Although I have never been a particular fan of Victorian architecture, I am entranced by this example of art in a mundane setting. And after spending a lifetime of seeing and using only the cheap, banal door knobs, roses, and faceplates of post WWII home building, even a glimpse of this beautiful cast brass faceplate gladdens the heart. (Sorry to see ill chosen replacement screws.) A closer look reveals decorative door knobs. Probably cast brass hinges are visible on the other side of the door and frame. I relish the care involved in creating beauty for every aspect of life.
I apologize for not knowing who took the picture or where it was taken. I would gladly give attribution if only I knew.
I should have remembered to put this disclaimer in earlier. Interestingly enough, parents of small children probably appreciate silence more than anyone else – as long as their kids are safely in bed asleep.
When I taught at a university, discovering that most of my students never experienced any periods of silence during their normal day appalled me. How could they function physically, much less think, with noise surrounding them all day long? Did it affect their level of energy? Their ability to learn?
But they gladly shared their schedules with me and bragged of waking to the radio that had been on the entire night long, then watching television as they dressed and got ready for classes. And they learned to chat with friends with a background of music or broadcast programing going on all the time. Of course, once in class, they listened to the lecture, but traveling there always included the car radio or music from their smart phones through the wonder of earbuds.
Earbuds came to their rescue even in places that were supposed to be quiet, like the library. They never wanted to miss a chance to hear their current favorite music or radio chatter even when trying to understand some difficult material.
Silence in their daily lives could only be counted in minutes, not hours.
On the other hand, one of my favorite memories of my college years involved time spent silently looking out of my dorm room’s large windows, frequently around the twilight hour. My heart and my mind exultantly raced with the many possibilities that lay before me, just waiting for my selection. The experience was both calming and exhilarating whether I sat alone, engrossed in my own thoughts, or my roommate joined me in idle chatter.
The view was of a small park just across the drive from the dormitory. I treasured quietly watching the change of seasons in the foliage and flowers during the two and half years that I lived there.
The only time in my life that remotely mirrored that of my students was a particular period of heartbreak when I was left betrayed and desolate, after losing companionship, social status, and financial support. For about a year I needed the constant distraction of other voices in my ears because silence allowed me to mull over the myriad personal problems that kept me from sleeping.
But for me, that was an aberration, not a way of life. I learned to turn corners, win new battles, and seek different rewards. I found a different abundant life.
However, I still worry about my former students. While I hope their noise/music/chatter is no longer constant, I fear their lifestyle is even more widespread today and includes additional age and socio-economic groups.
“Strange but true. We human beings are moved by music as no other animal is. Stranger still, it moves us rational animals apart from whether we can play it, read it, or even much understand it. Music reaches the passions without passing through the mind. Although some music calls forth enormous, in truth, life-long diligence from those who play it, those who have devoted no study whatever to listening to it are moved by it. As a consequence music is unique among human pursuits in being able to overcome the vast gulf between rare virtue and common aptitude. It is the most mathematical of the fine arts. It is science and fun together.”
“Physics without Ethics: The Brutality of Rock ‘n Roll,” Fidelity, July/August 1996
When Sunny succumbed to hepatitis, the Dallas School System allowed teachers one day of sick leave for every month of teaching. Most employees found it quite generous as they often accumulated six to nine days of sick leave every year which could be changed into money at the end of their employment.
For Sunny, the four days of earned leave were used up before she even entered the hospital. So she found herself with absolutely no income for living expenses, much less the quickly mounting medical bills. All of this when she had just purchased a house and a car on credit, and was just starting a savings account for Hard Times.
But Hard Times knocked her down before she was ready and she was too sick to fight back. The “easy living” the family had expected after graduation evaporated even while new debts increased her needs. 1954 was years before the Federal and State Governments had crafted their “poverty solutions” for families in a financial bind. Fear and despair almost eradicated all hope.
But God was in the picture. He just used other people’s hands and pocketbooks to provide for widows and orphans:
Her mother left her own home and closed down her own affairs to move to Dallas to help care for Sunny and her grandchildren.
Her sister saved enough out of her family’s expenses to send three checks during the months of illness and recovery.
A Sunday school class at her new church arranged for one of the members to come every Monday and Thursday with a meal prepared for the whole family and a bag full of additional groceries.
A group of friends from New Mexico “passed the hat” around and collected several hundred dollars to help with expenses. Then two couples drove to Dallas to deliver it in person. While visiting, the men also took care of several honey-do type repairs that needed attention. Then they drove the thirteen-hour-one-way trip back to Lea County.
