“Because I have been able to build a reputation as a talented player, I have been able to build futures. Because I am able to play, I am able to make a difference. Because I have been blessed with a talent, I also have been given a responsibility.”
When less than admirable football stars stay in the news week after week, perhaps we need to spend some extra time recognizing stellar NFL players like Warrick Dunn and Deshaun Watson. No doubt there are many others, but these two deserve to share the spotlight today. And we who watch from the sidelines need to understand that the media revels in bad news and mostly ignores the good stories.
Warrick Dunn used his talents on the football field for Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to earn a scholarship to Florida State University. At FSU, he not only played well, he took care of his five younger siblings after their mother, a single parent, was killed in the line of duty as a police officer and a part-time security guard. She had been working extra hours to buy a house for her family.
Graduation brought the opportunity to play professional football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later, the Atlanta Falcons. He used his opportunity with above average income during those years to help others and to establish a charitable foundation. A more complete story of his life is available as an autobiography, Running for My Life.
One of those whom he helped, was Deshaun Watson, a star football player at Gainesville High School in Georgia. Dunn found out that Deshaun’s mother was helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity, hoping to earn one for herself and her four children in 2006. Warrick Dunn stepped in to buy a four bedroom house, fully furnished for the Watsons. It was so fully furnished that even the refrigerator was well stocked with food on the day they moved in.
Deshaun finished his education at Gainesville High and then at Clemson University, where he led his team to a national championship. This week he walked out on to the field to play his first game with the Houston Texans.
Deshaun and two of the women he helped.
Instead of depositing his first game check for $27,000, Deshaun divided it into thirds and gave $9,000 each to three of the team’s cafeteria workers who lost everything when Hurricane Harvey flooded their homes.
After all, he had received a lot more than a mere house from his benefactor, Warrick Dunn. He received both inspiration and a good example.
Choosing to walk in beauty involves every dimension of living: your posture, your attire, your decor, your attitude, and your manner of living. But none of these important areas depend upon a great expenditure of money or time; they merely require the mindfulness that evolves into good habits. Today I want to concentrate on food.
If you’ve read Isak Dinesen’s short story, Babbette’s Feast, or seen the movie based upon it, you already understand something about the importance of good food, well prepared, and artfully presented. If you haven’t, watch a download of the movie at home this weekend.
Pay attention to every detail, for this is a story of people changing their attitudes, not a fast moving thriller. Only by noticing the details or clues and putting them together, does one catch the full impact of the story.
In fact, every detail is so important that many viewers could see it two or three times before understanding the insights Dinesen offers. Most Americans probably first approach it as a quaint, Victorian story about a peculiar village of overly pious people. Yet, there is a bad habit that both the fictional Danes and today’s Americans share. — Each group misses the importance of beautiful food that is chosen and prepared with care, then presented attractively in a setting that encourages conversation.
The Danish villagers feared that giving too much attention to physical pleasure would draw them away from God’s love. They saw God as a stern taskmaster and viewed holiness as paying very strict attention to the tasks He assigned, not the virtues He espoused. Without emphasizing those virtues, through the years the believers began quarreling over petty matters until every meeting was marred by merciless accusations that were never forgiven.
While Americans readily succumb to the very sensual pleasures their fictional counterparts most detested, they sacrifice good family meals and pleasant conversations on the altar of efficiency and convenience. Too many meals every week come from the drive through track at a nearby fast food place and are consumed in the car. Or if at home, gathered around the table, parents and children alike play with their smart phones instead of communicating with each other. Often the television is on to further distract family members from actually glimpsing the problems that each other faces. Consequently, they begin quarreling over petty matters until every day is marred by merciless accusations that are never forgiven.
The villagers learned love and forgiveness at one glorious banquet the likes of which they had never imagined even existed. The bad habits of American families will take longer to change, but at much less cost.
Stay tuned for easy suggestions to add more love and beauty to your evening meal.
Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather
The only things that can never be taken
from you are your memories.
Create beautiful memories; they are your true riches.
Dr. Marvin E. Patterson
Shortly after posting the above quote last week, two friends responded by reminding me that our memories can be taken away from us too. This is Part One of my response.
