Lessons I Learned in 2017

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

Like most people, I want to start the new year with a little more knowledge and hopefully a little more wisdom than the previous year.  To recognize either, however, it is important to reflect on the year that came before.  I learned a few lessons from 2017 that I hope will help me handle the events of 2018 with a bit more understanding, courage, and grace.  I am relating these lessons in no particular order.

  • The storms of life are often unexpected and devastating but necessary. They bring us together and offer opportunities for working together, inspiring hope, giving freely and joyfully, and expressing genuine concern for those less fortunate.
  • We should put more faith in God and people than Hollywood and government.
  • When we are assaulted in any way, we must stand up to the offender and let it be known that we don’t tolerate rude or unseemly behavior. We must also report such behavior immediately for the sake of everyone.  Imagine what the world would be if everyone treated each other the way they want the person they love most in the world treated.
  • Hurricanes and snow storms can happen in South Texas within four months of each other. We should delight in the wonder of that.
  • We need more snow days. They give us a reason to do nothing except play, snuggle, drink hot chocolate, and marvel in how beautiful everything is when blanketed in snow.  Even the neighbor’s old shed makes for a great snow photo.
  • We should listen more, especially to those who struggle to find their voice. Our forefathers understood this and gave us freedom of the press to help do that.  That said, we should not allow anyone to be tried in the press.  We are a nation that believes in due process.  To ignore “innocent until proven guilty” hurts us all.
  • We should carry a trash bag on our walks and tidy up our paths. This is good for the environment – and our waistlines.
  • We should be quick to help and slow to criticize. Our opinions aren’t worth much, but our hands and feet are like gold.
  • We must admit it when we are wrong and forgive those who point it out. Most of us benefit from a bit of humbling now and again.
  • Investing in people pays higher dividends than investing in Bitcoins. Mentor a child who may not have a responsible adult in his life to teach him about right living.  Both of you will change for the better.
  • Find a way for kids to spend time with farm animals. It teaches them respect and a healthy fear of the big ones and allows them to see how even the smallest one has a purpose.
  • Patience is still a virtue. Sometimes waiting for what we need or want saves us time and trouble and unnecessary expense.
  • We should preserve the history of the common people and share it with our children by telling them or writing it down. It is our past, after all, that defines the direction we take in the future.
  • We must put names, places, and dates on pictures and writings so that “Who’s that?” and “Where are they?” and “When was this?” can be answered.
  • We should spend more time with four-year-old kids. They have the courage to hold a snake and sing and dance in public.  We should nurture this in them – and in ourselves.
  • We learn what our loved ones cherished by the paper treasures in their attics. Print newspapers and magazines allow us to leave a trail of what we value for those who may one day dig through our old shoe boxes stored in the closet in search of who we really are.

I am certain that everyone who reads this list could easily add to it.  So, print it, attach it to a piece of paper where you list your own life lessons from 2017, tuck it into a box or between the pages of a book, and give your children and grandchildren something to think and talk about after you’re gone.  They’ll be glad you did.  May each of you have a happy and blessed New Year, and may your resolutions turn into actions that make you a better person.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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“Give Old Don a Holler!”

Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial


     “When you get the s*** kicked out of you for long enough, and long enough, and long enough – you have a tendency to say what you really mean. In other words, you have all the pretense beat out of you.” – Charles Bukowski

     Don Trump has done it again. Chicago has decided that he’s no daisy, and they are correct. No matter the time, place, or context, Old Don has inspired action, both salty and sweet. I’m not sure if such a unique campaign has ever been run in the history of America (certainly not in my lifetime). I’m also not sure whether it’s good or bad. I am sure, however, that Mr. Trump has turned the feel of this young campaign into the equivalent of a heavily touted UFC fight. Tonight, the fight came to a head when ten-thousand protesters, wailing like banshees, broke out in (mild) violence during an otherwise counter-productive left-winged effort. If the goal was to prevent Trump from speaking, they were about as effective as The Bay of Pigs. Within the current state of affairs, Trump has found a way to be as loud when his mouth is closed as he is when it is open. Meanwhile, CNN (the so-called unbiased network) is on a savage search for any piece of minutia they can find that might serve to spill the blood on Donald’s hands. Unfortunately, the proverbial glove does not fit. Trump responded in sound political accord by cancelling the rally, claiming that he didn’t “want to see anyone get hurt.” From the perspective of political spin (which is the dominant whole of a presidential election), these protesters have done to Donald Trump what a home-run derby pitcher would do for “The Sultan of Swat,” and Old Don was gifted with nothing shy of a walk-off home-run. Cruz and Rubio, meanwhile, are left picking at the media scraps, each choosing to respond in predictable fashion, claiming that the antics of these scorned protesters should be attributed to the candidate for whom their mob mentality is directed.

     Trump, in spite of a bout of unusually graceful politicking, remains steadfast as not only the leader of the GOP race, but also as the most highly touted prospective economic savior. “People are tired of losing jobs to Mexico, and China, and Japan…” I suppose he must be correct in his remarks, but I have recently decided that there is cause for concern when considering the ostensible strength of Mr. Trump’s economic proposals for solution. As much as one can agree with his take about the hard-working Americans who are fed up with jobs being sent over seas or being filled domestically by illegal immigrants, questions must be asked: Who will fill the domestic jobs that are currently being done in large part by Mexican illegals? How much will it cost to cover the domestic wage standards to cover the production of goods that are currently being manufactured over seas? Will the owners of these companies simply pay higher wages to American workers without raising the price of their products? How will consumers really be affected by such a seemingly pro-American attitude toward improving the domestic state of economic affairs?

     In the words of Mark Twain, “There is nothing sadder than a young pessimist,” and taken a step further, nothing more hopeful than an old optimist. Donald Trump fits neither bill, but somehow, he has shaken in titanic fashion the political grounds upon which the American government prefers to walk. For that, I appreciate his efforts. After all, when you are walking in the wrong direction, a step backward is a step in the direction of progress.

Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

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