The teacher of the younger son’s Sunday school class asked if he could take him out for a movie one Saturday. When they returned home, the son wore new shoes and carried a bag with a new shirt, a new pair of trousers, and three new pairs of socks. Of course, what excited him the most was the movie he had gotten to see and attention from an adult male.
All the neighbors on the street made sure the sixteen-year-old girl had all the babysitting jobs she could possibly handle. Most of those earnings bought gas for their car, which at that time was about twenty-five cents a gallon.
A woman in the church provided the daughter with hand-me-downs that were more expensive and better quality than any clothes she had previously worn.
New Mexico’s senior senator had earlier appointed the older son as a page to the US Senate. So he was living in a home with other pages at a nominal fee, going to a private school at no cost, and earning a small salary, not to mention the extraordinary experiences at the US Senate. While still in high school, he managed to send a little bit of money home every month. (By the way, Sunny’s in-laws had helped Senator Chaves with free room and board when he first ran for office decades earlier and this was his generous re-payment for their hospitality.)
Probably there were many other gifts and extensions of kindness that I am not aware of. But at least this helps people understand a real-life example of providing for the needy in a way that builds self esteem and bonds of friendship in both giver and receiver. Without the Byzantine rules, restrictions or admonitions of our current welfare system, each gift encouraged the family members to use it wisely, living up to all opportunities that became available. While those were difficult times, each one grew emotionally and spiritually because of the people who helped them, in effect putting their money where their mouths were and saying, “I believe in you.” And, no doubt, the givers were also rewarded for their generosity.
It was so much more compassionate and efficient than our current system that fosters a permanent underclass of third and fourth generation welfare recipients. These people have become people who are poor, not just currently broke, because they have neither incentive nor belief they can honestly do any better. What a loss for the whole country!
The program Sunny and her students presented that October night broke all recent records for both attendance and enthusiasm. Most of the children she taught had never had any of the extra curricular music, dancing, or sports classes that are so common today. Performing for an audience was a first for them, while cheering was a first for their parents. Most who came that night to see their youngsters recite poetry, hadn’t even thought about poetry since learning nursery rhymes. But they drank in the words from their own children because they communicated emotions that had never been spoken.
So naturally, the principal immediately put Sunny in charge of the Christmas program, changing all her previous lesson plans.
For that occasion, she put most of the students into a Greek Chorus reciting passages from Luke to tell the Christmas story while others, in makeshift costumes, pantomimed the drama. On the other side of the stage, the school chorus presented Christmas carols at appropriate intervals. Once again the auditorium was filled with cheering families, creating the second major victory accomplished by a novice in her first semester of teaching.
Ever so slowly a new attitude toward school began emerging.
Probably the main reason for Sunny’s immediate success at this particular school was that while students and teacher shared the same financial status, Sunny staunchly maintained a totally different attitude. Her mantra since becoming the sole bread-winner for her family was, “I may be broke, but I refuse to be poor.” With that attitude she lived a lifestyle of great anticipation coupled with hard work far different from those who saw themselves as “I-can’t-do-anything much-because-I’m-so- poor.” While Sunny had reveled in developing her mind with good music, great books, and lofty ideals, most of these families had cheated themselves by considering such as frivolities only for the “rich people.”
But, as you recall from previous posts, Sunny reacted to financial roadblocks by looking for ways around, over, or through them. Such as:
Slowly stashing away enough money to pay for one year of college, so she could at least get a taste of higher education whether or not she got to finish a degree.
Choosing a college in a town where a relative owned a house that she could live in rent free if she fixed it up and kept it up, unlike many renters.
Taking advantage of every concert, play, and program that her Student Activity Fee covered. And insisting the kids take advantage of these chances for enrichment with her.
Cheerfully giving up owning a car while living in a small city, realizing that walking is healthful for the whole family.
Eagerly accepting any part-time or temporary position to make enough money to continue her degree program.
Completely understanding that attitude is far more important than bank account status. It’s never about how much money you have.
Seeing someone in the same boat financially as their own families, but with great energy and a can-do attitude, probably did more to help the student body that year than any subject matter she taught.
Unfortunately, January, 1954 brought a little known infectious disease to the school and Sunny was one of several victims. She was sick a week before her mystified physician put her in the hospital. There they diagnosed her problem as hepatitis, probably what we now know as hepatitis A. After a week at Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff, she came home for eight weeks of recuperation before returning to school in March.
This is a lifestyle and informational blog for those writers who feel they are caught between being in the midst of struggle, making some progress and feeling stuck in the meantime. This blog will be interrupted with interviews from authors and self help experts that have already been there and impart their own advice and info. Think of it as deciding to live a bare minimum lifestyle to reach your maximum creative potential. Let's take this journey together.