maya Angelou
Did you hear about the Gulf War Army Veteran who got picked up by the police, as he was walking along an Alabama highway?
No. It’s not a joke.
It’s a “good news” story. And I love good news stories because they are inspiring and encouraging and build trust and hope in humankind.
So, here’s what reportedly happened:
Gerald David Baldwin set out to walk to an appointment at a VA hospital – 100 miles away. Someone spotted him walking along a highway, with his portable oxygen tank, and called police. A sheriff’s deputy responded and discovered that the veteran (with 22 years of service) needed to get to his appointment or risk losing some of his benefits.
The deputy – Walker County Sgt. Kevin Emberg – agreed to drive Baldwin to the county line, with the assistance of Deputy Chris Doerr, who arranged for deputies in three neighboring counties to transport Baldwin to his appointment. The four departments then made the reverse trip to get Baldwin home.
Now, a social media post by one of the departments is garnering interest in helping Baldwin with reliable transportation and to connect with services for veterans.
Doesn’t that make you feel good and strengthen your faith in humanity? – that is a benefit of good news: positive vibes and positive thinking.
Just like the deputies who went above and beyond their call of duty to make the world a better place, we each have the power to make the world a better place – and write our own “good news” story — one small act of kindness at a time.