My story a few days ago about Patti Wagner, the St. Thomas More Catholic School teacher who organizes an annual drive to give kids in coal mine country presents for Christmas, is a wonderful lesson in giving. It’s a lesson in giving to give, because you want to help and make their day brighter. It’s about being kind to others and sharing.
This past weekend, I stood outside the N.C. Museum of History and watched the recognized tribes of Native Americans in North Carolina play the drums and perform various dances. It was part of the 19th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration.
I interviewed a Fairy Godmother this past week. Kecia Lewis, as you may have read about in the Friday Entertainment section, plays the Fairy Godmother in the national tour of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” It’s coming this week to the Durham Performing Arts Center.
If you haven’t experienced combat, you don’t know what it’s like. No matter how many times we watch “Band of Brothers” or “Saving Private Ryan,” or even “The Longest Day,” we don’t know what it was really like during World War II. No one does for sure, unless they were there. So I don’t know what it’s like.
Nail polish. It’s not as minor as you think.
I have a basket of little glass bottles of nail polish, which I’ve used daily since I began painting my nails as a solution to stop biting them. I had orange glittery nail polish on last week for Halloween. It’s part of daily life, something seemingly minor, a cosmetic. But maybe it’s more than that.
Everyone who goes to the N.C. State Fair annually probably also has an annual tradition, too. They always go on a certain ride, eat a certain fried food, see a certain exhibit, or visit particular animals.
I was all set to write a column griping about the high cost of attending an ACC football game. Tickets are $60 each now, which is costly for a family outing and all that goes with it. The recession has taken its toll on the wallets of college fans, and home televisions offer a cheaper view, if not the game day experience. I’m all about the game day experience.
When I interviewed Durham native April Parker Jones this past week for a story about her starring on the Tyler Perry soap opera “If Loving You Is Wrong” on the Oprah Winfrey Network, we talked about a lot of things, including Durham. Parker Jones grew up here, and it was her sister Cynthia Harris, who lives here, who clued me in on Parker Jones’ new show.
In sixth grade, I was a crossing patrol. I never rode a school bus, as every place we lived was within the one-mile walking distance radius because it builds character. As a walking crossing patrol, my station was about a block from home, at a corner. I wore my orange patrol belt and waited each morning for the dozen or so kids to come walking by on their way to the two elementary schools in our neighborhood (one K-3, the other 4-6). If the kids came over the hill on the other side of the street, I crossed over to them. My job was to look both ways for traffic, then tell the younger kids when it was safe to cross and walk with them. Then after they were all gone, I walked to the primary school myself and rode the few blocks over to my school with all the other patrols, including bus patrols.
You know that phrase, “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy?” Well, that’s how I feel about Ivan Harrell, whom I first met in 2011. He was the subject of a front-page story I wrote about his daily life as he waited for a heart transplant. His bag was packed. Finally, on Sept. 14, 2013, he got the call and went to UNC Hospital that night in Chapel Hill. The next day he had a new heart, and in the year since is doing just fine.
For years now, we’ve talked about how the numbers of the Tom Brokaw-coined “Greatest Generation” have been dwindling. But still, there are many World War II veterans who are still here in Durham, still living each day. Nineteen of them were at the Friendly City Civitan Club this week, invited to the annual Veterans Appreciation Lunch.
Seeing is believing. The Ray Rice video is forcing America to confront itself. It is most definitely our business. We’ve always known it’s our business, but it was easier to look the other way. American life is not more dangerous today that it was a few generations ago. We just know what’s happening now. Talk to someone long enough about life decades ago and you’ll hear stories of people being victims of abuse, and the abuser walked. I don’t mean they got off in court, though that certainly happens; I mean they were never even arrested.
Durham Public Schools’ universal breakfast, a topic during this past spring’s school board race, went into effect this new school year. The idea is that if everyone can eat a free breakfast, they’re more likely to grab something to eat instead of the focus being on the kids who are getting it because of their parents’ lower incomes.
Sitting in a fast-food restaurant eating chicken after using a back-to-school coupon, my son and I talked about Labor Day. There’s no school on Monday, I told him, because of the holiday. Labor Day is a holiday for people who work, I said. People who work hard deserve a holiday, I said.
For some reason, my most vivid childhood memory of a back-to-school night is not my own school, but my sister’s. We were living in Augusta, Georgia, (the suburb of Martinez, to be specific) and she was starting junior high. It was the 1980s. I was still in elementary school. I can picture the evening. There were trailers, not just the main building. It was crowded. She got a souvenir light blue plastic mug. Maybe it was the mug. It was a cool mug. What has stayed with me is the feeling of newness – our family of four checking out a new school where my older sister would go. I don’t recall being upset she went to a different school. It was just different not being in the same school together anymore.