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Counting My Blessings*

By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

Mid-South Tribune and Black Information Highway

I recall talking by phone to my sister in 2012 on Election Day. She, her husband, and son live in Fort Worth, Texas. First we talked about the election, both saying we wished President Obama well in the election, and then we began to talk about old timesóas usual. My sister reminded me to always count my blessings. I sometimes remember all the negatives but forget to remember many of the positives.

My sister recalled how when we worked away from home our parents always allowed us to keep whatever we earned. Even when my father retired, and I received a Social Security check: my father retired when I was sixteen, and he allowed me to keep the whole check for my maintenance and upkeep.  My parents wouldnít have dreamed of taking any of the money for their own use. They were closed-minded about some things but were open-minded about this issue. I do wish I had saved more for college, but I used it to keep my car running.

She remembered how other parents would have their children work, and keep most of what they earned only giving them a few dollars to spend for themselves. For example, neighbors would send their children out to work, and what they earned would go toward the household bills. One particular cousin would let their children work and take most of it to help with the household expenses.

She especially talked about one woman in Fort Worth who had a son that lived with his father. The son received a Social Security check. The father kept the sonís check for living expenses and didnít give him much. The son thought if he went back to live with his mother he could have his check to spend for himself, but when he moved his mother also told him she needed the check for living expenses. The son then wanted to move back with his father.

Whereas my parents were strict about some things, my sister reminded me that they allowed me to do whatever I wanted without restrictions. They didnít follow my school activities, but allowed me to run free. Even as a child I was ingenious, always finding a way to go wherever I wanted, and stay as long as I wanted. My older brother would take me places sometimes, at other times I would talk someone into giving me a ride, if that was not possible I would walk where I wanted to go.  

In my early years there was only a red-dusty-dirt road to my house, but I found a way to get around. Ever since my brother gave me a car I have had the run of the land, sometimes I would even go out of town. Seeing how my parents were somewhat strict, they could have been more restrictive. My father and mother tried to chastise me the first few times I came in late, but I was an independent spirit. All this contributed to rather than stifled my overall development.

My mother didnít do a lot of cooking but there was always plenty of food to eat. We may not have had the healthiest well-balanced meals, but I always had something to eat. There was always my motherís canning: peaches, pears, and other fruits of various types. We grew plenty of peanuts, corn, and vegetables. During the summer there were watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, peaches, and pears. Berries, plumbs, and grapes grew wild, and were plentiful. Sometimes apples even grew wild. There were plenty of pecans, walnuts, and nuts of various types growing wild in the forest.

We had a roof over our heads, and a fairly warm and comfortable place to sleep. My household was friendly and comfortable without a lot of strife. We never argued a lot or kept up disagreements. It was usually peaceful, serene, and idyllic in most instances. We didnít get a lot of visitors, nor did we visit a lot of people, but we were happy for the most part.

By the time I was born my father had discontinued his heavy drinking, and both my father and mother were easy to get along with. We accepted the fact that there was too much hostility coming from outside the home for us to tear at each otherís throats.

Most of the young men and women in my community couldnít wait to get to the big city, get a job, get an apartment, and get some of the material things they had always wanted. The city to some was like the ďcall of the wild.Ē  Since I had had some of these things, I was looking to better my overall socio-economic circumstances.

The only reason I was ready to attend college instead of heading to the big city, buying a Cadillac, and starting to live, was because my brother had already bought me a car. Since my parents had allowed me to keep my Social Security check for my own living expenses, I was use to having money of my own. I was also use to going where I wanted to go and doing what I wanted. So I felt a greater calling than the big city. In college I felt deprived of many things, but I was willing to undergo that amount of minor deprivation. I had a higher goal in mind.

I think itís time that I counted my blessings rather than continuing to look back at those things that were negative. Itís important to realize what we had in our lives that were positive rather than go to our graves focusing on those things that were negative.

Thanks, big sister, for keeping me on the right track once again!

The above is on the Black Paper lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Mr. Willis is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com .  Email him at jaytwillis@gmail.com  or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net




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