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Same Old, Same Old

By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

Mid-South Tribune and Black Information Highway

It has been a long-time tradition for most people to make New Yearís resolutions. Almost everyone participates in this annual-cultural ritual. The first recorded New Yearís resolutions were made by the Babylonians around 4,000 years ago. Most commonly, it revolved around returning any borrowed farm equipment, as their New Year coincided with the start of their farming season.

            Today, we still set New Yearís resolutions and try to achieve them. Most of us never really achieve these goals, yet we vow new ones every year. Theyíre almost always based around self-improvement resolutions and goals. Itís a way to mark the beginning of changes in our habits and lifestyle. The most common resolutions include losing weight, quitting smoking and/or drinking, and improving oneís financial situation.

            Most people look forward to New Years, and making New Yearís resolutions each year on January 1. When I was growing up we were isolated from mainstream culture, and had little contact with anyone but a few family members and a few neighbors. I never heard my family talk about making New Yearís resolutions, and consequently didnít know that such a thing existed. I had left home for college before I ever absorbed the concept of a New Yearís resolution.

My family was so poor and so very concerned about the basics of life that we didnít make resolutions, mainly because we were realistic that the next year would only bring more pain and disappointment, be much the same as the last year, and nothing would change for us. And we were happy if things simply stayed the same and didnít deteriorate, we had no ambitious resolutions about the next year.

            Most people in those times didnít have much ambition in general. They were happy finding some kind of job to pay the bills, and managing to scrape by from day to day. If they had enough money to last an entire week they were living well. Iím sure my parents had no hope of ever improving their circumstances, and didnít give it much concern; it seemed that way throughout the community. If they could momentarily figure out a way to survive the harsh and un-giving living environment they were contented. This was the way it was in my family.

            My parents were not aware of what was going on in local, state, or national politics, and never once voted. They had been restricted from voting for so long, when they did get the right they ignored the privilege, since they had more immediate concerns of just surviving. I can never remember discussing anything in my family except the basics of day-to-day life on the farm.  They were mainly concerned about having adequate food, clothing, and some kind of shelter. Getting adequate clothing was even difficult. For example, I wore my sistersí old hand-me-down dresses until I was three years of age.

            My father only went to second grade, because he had to quit school to help out on his familyís farm. My mother finished the eighth grade. There were no high schools in the community for my mother to attend; to get into high school she would have had to commute into a larger city. Most Blacks in those days didnít respect an education very much. The problem was even if Blacks could get an education, and it was limited as to the type of education they could get, they still had difficult finding a job to equal that education.

 Consequently, my parents didnít put forth very much of an effort to educate their children. One of my brothers and three of my sisters were able to graduate high school. Only I was fortunate enough to go to college. I sometimes donít see how I made it, but I did. I made it with very little encouragement or support from anyone, and suffered a lot of discouragement.

            Until I was seven years of age we had no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no telephone, and no gas. For a long time we didnít even have an outhouse. During most of my years as a child we had to go up a hill to a spring to get water. All we had was a rusty-tin-roof shack sitting at the end of a three-mile trail. I didnít get to use an indoors toilet until I was six years of age, when my father took me on a trip to the Gulf Coast for a much needed vacation.

            I see why they say leave a fool in his ignorance, because when you show him something different, or try to open up his eyes, he wonít want to go back to the old situation. I didnít realize what I was missing until my father took me to the Gulf Coast, and my brother took me to Fort Worth. At that point I began to have dislike for my situation in East Texas. These trips opened up my eyes to the world of possibilities, and got me out of my isolation. I donít think my brother or my father anticipated these travels would have such an effect on me. If they had they probably would have left me in my isolated world.

            This year Iíll go back to my familyís tradition and not make any New Yearís resolutions. Theyíre too hard to keep for one thing. I havenít kept any in all these years. Iíll be the first to admit that Iíve lost some of my youthful ambitions. In place of New Yearís resolutions Iíll only hope and pray that things remain the same, and my health and economic situation as well as that of my family doesnít deteriorate. As an older adult coming from a limited background thatís enough to hope for.


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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