The Loveliest

This morning, the loveliest sunrise came up on Lake Wylie and I couldn’t help but think it was my Grandma Searby smiling at me over my morning coffee. Granny died yesterday after 93 years of a life well lived and she was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever had in my life. This picture above was from several years ago, but it is that smile that I will hold in my mind’s eye forever.

Emma Searby grew up in the depression and you could tell. I don’t think she ever threw away a piece of tin foil in her life and she could make food stretch like nobody I’ve ever known. She raised 6 kids on a farm, in a flower shop, in the sheriff’s house that had a jail attached to it, and in an apartment over a funeral home. She was a tough and resourceful lady. She was a model of hard work and frugality for me.

My fondest memories of Granny revolve around her cooking in her small kitchen in that funeral home apartment while me and my cousins ran all over the house, yard, and barn she used as a plaster shop. The adults would be playing cards and the house would be chaos, but she never lost that smile. You could tell she loved having a house full of family to cook for at holidays. She was a model of servitude and hospitality for me.

Many long stretches of my summers growing up were spent with Granny and Grandpa Searby. I’d go to the goat farm with Grandpa before dawn to help milk and when we got home there was always a hot breakfast ready (even though she always ate cookies for breakfast). Looking back on it, I bet she had been doing that most of her life – putting food on the table for others and greeting them with a smile and conversation as they ate. She was a model of caring and friendship for me.

My Granny never missed a birthday of mine well into adulthood. She had an uncanny ability to make sure that it arrived ON October 7 regardless of where in the country I was living. And I could always count on a stick of gum and a $5 bill. That must have got expensive with 10 grandkids (or maybe I was her favorite!) It was never just the card. There was always a note reminding me that she was praying for me and reminding me to thank God for all I have. She was a model of Christian faith and generosity for me.

Emma Searby loved her family more than anything I suspect. She never had much in the way of material possessions, but I always sensed that her pride came from the successes of her kids and grandkids. When I was playing basketball in high school and college, they always made it to games. When my cousins were performing in plays and musicals, they always made those trips too. My grandpa was a man of little praise but Granny made up for it by always making us feel like what we were doing was the most important thing in the world. She was a model of encouragement and family loyalty for me.

I have lost two grandparents this year and it has really caused me to reflect on how much my personal values are a reflection of not only my parents, but my grandparents. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with all of my grandparents growing up and their lives extended long enough for me to have adult relationships with them as well. I am so grateful for the times I had with my Granny and while I will mourn her loss, I rejoice that she is back to her energetic self in a better place. Whenever I see the sunrise a lovely color across the lake I’ll know it is the loveliest lady I ever met smiling at me and reminding me to thank God for all I have. I love you Granny and will miss you always.

Your dutiful grandson,

John Mark

Your own little world.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about my worldview and how much it has changed in the past 6 months. Dramatic life changes tend to cause us to recognize our own ignorance and for a time can bring a greater level of self awareness. That has definitely been the case for me during my first 6 months in a new job.

This weekend, it became very apparent to me that we all tend to live in our own little world. This isn’t ALL bad, but as I was looking up at the weathervane above that sits on top of my house it occurred to me that I need to be careful not to be like that duck – moved only by the wind and limited in my perspective to only two directions.

The trap we fall into as modern humans is that we have all of these triggers around us that reinforce that we are the center of the universe and that the things we care about the most are the most important things to everyone. It creates an interesting paradox; we live in the most connected, global society in human history yet our worldviews are limited only to the small little worlds we create for ourselves.

Think for a minute about your weekend…did you spend time with anyone you’d never met before? Did you do anything that didn’t revolve around you and your family having a good time? Did you do anything that made you uncomfortable? Did you read anything or watch anything that made you actually stop and think? Did you make your community (outside your own property) a better place? How much time did you spend on social media “engaging” with the same people you always “engage with?” Were you just like that duck on the weathervane, allowing the wind to blow you where it may? Did you venture at all outside of your own little world?

I guess I started thinking about this on Saturday morning when my son, Jack, and I joined some other area boys and parents to clean up an area of river shoreline near our house that is popular with what are generally lower income fishermen. These aren’t your bass boat “catch and release” tournament fishermen; these are people fishing to eat. As we approached the area and saw mounds of trash (we ended up picking up 1,300 lbs in 2 hours), I was furious. I kept thinking…

“What’s wrong with these people?, Do they not care about the area they fish in? What a bunch of redneck slobs! How can people be so thoughtless!!! Why should we even be picking up after these pigs?”

And then I stopped for a second and looked around at the beauty of the spot. For a moment, I understood the shoreline fisherman who stops here after work for an hour to relax, have a few beers, and catch his dinner. I’ve never stopped to talk to these guys; I see them almost every day. I’ve never taken them trash bags and asked them if they wouldn’t mind pick up after themselves. I’ve never even put myself in their shoes to think about what kind of stress is in someone’s life if all they eat is Ramen noodles if they don’t catch it themselves. Truth is, I live in my own little world most of the time. And I fall in the trap of thinking that if you aren’t in my world, you’re less important.

So as I start this week, I’m going to try to see the world around me for what it is – a big, complicated place with people coming and going at breakneck speed. Many of them are going to be in their own little worlds, but I’m going to try to appreciate that; appreciate that someone I don’t know might have value or that there might be more important things going on than my little set of problems. I’m going to try to remove some of the insulation and realize that in this over connected world, interpersonal interaction is still the best interaction and hopefully I can get out of my own little world for even a moment. I hope you will too.