Before you hit the ‘spread’ button…

I, along with many, are bone tired and weary of the year 2020.   We are all about ready to chunk this year into trash cans everywhere. The killing rampage of a virus to fires, natural disasters, and turmoil is creating havoc everywhere. Excluding babies being born, weddings, and occasional eruptions of kindness, 2020, will become a disturbing chapter in future history books.  

Plus, we add our politics, division, and ridiculous behavior to the 2020 dumpster on top of all that mess.  Now, even the dumpster diving hound dogs will not go near that stench!  Sometimes, I think they are smarter because we continue to add more rotten actions to the garbage pile.

Guess by now, you are wondering where I am going with this, right?  You know the old saying, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”?  Well, Bubba Watson was the last straw for me.

Don’t mess with Bubba

Bubba is a University of Georgia graduate that is also a naturally gifted golfer.  He is quirky, suffers a bit with mental health issues, which he admits and has openly discussed.   Bubba, like the rest of us, carries around a few demons.  However, whether you are a Bubba fan or not, he plus hundreds of others, do not need a false assignment of his name to advertise an ideology. 

Social media has once again spread a diatribe regarding Black Lives Matter, the coronavirus, and protesters, professing it was a quote by none other than Bubba Watson.   Since I follow my quirky golfer, I knew immediately Bubba did not say any of it.  Once I fact-checked the statement, of course, Mr. Watson was not the writer.  He even addressed it himself when he found it on social media.

Do we believe only what we are willing to hear?

Why do we add misinformation to our already filled trash bins?  Are we so adamant in our beliefs that we are willing to falsely attribute our words to a famous person to gain a larger audience?   Are we so desperate to be heard that we will not take a moment to fact-check a statement before spreading an untruth?

The term “fake news” has taken on a life of its own. Not only does it refer to untruths but used to dismiss reports that a person does not wish to agree with.  So, is it true, we all believe only what we are willing to hear?

There has been much research regarding “fake news.”  A deep dive into Twitter revealed that false reports were re-tweeted more than the truthful news. Plus, it carried further.

According to a team from MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “It took the truth about six times as long as a falsehood to reach 1,500 people.” 

Ordinary users of social media, ordinary people, friends, and relatives who scream about the idea of fake news are unknowingly passing altered or phony information.  We are so excited to read something authored by someone famous that aligns with our personal beliefs we will hit the spread button before making sure it was not based on a lie. 

Almost daily, my family receives emails that have been shared by many, espousing a particular philosophy or political position.   By the time they reach us, the recipients’ list has grown to a “multitude” status.  When we fact-check the stories, I would say more than 90% were not entirely accurate or were attributed to someone other than the rightful author.

According to another study, for those who say fact checker sites are biased or fake, six major fact-checking sites were studied, and all six agreed on which reports were true about 95% of the time.

One little lie at a time

Biased news is one thing, but fake news creates uncertainty, lies, and spreading of hatred.    We must honor one another with the truth.  It is our right to espouse our beliefs and opinions, but it is not right to use someone’s name to spread it further because of their fame.  If that were the case, my byline might read, “Dolly Parton!” I can guarantee more folks would read and share my column!

  If we have learned one thing this year, I hope it is the fact that Americans need one another to survive.  There are rumors of civil war and a further weakening of our society.   Did President Trump cause this, the biased reporting of news, the Democrats, the Black Lives Matter, or the White Supremacist movements? Or, could it be John Q. Citizen that is tearing the fabric of America apart by spreading one little lie at a time? 

I know one thing for sure, defending the truth, spreading honesty and kindness is the only way we can possibly keep ourselves out of that nasty dumpster.   

The Divine Blessing of Friendship

Several columns ago, I wrote a story regarding the “Healing Power of a Homemade Pie.”   This little story about pie seemed to travel from coast to coast, and when it did, it blessed me with new friends.

The original idea for the story came from a cartoon in the Atlanta Journal’s Sunday comics section.  “Stone Soup” by Jan Eliot was one of my favorite strips because her stories always centered around family and their lives’ funny situations, which often paralleled mine.

After the story went national, I wrote Ms. Eliot to think her for the inspiration.   She lives in Oregon, and before long, we began emailing one another and realized how we did indeed have similar lives.  From one coast to another, sight unseen, voices unheard, a friendship blossomed.

Friendship is priceless.  It has nothing to do with anything but the heart.   Heck, you do not even need to see a person if you are connected by the thread of kindness, commonality, concern, and prayer.

Our first friends

By the time we are a little older than a toddler, we realize quickly that friends are a necessary component of living.  I recall several friends in first grade.  Even though I moved to another town by third grade, I occasionally think about them.  They are never further away than a memory.

Friendships heal and support us every day.   What would we do without the gift of a friend?  What would we do without that shoulder to cry on or that honest advice we might need? 

To this day, I still have close friends from high school.  And, trust me, an abundance of days have passed since high school!  One of my dearest friends can call or text me, and even though I have not seen them in a while, I know by the sound of their voice if they are ok or not.  It is that connection that if you take care of it, it will never break.

