Category: thankfulness


St Martin's Secondary School

St Martin’s Secondary School

With the death and burial recently of one of my high school teachers, Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher, I started to purposefully reflect on my times at St Martin’s Secondary School in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was the best a boy could get in terms of a quality education at a conducive and learner friendly environment.

I entered St Martin’s in September 1987 and I can honestly say that the next five years were among the very best years of my entire life. They were really golden years. This is a sentiment being echoed by many of my classmates and schoolmates who were privileged to be enrolled at the institution in that golden era.  Prior to 1987 I had never known or heard about St Martin’s; however, it was after I was only one of two boys from Evesham Methodist School lucky enough to pass the 1987 Common Entrance exam that my teachers told me about St Martin’s.

I was immediately excited and thrilled about the prospects of attending a “town school” because it would mean that I would be riding vans every day. Vehicles and rides were scarce luxuries in the Evesham of 1987. I can still vividly remember jumping up and down when I got the confirmation slip from the Ministry of Education that said I would be going to St Martin’s Secondary School.

One of the first challenges was having to be in “town” on my own. So far, the only place I went to on my own was the village next door. So my brother and mother accompanied me to the school on registration day. That event happened in the library. It was my first time meeting the Christian Brothers—Br. Alfred Marshall was the principal and conducted the exercise himself. Up to that point I had only seen “white people” on TV and so it dawned on me that my world was really expanding.

That summer we were invited to attend Math classes being taught by Mr Bradley Brooker. I shall always remember walking out the gate after the first session and realizing I was lost because I had not memorized the immediate street. Panic gripped me but then a voice said to me just follow the other students and see where they go. That idea got me back on the right track.

I would never lose my way again.

The rest of the summer was a new adventure everyday. As I began meeting the other boys I realized that I was meeting children from all over St Vincent and the Grenadines. We shared our respective memories of our various primary schools at every chance we got.

Then the 1987 school year began. During the summer there was just a handful of us new students—about twenty or so—but on the first day of school I felt totally lost at the awesome sight of literally hundreds of boys in blue and white. It was like I walked into an ants nest of blue and white. I had no idea what to do, where to go, who to talk to. So guess what I did?

I followed the students who were in front of me when I entered the gate. So I stayed in that bright blue and white traffic. I kept climbing the steps. On the second flight of stairs, a friend I made at the summer lessons, Clinty Joseph, was on his way down. He said to me, “Is you I coming to look for you know. Come see where our class is.”

If there ever was a Godsend, that was Clinty right there!

He told me to check on the door to see which of the two form ones I was in. Back then the class lists were placed on the doors. I scanned the first list and found my name. Clinty could not be happier because he, too, was on that list.

Even though I had been at summer school, the classrooms looked quite different. They were cleaner and shone just as brightly as the uniforms and book bags of the new students occupying them. As the years went by I would later learn and see that it was Mr Butcher who used his summer to lead a school painting taskforce every year.

One of the first things that struck me about my new class was that it was so roomy and clean. It had louvers on both sides and so very well ventilated. I smiled to myself. I already loved my new school. When I later heard a man speaking over a speaker I was astonished. The school had a PA system. I automatically gave the school two thumbs up and all five stars!

St Martin’s Secondary School (SMSS) was a family. I saw that in operation every day. There was a real sense of caring and sharing. Looking back, nobody seemed vexed with you or having “bad mind” as the youths say of themselves these days. There were 38 students in my Form 1 Set 2 and I honestly can say there were no “haters” in that large group.

St Martin’s taught me a lot about friendships from day 1. I had met Marlon Roberts who lived in Questelles and had attended the Petersville Primary School. I tried sneaking up behind him one break time to cover his eyes with my hands. It was a game we played. But somehow Marlon must have known I was there because he turned around just as I was about to clamp my hands over his eyes.

What happened next I would never forget. The plan backfired in that my finger got in his eye and he was immediately upset. He said: “Alyo man always a do stupidness you know!”

I felt so guilty and embarrassed that I ran away and tried my best to avoid him from then on. Then a day or two afterwards it was Marlon who sneaked up on me and actually apologized to me. That showed me who a real friend was. It was the first time in my life another person was apologizing to me.

Marlon did one other thing that year to make me understand friends are really people who care about your best interests. It happened when our Algebra teacher, Mr Best, had given us the option of attending either algebra or camera lessons after school. I went in the camera group, which had upper form students.

After a while Marlon came over to me and he said, “Ashford, you can always learn to use a camera you know, but you can’t always learn how to do algebra.”

