Monday, December 11, 2023

The Soapbox: The Hometown Thumbprint

Where we love is home: Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Renowned All-American baseball player, Sam Ewing, famously known for batting left and throwing right, once aptly stated that when a person goes back to visit their hometown, it is not their old home they missed, rather, their childhood. The former designated hitter and right fielder knows the truth of growing up within a loving community and its impact upon a young person’s life.

As a proud “has been” right-fielder from a small town American community, I can testify to the accuracy of his depiction of the hometown thumbprint. Though I was never famous or did anything truly great, so to speak, I find peace in knowing there is a place to visit that has been a witness to my life.

Having every opportunity to become a beauty queen, a rock-star athlete, or even a cowgirl if I wanted to, I have tried my hand at them all under the watchful eye of those who loved me. We are talking about a place so quaint that babies, such as my Mom’s friend Martha, can be switched at birth and subsequently carried back to the local hospital for a casual exchange. No harm, no foul found in the laissez-faire life of hometown America.

When I look into the lives of All-American softball star Jennie Finch or NFL Super Bowl winner Andrew Whitworth, I see beyond the people they have become, back into time, where excellence was born in the confines of a loving community network.

Finch, emerging from a tight-knit family, recently wrote her answer to a question that she frequently receives from parents of aspiring athletes as to whether their child is good enough for a college scholarship, “Being athletic and active is a lifelong accomplishment. The value isn’t just in the uniform.” She cites the real payoff as being healthy, feeling good about yourself, gaining confidence, learning teamwork, and how to deal with failure. She places the emphasis on the scores of women that go on to have successful careers in the corporate world, become leaders, manage their time, and develop people skills.

These same truths can be said of Los Angeles Rams’ Whitworth who hails from the main street American town that is known for its Friday night lights being a generational event. The City of West Monroe might as well have been called Whit Monroe following the excitement of not only seeing one of their favorite sons endure as the oldest player in the NFL, following Tom Brady’s faux retirement, but also winning a Super Bowl late in his career.

Pastor Mark Fenn was one of many in Whitworth’s life that has been an influencer to him since youth, going on even to officiate his wedding. “Andrew was always a noticeable physical presence for his age, but the size of his heart was just as impressive. He was a regular attender at youth Bible study and worship and he influenced his friends to come as well. Andrew always showed appreciation and respect for his leaders and welcomed their investment in his life. His parents, Mike and Charlotte, raised Andrew and his sister Emily with the highest values and their lives showed it.”

There is no doubt that Oliver Wendell Holmes had it right when he said that the heart never forgets that kind of love and support of childhood. The transfer to the next generation is complete when youth of yesterday become the spectators who give the nod of approval and support to the generation of tomorrow.

Brandi and The Beehive.

To truly put it in perspective, I need look no further than my Mama who snaps my photo, still, each time I have some life accomplishment. Or, I can visit the nursing home to see my Granny, A.K.A. “The Beehive,” a local celebrity for her beehive hairdo. The Beehive was recently resting her eyes when I arrived on my way to a high school basketball playoff game. The only thing that aroused her was me requesting a gumbo with tomatoes in it. She became feisty and put me back in my place to say that tomatoes DO NOT belong in gumbo. I thought of how many times Mom and Granny have been the ones behind me—Mom sweating behind the curtain or Granny making my favorite breakfast before a game. It’s because of selfless people like them that young people are able to accomplish anything in life that matters.

When I left The Beehive that day, I did more than reminisce over the nostalgia of how the hometown never changes. I am not blind to the notion that everything IS changing with each passing year. I just sat in my car in the parking lot with the door open and felt the wind. Wish I could stop it sometimes, but I know we are all just passing through like that wind, with our best hope to make life count.

If the ancient Words tell us not to remember the things of old, that God is doing a new work, and questioning whether we even perceive it, than I had to ask myself why we are also called to remember the former things, fixing them in our minds like rebels who remember things of long ago. I have come to believe the things to forget are all the stuff—the stuff that happens. The thing to remember is the God who makes the end from the beginning, who makes us a promise that His purposes will stand. Though time stops for no man, the thumbprint of the generations never fades. This is a worthy call on which we fix our sights as we press on to the prize of our forever Heavenly home. May this be our ever-fixed mark as we transition from the passing of one life to the next.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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