I believe friends are divinely placed on our life paths.  It is as if God pulls out his big map, places cars on the same road as ours so that we can bump into one another.   How many people have you met in your life that you felt were placed in your world?  I bet a bundle.

A new southern friend

When my husband and I married, we moved into a house on a corner.  One day I noticed the woman who lived behind us watering her plants in the front yard.  I had met her but knew little about Deborah. 

My husband teases me often about my choice of words and phrases.  They are so southern he sometimes does not understand what I mean.  He noticed me talking to Deborah and walked over to join the conversation. 

After a few minutes, David asked, “Deborah, what do you call that thing you are watering your plants with?”  Of course, he knew it to be a hose, but she answered with certainty, “Well, it’s a hosepipe!”

David then questioned, “Deborah, what do you call the leather thing in my back pocket that holds the money?”  “Well, that’s a billfold!”

“See, she is absolutely correct!  Hose are something you wear on your legs, and you fold a bill to get it in that thing you call a wallet!” I quickly chimed in with a “see there” attitude.

After that, these two southern girls have been as sisters for fifteen years.   God plopped me down on the corner next to the angel who has saved me more times than I can count.  Plus, I did not even need to get in the car!

During this time of uncertainty and loneliness, it is the loss of hugs and the inability to see our friends that causes heartache.  Friendship is needed now more than ever.  Forget our differences in politics, or viewpoints, because friends are far more essential and divine.

The colorful ribbons

I wrote at the beginning of a chapter in my book this little opening:

“Friends are bonus gifts from God.  Whether you know a friend for a day, for a few years, or for a lifetime, they are all blessings.  

When rain falls in our lives, our pals try to find the sun.  When an embrace, or an ear, or a pat on the back is needed, they provide.

Friends are the angels who give us wings to fly, laughter to fill our hearts, and comfort to warm our souls.

They are the colorful ribbons of love. “

Call a friend today, or bake them a pie, and find yourself blessed. 

Do you hear the timer ticking?

There comes a time when one realizes with certainty that there is a timer on life. I can’t tell you exactly when you’ll start to hear it ticking, but be grateful when you do.

We all come face to face with our mortality. My brother died at a relatively young age from a terminal illness. Like many, he bravely accepted his limited time. John knew what he wanted to do in the months remaining of his life. He was an engineer with a list of everything. John worked hard to complete his tasks and leave this earth to see what was happening on around the bend.

The longer we live, we slowly come to accept that we all have a list to complete, people we need to see, and things we need to say.

Seeing the clock

Dan recently suffered a heart attack. Richie is recovering from cancer. Whit had a devastating fall a few years back but, thankfully, survived. Patsy passed away before our last reunion. All of these great folks graduated with me from high school over fifty years ago.

I could keep telling you about friends who barely survived an illness or an accident and those that did not, but the pages are just not long enough. The older we become, the more we notice the timer as it clicks closer to zero.

Now, that all sounds dour and full of doom, right? Well, maybe, it is all in how we look at it.

I like the timer. I am glad I see it, hear it, and realize that I need to live fully in the seconds that pass.

When I was in high school with Dan, Rich, Whit, and Patsy, I never saw the life clock. Time was infinite in my mind. When several friends sadly died early in life, I would pause and ponder my mortality. Then life would return to the busy mode, and the sound of the ticking clock would fade away.

As time passes, the more we long to see the precious people who have taken up time in our lives. There is an intense desire to share with those we love the depth of that love and how important it is to us.

Seasons of life

The seasons of our lives bring changes. I wish I could spend more time with my children now that I have a bit more freedom to do so. However, they are in the busy season of life. Their timers are hidden somewhere under the clutter in their kitchens. They cannot hear the ticking because of the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. I understand because I was once in that season.

I now understand my mother when she repeatedly asks, “Are you coming over today?” It was her longing to spend more time with her daughter because there was no longer clutter in her kitchen, and she could hear the clocks sweeping hands.

My brother yearned to find his buddies from school, lost cousins, shipmates from his destroyer in Viet Nam, and to spend his last days seeing the faces of his family.

When my son lay on a gurney with a broken neck, he held my hand and urgently told me his wishes as he quickly orated a will. He saw the clock as the second hand moved at a rapid pace. Thankfully, God intervened and gave Corey more time.

Rapid movement of life

Life itself is a rapid movement. We often take it and the folks who are a part of our lives for granted. As we age, we face the quantity of time we have left; we realize how valuable each second, each day, each person, each breath is.

I recall, as if yesterday, watching Dan laugh heartily at a joke at lunch. I know it was only last week when Richie got me tickled in Latin class. Wasn’t it just the other day that Whit was snickering about something crazy I did – again?! Did I not recently see Patsy carrying her books and smiling at me as she strolled into class?

Isn’t it today that I find those folks and my memories of them even more precious?

Yes, I am happy to hear the timer. I understand the noises that are important in life. I joyfully listen to the laughter of a child. I hear God’s whispers more often and see fortune as a miracle and a coincidence as divine.

Yes, I need to check the time, complete my list, hug those I love with passion, and do so before I continue my journey on around the bend.