That struck me to the core.

Never before had anyone analysed my actions and given me advice for my benefit. Additionally, because it came from somebody my own age, I was totally impressed and realized I had a real friend. Without saying a word, I left the camera group and joined my friend in the algebra lessons.

In those days we used to have what we call a “Special Schedule” on Fridays. Classes lasted only 35 minutes. There was no break; however, lunch was from 10:40 to 11:15. School used to over at 1:25 PM every Friday.

Our Form Master, Mr Kelly, used to stay back with us and do fun activities. Often, we would join with the students from Form 1 Set 1 and their Form Master. That is how I learned to make and fly a kite.

Other notable experiences that first year included getting licks for doing home work in class. Mr Sarkar was the Dean of discipline. Homework was to be done at home. The first time Mr Sarkar came to teach us Geography, he wrote four Ss on the board. The first S meant “stand up”. The second S meant “shut up”; the third S meant “Sarkar”,  and the fourth S was for “Sir”.

It was not that he just wrote and told us about these Ss. He bellowed them to us new terrified students. I could have sworn I was in the military! I won’t be surprised if some boys with bladder problems did wet their pants that morning.

But Mr Sarkar also wrote four other letters on the board. H.A.R.P. That would prove to be his motto for teaching. The letters stood for Honesty, Ambition, Respect and Pride.

We enjoyed Geography class after that unforgettable introduction.

St Martin’s Secondary School gave us local boys a chance to meet people from around the world. Mr Kelly, for example, was a young American who was volunteering a year teaching us English. There were different volunteers each year. We also met other boys who were in St Vincent but citizens from overseas—from Caribbean islands to America and Canada.

As we did our work we soon realized that our teachers wanted us to also have fun. There were times when all we did was just tell jokes and old talk.

And we did not just learn about the academic syllabus. I remember the first time I experienced a sex education lesson was from Mr Butcher in his form four Social Studies class. Up until then I didn’t think teachers ever talked about sex or relationships in class with students. But it helped us. It was a real life lesson.

In a Form 3 Religion class, Br Robert made us all sit up with mouths open and eyes popping out of our heads. He began his lesson: “What does somebody really mean when they say fuck you?”

No body slept in that class.

St Martin’s Secondary School made a name for itself in sports as well. Apart from the usual inter-House and Inter-School athletics events, we were a force to be reckoned with on the football and cricket field as well. In 1smss football news story990 the St Martin’s football team won the finals of the secondary schools football competition after beating the Bethel High School. I still can see students like Curtis Greaves (now principal of the Emmanuel High School in Mesopotamia) stamping the wooden stands at the Victoria Park so passionately that I really was expecting the stands to collapse.

In 1991, the St Martin’s football team was back in the finals of the secondary schools football tournament. We faced off against the Barrouallie Secondary School. The match went into overtime and the boys had to have penalty shootouts. Christmas came early at St Martin’s that year because we won the game and were football champions for two years in a row! We all left the Victoria Park pretty hoarse that day.

That same year, in 1991, Mr Brooker led the St Martin’s cricket team to the finals of the secondary schools cricket competition. NBC Radio, back then known as 705 Radio, broadcasted the match live. I remember clearly, sportscaster Mike Findlay asking student Grant Connell (yes, he is the lawyer of today) who he believes will win the match. And Grant simply told him that St Martin’s already has it wrapped up. Mike was just impressed by the smarts of the St Martin’s student.

St Martin’s secondary School did win the 1991 secondary schools cricket championship. So in that year we were both football and cricket champions of all the secondary schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines!

But it didn’t end there. In 1992, guess who was back in the finals of the secondary schools football competition? Yes, St Martin’s. And guess which school we came up against? None other than the St Vincent Boys Grammar School. Now this was poised to be an interesting and historic match indeed. You see, there was always this unspoken competition between the Grammar School and St Martin’s to see which of these two all-boys schools was really number one. Because the match was played at the end of the calendar year, my group had already graduated from St Martin’s. In fact we were now in 6th Form (what is now called Community College).

The sole Sixth Form on the island was attached to the Grammar School. Nonetheless my classmates, St Clair “Herbie” Stapleton, Ronnie Daniel, Harold Lewis, Sheldon Venner, and I, all came to support St Martin’s that afternoon. Now our Sixth Form teacher came and sat among us in the section with St Martin’s students. As if that was not odd enough, she had the Grammar School flag. I just felt she was “in enemy territory”. She made the mistake of waving the flag when Grammar School had made a goal and all I saw was the Grammar School flag flying in mid air to the ground at the front of the stand. Almost immediately someone ran and tossed it into a green garbage bin nearby.

The entire stand erupted in an uproar that would have drowned out any Carnival Monday jam.

By the end of the game St Martin’s Secondary School had created history by winning the secondary schools football championship for three years in a row! And we did it by beating the St Vincent Grammar School. Coach Gary Thomas had really worked very hard. Players such as Rohan Keizer, Dominique Stowe, Terry Anderson, Jimi Jack and Maxion Richardson, among others on the team, really were top football players in the country, even though they were teenagers.

smss football champs

This is the football team that won the 3rd title

Now, just before we had graduated in June of 1992, our graduating class also did something that I don’t believe any other graduating class has done. We re-enacted the finals of the football championship between the the champs, St Martin’s, and the opponents in the finals, the Barrouallie Secondary School in a floodlight football match at Victoria Park. The moon was out in all its glory. We had students picking up ticket monies. We had students in charge of Bar be que. We had students manning the bar. It was an unforgettable night. Oh yes, I was responsible for getting the event advertised and so Chester Connell, a past student of St Martin’s who was a top radio announcer at 705 Radio at the time, did the ad for us.

There are so very many other precious memories from St Martin’s. It struck me during times when school was closed that other students who were not from my class would actually say hello to me whenever and wherever we met. That comforted me so much. I knew I was not just a student in a school. I was a brother in a large family.

Up to this day those of us who grew up at the school in that era, refer to each other as “Brother”.

And we saw it even as the news spread of the death of Mr Butcher. Old boys came to the funeral dressed in their St Martin’s uniform. I was one of them.  Seeing all the other people associated with the golden era of St Martin’s made tears come to my eyes.

butchercoffin

Mr Butcher’s body leaving the Anglican Church in Kingstown

We were mightily blessed to have been at St Martin’s in those times. A lot has changed over the years. The Christian Brothers are no longer in St Vincent. That wonderful cadre of men and women that comprised the teaching staff has long since disbanded to various other endeavours in life.

I know many of us past students wish that our St Martin’s was still engulfed in that magical atmosphere of love, hope and excellent academic pursuits and results.  We may not be able to wave a magic wand and reverse the hand of time but what we can do is let the spirit of SMSS live in all of us.

St Martin’s role was to prepare us for life. That is what Mr Butcher was eagerly doing over all those years of his life. So it is up to us to live out the life lessons we learned within it’s happy walls. It was encouraging this year that the child who came first in the CPEA—the exam that replaced the Common Entrance exam, is the son of a past student of St Martin’s Secondary School.

Let us all use whatever talents we have and make our mark. We can still change the world. I believe in doing so, the present crop of students and teachers at St Martin’s will see the rich legacy of the school powerfully at work and that will keep inspiring them to up their game as well.

Mr. Butcher

Our teacher Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher at school

I end this lengthy but necessary post with the very words Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher wrote in my graduation souvenir book when I graduated in 1992:

“Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. All the best. May your inspiration come from the Lord at all times.”

For generations in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Common Entrance Examination was the sole determinant of which primary school children would get a secondary education. In its hay day, only the successful candidates who passed the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) were chosen to attend a secondary school. As there were very few secondary schools, competition was stiff and many primary school children were left without a place in the secondary school system when the new school year began.

The top students in the CEE were automatically selected for the top schools on the island. The top school for boys was the St Vincent and the Grenadines Boys Grammar School. It’s female equivalent was the St Vincent and the Grenadines Girls High School. Both of these schools were—and still are—located in the capital city and adjacent to each other.

The CEE was therefore a life changing event for many children, especially for those who lived in the country side. Once they passed well and were selected for a “town school”, it was a whole new life about to begin. For example, in my own case, my first trip into town on my own was only as a result of passing the CEE well enough to be placed at a secondary school in the town.

I can still vividly recall upon leaving the school premises after school one day during the first week of classes, feeling horrified because I wasn’t seeing the landmarks I had memorized. Luckily, panic gave way to calm as something inside told me to just follow the other students for a while. It turned out the landmarks which I had mentally encoded were on another street farther away from the school.

Forgive my enthusiastic running ahead of myself there. Let me resume the reflection on the topic at hand. Age played a significant role in deciding who would write the Common Entrance Examination. Most of my classmates in Junior 5 (Common Entrance Class, as we called it back then) had two and even three chances to write this exam. Me? I had only one.

So I told myself that I was going to either Form 1 or Senior 1. It was some kind of 1 for me. Now Senior 1 was the next primary school class after Junior 5, occupied by those who either failed the Common Entrance Exam or who were ineligible to write the Common Entrance Exam in the first place.

Besides one’s age, academic ability played a huge role in determining who would end up in the “Common Entrance Class”. As I was usually placing first in my primary school class (and I still have a report from my Junior 4 class to prove it) I was automatically selected to go to the Junior 5A which was the group who would be prepared to write the exam.

And even in this large Common Entrance Class (there were over twenty of us), the teacher split the class into a smaller group 1 and a comparatively larger group 2. Group one was seen as the group with the higher likelihood of passing the CEE.  Although students from both groups would eventually write the exam, only six of us in all passed: two boys and four girls.

My best friend and I were the two lucky boys that year. I can still remember that some days before the exam, he must have seen my worried looks, he said to me,”Ashford, don’t worry, If I pass you are going to pass, too.”

That really cheered me up because I knew he was just as bright as I was. (I was always fortunate in school to experience peer power rather than peer pressure).

In my time in primary school the Common Entrance Exam was sat on the first Friday in May. In my year the date was Friday May 1, 1987. As I lived in the rural Marriaqua valley and attended the Evesham Methodist School, I had to journey to the nearby village of Cane End to write the Common Entrance Exam.

And that was another life changer that the CEE facilitated. It was the first time in my life I would be sitting in a classroom with other students from other schools. You can imagine how utterly foreign I felt, never accustomed to being around strangers and suddenly having  to write the most important exam of my life in a room with strange classmates and equally strange teachers and invigilators.

I wonder if that made some students over the years freeze with fear and failed the exam?

Anyway, I left home bright and early that morning and walked with my older brother through the London short cut over to Carriere, a neighbouring village, through another shortcut called “Bottom Road” and then on to Cane End.

As early as I was, some of my classmates were already there, and that helped a great deal in calming my fears. That day proved to be a very fun day where socializing was concerned. Not that I made any new friends, but that day I discovered those long hot dog sausages that tasted like heaven to me. I remember buying at least three different ones.

That made me fall in love with that school (it was the Marriaqua Secondary School, now called  The St Joseph Convent Marriaqua). I told myself I did want to come to this school and eat hot dogs—if I passed the CEE.

My CEE number was 276. We had four exam papers that day. The first exam began at 9:00 AM and the final exam ended at 2:30 PM.

I think the exam papers were English, Maths, General Paper and Science.

One other thing I must mention about the actual exam day. I had developed the habit of bowing my head and praying before writing an exam (a practice I still follow today). At first, several of my foreign classmates joked and made fun of my silent prayer.

But after a moment I realized the room was very quiet. Thinking that maybe a teacher had entered the room, I opened my eyes, and found much to my surprise that many of the other children had their heads bowed in silent prayer as well.

For some reason that day, the girls from my primary school class ran on ahead of us when we were ready to go home. So I had only the company of my male classmates. It made me sad at first but then I forgot about it as we started to raid and pick mangoes like joke from the many mango trees that we met on our way home. We had taken a longer route home, going through Mesopotamia (also called Mespo), La Croix and then back to Evesham, passing our primary school on the way).

The 1987 Common Entrance Examination results were released on Friday June 19th. I know because up to this day I have a copy of the results which were printed in the sole local newspaper at the time.

I remember on that Friday morning while walking to school a female school mate of mine ran out of her home in a place we called “Tanchin” and said breathlessly to me: “Ashford, you pass! You pass Common Entrance!”

Well that took away all my nerves and fears. She also told me of two other persons from my school who had passed. I never found out how that girl knew I passed but I can only assume that there was an adult in her home who worked with the newspaper or with the ministry of education.

So by the time the teacher got to school with the results, I was no longer afraid about whether or not I had passed. However, that day proved the last day of my primary education because my mother decided it was not productive for me to go back to school after that.

But I can still see in my mind’s eye some of my classmates literally crying because they had failed the exam. I wept inside for them too, because to fail Common Entrance in those days was to fail at getting a secondary school education.

It has been many years since I wrote the Common Entrance Examination. Now this year, 2013, has been the last year the Common Entrance Examination was used. Since the year 2005 every primary school child who wrote the exam was being placed in a secondary school.

It made those of us who had to toil so strenuously feel a bit cheated; however, it is life and it seems many of the present day children do not appreciate this “free ride” to a secondary education. So many of them are unable to read well and still don’t care about how they perform, even though they know they come from poor families.

In our time, we tried hard to make something of ourselves in secondary school because it was clear to us that we had been given an opportunity which many others of our own age never got. But today’s crop of primary school leavers seems content with just  cursing F-words, playing with their electronically expensive gadgets and trying to find somebody to have sex with. My, how times and values have changed!

Finally, in June this year, I was saddened when Iheard the obituary of the man who was my head teacher at the Evesham Methodist School. His name was Bernard Williams. I still have his signature on my report card I mentioned earlier.

Last year he actually visited the church I attend (he was a Gideon and had come to promote the distribution of Bibles), and we had a very memorable talk—going back down memory lane. One of the last things he taught us was a simple poem. He just came into the class, wrote it on the blackboard and then left as suddenly and as quietly as he had entered.

The poem read:

“There are four things that come not back—a sped arrow, a spoken word, a past life and a neglected opportunity—H.E. Longfellow”.

I have never forgotten that poem.

But when I heard his obituary I was also pleasantly surprised that it also said “…better known as ‘Master Willie’ ”.

That was his nickname that we were all terrified to call him. But somehow I believed he smiled from heaven because he realized he was more than that nickname.

Interestingly, one of my primary school classmates who now lives in New York, came across my blog a few days after his death. I told my lost-and-found primary school buddy about our head teacher’s death and we quietly reflected on those good old days.

Oh yes, from next year the Common Entrance Examination is to be replaced by an examination called Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment, the CPEA.

Andy Griffith

 

I was watching The Andy Griffith Show on TV Land an hour or so ago when I saw headlines on my computer that “Actor Andy Griffith is Dead”.

That moment froze me in time. Moments before I was just enjoying the show and thinking of my childhood days when I first started watching this beloved idyllic sitcom. I also was thinking that “Deputy Barney Fife” played by Don Knots died a few years ago; sadly, too, the episode I was watching had “Goober” in it. Goober died just a month or so ago back in May of this year.

But maybe it is fate and destiny that I should learn of the death of one of my favourite television personalities while watching his show. It is the first time in my life I recall something like this happening.

But I am glad it happened this way.

I first started watching the Andy Griffith Show back in the 1980s. I was in primary school at the time. I can still vividly remember that it would be showed at 3:30 PM  each weekday afternoon. In those days my classmates and I would gather in the hour before the 3 o’ clock dismissal bell and we would rehearse with gravitational excitement all the plots of our TV shows the previous afternoon.

I can still hear the voice of my best friend telling me how he prefer to watch cartoons instead of real people, but nonetheless The Andy Griffith Show (T.A.G.S.) made an impact on our entertainment appetite.

TAGS has been one of the shows that has remained on television line up for broadcasting over the many years since  my golden childhood decade of the 1980s. I always enjoyed the simple lifestyle and powerful life lessons the characters would portray in the episodes. There didn’t have to be a lot of action or physical movement in place or time for the pleasurable entertainment value to be enjoyed by the audience.

This show was also one of the shows that my mother and I  often watched together, particularly when school was closed and I was at home on vacation. My mother’s favourite episode was the one when “Aunt Bea” bought an excessive amount of beef and was literally dragging her meat home through the streets of Mayberry and the town’s dogs were having a feast as she went along.

Andy, I hope you do say hello to my mother for me as you enter your eternal home in heaven.

I bet I can easily make this post my longest ever as a blogger: there is just so much to remember and to tell!

I have always felt a sense of comfort in that I knew Andy Griffith was still alive. It was like I had a particular handle on the 1960s, a time before my birth, when The Andy Griffith Show was being produced and aired for the first time.

I believe I speak for every single one of  TAGS fans when I say that the theme song—a beautifully whistled tune—is another simple reason the show has been immortalized in our minds and memories. At some point and time I am sure we all have whistled that tune.

The deaths of the majority of the cast members from The Andy Griffith Show indicates that a television era in wholesome entertainment has really ended. As far as I know these characters from the show are now all dead: Aunt Bea, Goober, Barney, Floyd, Clara, and now Andy Griffith.

I give thanks to the Lord for giving the world Andy Griffith and I thank Him for allowing Andy to have a long life—86 years—on the earth. I have learned from Andy’s life that it is important to enjoy your years, whether young or old. Andy brought his highly demanded show to an end in 1968 to follow his other dreams of life outside of the sitcom world.

It was not an easy road for him; he didn’t make the immediate hit with movie audiences as he did with TAGS, and he even lost his wife in the process; however, Andy Griffith kept persevering on.

His nine year run as Matlock made his name a household phrase again with a younger television audience in the 1990s.

Andy Griffith is finally dead after being here many decades. The great news is that he has left his life’s work in television and music for us to enjoy. Let us do so, celebrating Andy Griffith our forever television friend.

Today, April 14, 2012, is exactly one hundred years since the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg in the Atlantic and began sinking over the next several hours. This was the largest ship of its kind back then. The Titanic was hailed as the unsinkable ship.

But it did not even finish its very first voyage back in April 1912. Take a look at the very last message sent from this ship which was marketed as unsinkable.

Titanic last message

As you can see, the message reads “We are sinking fast. Passengers are being put on life boats.”

The great discomfort for the passengers was that there were not enough lifeboats on board; I mean, what is the purpose of so many life boats when the ship is unsinkable, right?

Less than one third of the passengers were able to board the scarce and limited available life boats on the Titanic.

Over fifteen hundred persons died in that one mishap. Today, the world is remembering the Titanic. But exactly what should we be remembering? By now most of you reading this would have seen and fallen in love with the movie depicting this tragedy, so there are many varying moods and attachments to the Titanic sinking by different people.

I would just like readers to consider what life lessons should be learned from the Titanic story for our times, one hundred years later.

Hmmm…the unsinkable ship….

Ryan White

I never knew Ryan White while he lived but like so many who have come to learn of his life in the years following his death I am committed to celebrate and promote his mission.

Ryan White died at age eighteen, a time when the average person is expecting to just begin living—the sky is the limit in early adulthood. But Ryan never had this luxury.

It seems his life was meant to be lived for humanity’s moral education and edification. Ryan White was a born haemophiliac who eventually picked up the HIV/AIDS virus when he was just age 13 back in 1984.

Because the disease was new and therefore unknown at the time, Ryan was unfortunately subjected to gross resentment, isolation, hatred and prejudice because of his innocently positive status.

Even within the walls of his church was this young champion of human rights being victimized and made a pariah.

But I am so very glad that this often lonely teenager never gave up on trying to make the world a better place for all people, regardless of their health condition.

Eventually, Ryan became a national spokesperson on and for AIDS in the renowned United States of America. Along the way, he made several high-profile friends including entertainers, movie stars and politicians.

Ryan White never asked to be made a famous person; he just wanted a normal life for himself, his sister and mother. But he taught the world how to face crises with daily hope and perseverance.

If you have not yet read Ryan White’s autobiography you do need to get a copy like since yesterday. I guarantee you that it is a book that will positively impact your life and enable you to value your own existence and that of your fellow men with new understanding purpose.

We all would have wished for Ryan White to be alive today. We all miss him so very much. We all feel badly not being able to be there with him as he faced his final illness.

That is why each one of us who get to know how and why Ryan White lived and died must now pledge to keep the flame of his life burning brightly.

It is a torch we must pass on to upcoming generations.

Ryan never got to enjoy many of the simple pleasures and happiness that should precipitate the life of a teenager. In his book, My Own Story, Ryan explains how it was even challenging getting a date and finding a girlfriend. Most teenagers today will find it incomprehensible to think of dying when they have not even had a girlfriend or had sex.

Throughout his struggles and travels, Ryan kept pushing for the public’s acceptance of people with AIDS, who were just as scared and confused as those without the killer disease.

So even being expelled from school, being victim of vampire-like rumours and having a bullet penetrate his home window, Ryan White refused to keep quiet and disappear from life just because many people thought he was not fit to be among them.

Baby Born In Toilet

 

mom and baby

A young  woman’s first baby was born as she sat on the toilet. The baby dropped right into the toilet bowl. The incident happened in the climax stages of one of the most widely celebrated carnivals in the Caribbean—that of Trinidad and Tobago.

The mother is a teenager of nineteen who moments before the discovery had complained of “feeling hungry” and having belly ache.

The events unravelled at a local fast food establishment in the early morning hours, just as the business day was commencing.

A genuine humanitarian spirit caused a worker at the business place to enquire of the young lady who was seen overly rested.

Mysteriously, the teen mother declared she was just about five or six months pregnant. It seems likely she would have had little or no preparatory sessions for motherhood or for dealing with childbirth.

Her solo status signifies that the child’s father is not in the picture. However, the worker who came to her aid was a trained nurse’s assistant. God must have set up this particular encounter because the worker checked in the toilet bowl after the young lady had eased off the seat. It was then the baby was seen and pulled from the toilet bowl.

