I was raised to respect my elders. I don’t remember there just being one specific time when I was told “you must be respectful toward those who are older than you”; instead, it was a constant and consistent lesson that was always being reinforced.
I was lucky to have grown up with my maternal grandmother. She was a feisty little lady, who had a lot of energy and spunk. She was always on the go and was always dragging one of her “grandbabies” along with her. She was young at heart, and sometimes, she didn’t seem to act anywhere near her age, yet my mom always made sure that my siblings and I respected her. We did this, not just because she was a blood relative, but because she was someone who, as an elder, possessed wisdom and deserved to be treated with respect and reverence.
When she spoke, we listened. She loved to talk, so we were always being entertained by her stories and anecdotes. I always enjoyed her company and often found myself seeking out her company because we had a very special relationship. Having her in my life was extremely impactful.
Along with my grandmother, Miss Charles Emily Wilson, the matriarch of the Black Seminoles, taught me many invaluable lessons about the importance of respecting our elders. She always worried that our history and stories would be lost because the younger generations did not make seeking out their elders and learning the history of our people a priority. Instead of continuously complaining about this, she did something about it. She created Seminole Days and began celebrating Juneteenth in 1979 as a way to make sure that we would all gather around and share our stories.
The Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association’s motto is “Lest We Forget,” which, according to Wikipedia, is commonly used in war remembrance services. Every time I’ve ever heard or uttered this phrase, I can’t help but think about the people who came before me. Many of those souls have passed on and been gone for centuries, but there are still many elders among us who lived through very significant and unforgettable times. That is why, each year during Seminole Days, we do our best to find a parade marshal who is one of our elders. Last year’s parade marshal was Ms. Rodessa Jones, from Corpus Christi. She is in her early nineties. Luckily, she accepted our invitation and had a great time during the weekend. And again, when she spoke, we listened. She talked about her childhood. And what touched me the most was that she would look at someone that she may not have known and tell them how much they looked like one of their relatives that had passed on. Like my grandmother, that weekend, she was feisty and full of energy. Her youthfulness belied her ninety-plus years.
What does it mean, then, to respect our elders? I think it simply means to treat those who are older than you the way that you would like to be treated. I think it means that you should ask questions and engage with them. They are living fountains of knowledge, and it is up to us to drink from their wells and absorb all that we can so that we can be of use and of value to the generations that will one day look at us as their elders. There is an African proverb that states: “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” Sadly, I don’t believe truer words have been spoken, but I do believe that we (no matter how young we are) can find ways to build relationships with those who are older than us and let them know that they are valued, loved, and respected.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 4/27/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
I’d been looking forward to Easter for a while. The First Baptist Church had an Easter egg hunt on Saturday, and I had volunteered to participate. I couldn’t wait to see all the children as they ran and hunted eggs, and of course, their cuteness and eagerness did not disappoint.
At seven in the morning on Easter Sunday, I attended the Sunrise Service at Fort Clark’s amphitheater. The morning was cool and overcast. It was the perfect atmosphere. There were several familiar faces in attendance, so before the service began, we all greeted each other warmly. Several preachers spoke during the service. Their message was singular and succinct. Their cooperation was a testament to everyone’s ability to get along. Each speaker filled our hearts with wisdom and truth. By the conclusion of the service, my heart was full.
Following the sunrise service, I rushed over to the First Baptist Church. This Sunday, I helped with the bus route. Then, I helped out in the nursery.
I couldn’t help but see this day as a time for reflection, reverence, and renewal. For the past few days, it seemed like everything had turned so green and vibrant. The greenery signaled a reawakening. I couldn’t help but feel that the time to come alive was “right now.” And as Easter approached this feeling became clearer and very obvious.
Jesus’s resurrection is something that I hold very dear. I reflect on his sacrifice quite often. I use this as a way to question myself and my beliefs and actions, to examine and evaluate what I am doing as a Christian, to see where I can improve. I celebrate Easter because I believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected three days later. I believe that we can be made new through our beliefs. We must be humble, and we must be willing to change. That, I believe, is what will bring about our renewal.
To be renewed means that we look at life with new eyes. We must cast off those old worries and fears and begin to live with joy. We are so lucky to be alive at this time. I truly believe that. There is always something to be thankful for, and there is always something that we can improve to make us better. I know that we must stumble. We stumble all the time. It seems that we must. We were not made perfect. And no one should ever strive to be perfect. But when you are feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, you can strive for renewal. You can take a moment to readjust the way that you look at life. You can take a moment to reflect on your life. You can take a moment to say thank you. And this, I hope, will bring you a little bit of joy and sunshine.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 4/20/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
Monday, April 10, was National Siblings' Day. I am not sure when this day was created. I’ve only heard about it a few years ago, but I think it is a wonderful way to celebrate our brothers and sisters. As you probably know, if you’ve read any of my previous writings, I have ten siblings. I have eight brothers and two sisters. Two of my brothers have passed on.
We didn’t have a lot when we were growing up. Truly, all we had was each other. And my mother and father instilled that in my siblings and me from the moment we were born. They told us to always take care of each and to always look out for each other. And we have carried this with us into adulthood. I am proud of my brothers and sisters and the way that we come together when we need each other.
In late 2015 into early 2016, I made many trips to Big Lake to visit my brother Bootsie. He was battling cancer, and my son Elton and I wanted to be there for him as much as we were able to. Most of the time, when we were there, one or more of my other brothers would be there. And you know, we didn’t ever do anything extra special. We’d just watch TV or barbeque or just sit around the kitchen table and talk until we all got sleepy. But I think the most important thing was that we were all there together and that we were spending time together and making memories.
My brother Bootsie passed away just over a year ago, and losing him was very painful, and that pain is still very fresh. I miss him very, very much. I’ve learned that the loss of a sibling doesn’t make you love him any less. Instead, I’ve learned that I can cling to and hold dear all the things that remind me of him. When I look at his kids, I can see his face smiling back at me in theirs. If one of his favorite songs comes on the radio right when I am thinking of him, it warms my heart to know that sometimes the world seems to read my mind and gives me a sign that lets me know that my brother is still with me, even if I can’t see him.
During our meeting this past Saturday, another set of siblings came together and it was heart-warming to be a part of it. The Fay family from Del Rio surprised their brother Jerry for his birthday. It was great to be a part of it, to see all of these siblings coming together. Their love for each other shone brighter than the sun.
So no matter how annoying they may have been when you all were younger, your siblings are people who are irreplaceable in your life, so, every chance you get, let them know that you love them.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/13/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This Saturday, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association (SISCA) will have a meeting. Our meetings take place once a month, on the second Saturday of each month, at one in the afternoon. During our meetings, we, like many other organizations, discuss pertinent issues, plan upcoming activities, and generally do our best to keep everything moving forward.
Personally, I like meetings. Over the years, I’ve seen how an idea that is mentioned at a meeting can flourish into a huge, concrete thing. The idea of SISCA, I am sure, began with the meeting of a few like minds and has flourished into an organization that is historic and honored and necessary in its own right. In Jeff Guinn’s Our Land Before We Die, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association is described as “the de facto keepers of the tribal flame” (i.e. history/legacy). Because keeping our legacy alive and making sure that the next generation knew where they came from was so important to her, Miss Charles Emily Wilson created two special events that we celebrate each year. Juneteenth and Seminole Days began as ideas for Miss Charles Emily Wilson, and it was during SISCA meetings that the first Juneteenth and Seminole Days events were planned in 1979, and this year, we (SISCA) will be celebrating thirty-seven years of celebrating both events here in Brackettville, Texas.
I am saying all this to say that being involved in something that you are passionate about is never a small thing. You never know what your voice, your ideas, or your presence might do to help change, better, or expand an organization. I’ve always encouraged others to volunteer. I’d also like to begin encouraging everyone to meet. There are so many great organizations here in Brackettville that anyone can get involved in. There is the Fort Clark Historical Society, Kinney County Historical Commission, the Kinney County Chamber of Commerce, the Montalvo House, the H.O.P.E Church Alliance, S.A.L.T, the Boy Scouts, and of course, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association. All of these organizations (and I apologize to the ones I did not mention) meet regularly, have relatively affordable membership fees, and would love to see more smiling faces at their meetings.
Generally, the meetings take up no more than an hour or two of your time. While there, you’ll become privy to how many of the events that take place in Brackettville get off the ground. There is a lot of planning that goes into pulling off some of the events that our hometown has come to see as annual occurrences. And many of the aforementioned organizations work together to pull them off. Therefore, if you’re even just a little bit curious, I would encourage you to attend a meeting. Just go to one and see what you think. If you like it, become a member. And when you get a chance to, speak up because so many of us have such wonderful ideas, but never get the change to voice them.
Note: This blog appeared as article in the 4/6/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.