Let Your Past Make You Better, Not Bitter

26 02 2017

When I was a child and we moved out of West Virginia to settle in Ohio, the home we found Rock _nwas on the lower east side of town near the river. It was a diverse group of people that lived there–black, white, Latin and a spattering of Germans that had immigrated to the U.S. There were a good many, that like us, had moved there from Appalachia in search of work. What I liked about it was there were lots of kids to play with whenever I ventured out into the neighborhood. My great-uncle and his temper were a deterrent to having friends over so I would head over to someone else’s house as often as possible. I particularly liked homes that had lots of kids; it was almost fascinating to see how a large group functioned in a small home with little if any chaos. So with that many youngsters around it was easy to get together a game of tag, baseball, football, snowball fights or whatever. Quite often yelling or fist fights would break out because someone didn’t play fair and the game would be over; but the next day, without adult intervention, professional counseling or a 12 step program, we’d all be back playing again. Looking back I can see it as one of the few places I felt comfortable–safe I suppose would be a better word. At school I got picked on a lot, but someone didn’t dare come into the neighborhood to start trouble with one of us; you might have a group from 4 to 14 jumping on your back! Yeah, it was a great place to be a kid; you could go down a block to the river to fish, get a baseball game up at this old field across from a trailer park, and in the summer there was a little park that everyone congregated at next to the old East-Side Fire Station. I think we felt we had it all when we were young, carefree and together. It helped shield us of the stigma that others had; that the lower east side was one of the poor sections of town.

Most of the homes were well kept but older, cheaper to rent or buy. Nearly all the parents worked factory jobs and whatever else they could find to support a family. Cars were older, clothes were hand-me-downs and I’m told that the school dropout rate was nearly twice that of any place else in the community. But as children we didn’t know or care about any of that, that is until we got older and moved into new groups of friends outside our circle. I guess you start to see things in a different light when you reach adolescence, you notice your surroundings more and that of others that you now associate with and you become more self-conscious. I would see some who left the neighborhood at the high-school, but they would hardly speak especially if they were with their new friends; I’m guessing they wanted nothing to do with association of that place and time. I was guilty of the same thing; when we moved out I hardly went over to the old haunts and seldom would I speak to anyone from there.

So what happened? Was I now too good for any of those memories? I realized later that yes, I and my situation had changed, but I was still who God made me.

I once read these words: “Let your past make you better, not bitter.” Perhaps if my mom could have afforded it, we would have lived in a better section of town, but she couldn’t, so her and my Aunt Pearl made the best home possible, just like everyone around us which is what added to our happiness. The cares of the world or what others thought was meaningless; we had love, our families and each other. For a while I forgot where I came from and treated people in a way that I never liked to be treated myself. But God reminded who I was and what I should do with this:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as “I” have loved you.

This “Traveler of the Rock Road” that the Lord put in a place as a child to feel secure, to be happy, to have friends, to learn, love and live wouldn’t trade it to have lived in Beverly Hills!

I moved from my adopted home before I was 21 but go back to visit from time to time. On occasion I’ve driven over to the old neighborhood and walked around. It’s very run down now and I’m told never go over there at night, which is why my visits have been in the early mornings. But as I walk the streets, I listen to the sounds of the past. I hear children playing, fighting, and playing some more. I see my first hero, Bill, the big kid that lived next door. I see the other Bill down the street, my very first friend, and others like Russell, Victor, Danny, Eddie and Edgar. I can still envision the prettiest girls in town: Damaris, Dinah, Nadine, Marchelle and Maggie. This all brings a smile to my face in the early morn. Then I think of the people that live there now, all the kids and do they come out to play like we did; are they shielded from the coldness that the world can be like we were. I don’t know any of that, but I do know this; each and every one is a good person. Oh, not because I say so, but because I have a God that says it, that we’re all worth something.

Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

With that kind of love, no matter who you are, “If you’re good enough for God, you’re good enough for me!

See ya next time.





One response

28 02 2017
Beverly Crane

Even though we did not grow up in the same area we grew up in the same era. My parents were factory workers and they had five little mouths to feed. We always had food on the table and received new clothes once a year at the beginning of the school year. Back then we thought we were the poor. Now my sister and I look back and think over and over again what a great childhood we had and the sacrifices our parents made. Guess it’s called “getting older”. Thanks for all the reminders John.

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