It is not the kind of birth that anyone would want to hear they had as they grow older. But the child started to cry after being raised from the waters in the toilet bowl.

The teenager happens to be living pretty much on her own, according to reports after the incident occurred. Hopefully, after she and her baby leave the hospital some individual or corporate entity will volunteer to take care of this single parent family.

Very few of us can resist sweetness. I remember listening to a childhood calypso in which the calypsonian belted the words “sweetness is my weakness”. As children we were generally given sweet tasting snacks and drinks as an easy meal or means of stopping further crying or pouting.

I was quietly reflecting on the reality of time and the changes that mark the passage of time in our lives. Do you know that even though we live several decades it is still just a brief moment along the path of time. For example, I am remembering all the years I was honoured to have my mother around but those years are gone. Mommy is in heaven but I remain on earth. Time marches on.

Indeed, life goes on.

Earlier today I was listening to cable television and heard of an event which happened thirty years ago. Now thirty years seem like a long time, but for those of us who would have been around we remember the 1980s as though they were yesterday.

I suppose it is the beginning of a new year that makes my analysis of time particularly important at this point in time. 2012. Hmmm. It seems like just the other day my classmates and I were looking forward to graduation from secondary or high school. That was 1992. Wow, so that would mean it has been twenty years since our graduation. My, how time does fly! But I don’t think too many of us would proclaim that we were having fun over the last two decades though.

So what does all this time sensitivity have to do with the title of this post? I will say that it is only as we analyse time we can appreciate how our lives have been shaped along the way. Looking back over the years lets us recognize what our lives have been shaped into. Have we achieved those youthful goals that we set so many moons ago?

I can speak only for myself to say that my existence in this life has come some distance. However, there are ways still to go; I was one of those late bloomers who would not have set early specific life goals. From wanting to be a banker, a radio announcer, a preacher and a writer to being an educator today, it seems that some goals were never materialized. Many, in fact. But I don’t take it too hard because I never really wanted to just grow up, have a family, house and land and work all my years to repay one mortgage for one property until death do us part.   I cannot just live in adulthood conformity to the socio-economic norms. I should not just work for money–money should work for me. Definitely.

And, by the way, let me be absolutely clear: I do want a family but it has to be a workable situation like every other attainable goal in life.

My point is that it seems to me that there are some side attractions along life’s road that are meant to detour me from achieving those inner dreams. Everybody has their detractors and side attractions I guess. Those side attractions look tempting like sweets in a store to a young child. But when you finally get those side attractions and bite into them you realize that beyond the showy camouflage of a sugary crust there is nothing of substance or value on the inside.

I find while on the good path over the years, even with good intentions, I stopped or diverted to eat the sugar-coated side attractions only to find that there is nothing of worth or meaningful help beyond an outward appeal of beauty.

I am pretty sure each of my readers can right now look back to times in their own decision-making when they turned to candies of sugar-coated emptiness. Such side attractions only have delayed personal progress and timely self actualization. We have had relationships gone bad, neglected income opportunities and marginal successes.

But it is good to identify one’s sugar-coated emptiness side attractions. They attempt to keep one from one’s earthly purpose for being alive. What are your side attractions of sugar-coated emptiness?

You know what, man is on earth to be in power over everything else on the earth. It is never too late to become the person one was meant to be. The way I see it is like this: side attractions of sugar-coated emptiness will always be lurking around but our time on earth is very limited. Each person’s life is really a clock counting down to departure-from-earth time. If you don’t believe me, just put your right hand over your left breast/chest. You won’t hear that forever.

While it is stupid to turn aside to sugar-coated emptiness I believe it is far worse to end one’s earthly life continually trying to be satisfied by these sugar-coated emptiness side attractions. It is my decision to no longer look to the left or to the right. I invite you to join me and begin fashioning a future for yourself that is what you want it to be. Let us no longer remain paralyzed by the effects of sugar-coated emptiness and allow side attractions of the past to become our reality of the future.

I have found that man’s Creator never gives up on His children. You and I should never give up on ourselves either. The reason for each person’s birth into this world is always there to be fulfilled. And the fulfilment of that birth reason is never up to any other earthly person, it is only up to each of us. “If it is to be then it is up to me.” Hey, whatever you know your dreams are, keep patiently working and waiting for them to come to pass.

I am going to bring this post to an end. I have more to say but I realize this is possibly the longest post in a while. Maybe there will be a part two of “Sugar Coated Emptiness”.

There are times that you are confronted by a situation not of your own making, which gives you an opportunity to drive home your inalienable human right because you were offended. Every person enjoys the power that comes from being in the right and dig deep in the sands of empowerment. But then some greater calling beckons at your conscience to not “press charges” in the matter.

For example, a business transaction may have been incorrectly interpreted and you were charged less than the selling price of whatever you are buying. You double checked and were told that the amount is correct; in fact you are even given back money. Days later, you are asked to return the same amount that was refunded to you!

Another illustration is that someone damages your property or some possession of yours. You are within your right to demand the faulted party to compensate or rectify the situation physically, financially or otherwise. However, to do this means that the offender is being stretched financially to a limit that their financial resources are able to reach.

Some narrow-minded person who does not really know you has spoken all sort of negative things about you. It may be leading to third parties forming a distorted view of the situation and indeed of you as an individual. It seems easy to put the lying party in their place. You can make a scene and create a final showdown that would prevent any further incident of that nature in the future.

But you realize that the position of absolute rightness does not need a retaliatory force to defend itself. There are times when maintaining one’s coolness and staying true to one’s life’s mission becomes more important than a temporary fix of a problem founded on ephemeral troubles or lies.

Life is 10% of what happens to you but life is 90% of how you respond to what happens to you. None of us can change or choose which two persons would have become our parents, or which country, ethnic group or blood type we would have at birth, but for sure we can choose how to live with those factors during the course of our lives on earth.

We become more valuable and more successful by growing our inner person’s character and not just creating a response that magnify our reputation to those people around us at the present time.

Our present and immediate situation may be urgent and may be screaming for our attention; however, it is our future outcome that is quietly calling us and that future outcome is what is most important. Train yourself to respond to the important and not just to the urgent.

The way we celebrate Christmas has been changing quite a bit over the last decade or two. The older citizens would tell us of their days of serenading during the night’s cold hours. Sleeping families would be awaken by a chorus of voices echoing Christmas songs in the lonely and otherwise quiet night.

The use of spirited alcohol has continued to be a favourite drinking choice during this season. So, too, have the traditional black cake and home made bread remained with us. Those of us who grew up in the 20th century would have looked forward to playing with our toy guns. After lunch on Christmas Day, it would have been much “popping” of gun shots among the village boys as they played Shooting.

Of course, toy guns have since been banned after it became clear that the real guns were being heard more than the toys.

A recent addition to Christmas now is the opening up of the stores on Sunday afternoons for shoppers. At first it was a rather relaxing new experience to go into town on a Sunday with one’s family or just to take in the quiet scenes. But now Sunday afternoon shopping has more crowds than even the national Carnival held in the city each year.

It has become a definite boom for the commercial sector. But it also shows that for many people, the importance of Christmas is directly linked to commercial spending and not on heavenly blessings. As the world’s economy finds it harder to keep money in the pockets of the consumer it is safe to predict that Christmas as we know it today is dying a commercial death.

Because Christmas means buying and getting all things physical and new,   when money is hard to come by then persons will not  be able to “celebrate” Christmas any more.

It is then up to those of us who know what Christmas is all about to celebrate Jesus all year round. Our commemoration of His birth in December must never be left to the business community’s ability to afford some sales promotions.

 

Aviation officials investigating the crash of Caribbean Airlines BW 523 that broke in two last Saturday morning after landing rather precariously at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana have released some preliminary findings.

Accordingly, it seems that the crash that saw some 4 persons hospitalized was due solely to the errors of the pilot(s) in command of the aircraft that was carrying some 162 persons, mostly Guyanese returning from the USA.

Readers will recall that after the crash I posted an article in which one of the passengers, Michael Nedd, said that in his opinion the problem was caused by the plane running out of runway. He believed that the pilots landed the plane in the middle of the airport. Interestingly, that is precisely what the officials have found out in their investigations so far. It is also interesting to note that although the pilot of the destroyed carrier had said that poor visibility and the hazardous condition of the airport was to blame, the investigators have decisively rejected those conditions as factors causing the mishap.

Was this the first time that the pilot in question was landing at Guyana at that time? Could it be that after flying from New York the cockpit crew was overworked and lacked sleep? Was the pilot otherwise distracted by undisclosed cockpit events? These are questions that the officials will most likely put to the crew of flight 523.

Both heads of government of Guyana and Trinidad, where the airline is headquartered, have issued statements to the effect that it was a “miracle no loss of lives” resulted from the incident.

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