The quote is from a very dear friend of mine, the late Dr. Marvin Patterson. It was the framework he used to help me struggle through some daunting legal and personal problems that I faced through no fault of my own. As a naive optimist, I had been totally unprepared for the calumny, rejection, and betrayal that had created these life changing economic, social, and logistical predicaments. For at least three years, I often muttered under my breath, “Of course I’m depressed. I would have to be crazy to not be depressed.”
But bit by bit he helped me face reality, accept my losses, and start facing the future with equanimity and forgiveness. There were times that only through my daydreams about creating beautiful memories for my family, could I muster the courage to put one foot in front of the other. Planning spur-of-the-moment picnics, decorating the house for holidays, cooking special meals for impromptu celebrations, or planning occasional trips together kept me going until life seemed to be worthwhile again. Creating beautiful memories became my raison d’être.
There is no way that I could have ever repaid him for his kindness. But, I know that if they do give big, solid gold stars in heaven for doing good work, he earned a thousand or so for helping me.
Also, I am quite aware that drugs, alcohol, and old age can affect one’s mind so badly that people tend to think the person is no longer “there” or is crazy. I go through a new realization of that every time I call my own mother. First, I have to explain that I am her daughter, Kaye, even though I was the only daughter she had. Then I have to make all of the conversation, keeping everything simple. We can no longer discuss ideas or current events because apparently they are now beyond her understanding. And frequently she forgets within an hour that it was I who called her.
So her beautiful memory is not about facts and pictures in her mind anymore, but about good feelings. It makes her feel good when anyone calls her, even for five minutes, because it reminds her that she is loved. And that is a beautiful memory whether she remembers it was I or not.
As always, the person who does the mitzvah, is rewarded double what the other person receives. So I have an especially beautiful memory of repaying her for her early mitzvahs to me. Beautiful memories are true riches, indeed.
Copyright by Kaye Fairweather, 2017
Once upon a time beauty bloomed inside Effie’s mind as she planned the best design for the edging that would trim the sheets and pillowcases needed to complete her dowry. She often hurried to finish the farm chores to allow time to complete a few extra inches of lace before bedtime. After each harvest, she eagerly counted out her coins, hoping on the next trip to town to buy more linen to make hand towels and napkins to monogram during the winter.
All was finished and packed away in a separate wooden trunk by the time she climbed into the family’s wagon to be driven to Simmons College for her teaching degree. When things got tough at school, she comforted herself with daydreams about using the beautiful things carefully folded and waiting in her hope chest. After graduation, she moved to the territory of New Mexico to start her new life as a single woman teaching school in what became Lea County. Every month, she bought a few pieces of delicate, hand painted fine china to add to her dowry. And she kept it all under lock and key for safety’s sake.
After she married, they decided to build only a very small frame house to live in temporarily because they were living as simply as possible while getting the sheep ranch and small farm started. All of these precious linens and good china would be used in the new house – the real house they would build after proving the claim and after they had more money. But right now, they were just getting by.
Especially with growing children though, every year the nice house seemed to be further and further down the road. Occasionally Effie would open the trunk to look again at the lovely things they would use some day and show them to her three girls, provided they washed their hands before touching any of the treasures. Their big eyes drank in the glory of delicate hand painted tea cups and they begged to use them right now – today.
But cautious Effie always said, “No, not until we build the new house; these things are just too nice to use here. But then, we’ll use them every day and especially when we have company come over for dinner.”
But one Sunday, when the oldest girl was eight and the youngest a toddler, before the new house was built, they returned home after church to a smoldering pile of ashes. No one knows how the fire started or even when. They were grateful that the wind had not spread it to the corrals, so none of the livestock was lost. The windmill was still pumping water from under the ground, but no one had been there to use it to put out the fire.
Of course none of them had ever gotten to use the beautiful things that had been made with such generosity and such anticipation of the delight of sharing beauty with the people you love most of all.
* * * *
Share whatever beautiful things you have with everyone you love while both are still with you. Each of us needs all the beauty we can get from mundane tools neatly arranged to a marvelous view of our own back yard to a table set neatly in a quiet house to encourage conversation during the shared meal. Thus we build real memories instead of trying to live in air castles.
Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather