Today’s youth can learn from local past

Published 12:24 pm Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tribune Publisher Michael Caldwell recently asked in an editorial if Lawrence Countians would like to see more state, federal and world news in The Tribune, or keep it local as it mostly has been.

My answer to his question is a

resounding, “Keep it like it is!” but with an added flavor of an at-least-weekly article on Lawrence County pride, like the editorials Billy Bruce writes so well. The Tribune does an excellent job of reporting positive newsworthy events such as local school and sporting news also. It is inspiring to see what our young people, especially, are doing and seeing it make the news.

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But, we as locals do not give our young people enough history of local people who have made and are making a difference.

This became apparent to me a few years ago; and as I sat and listened to our teenagers throughout the county, I felt I needed to do something about it. I began writing stories of local people who have had an impact on me and others I knew.

However, a lack of time became my excuse, and I stopped writing. It was recently reignited, however, when one of my “other” Moms, Judy Gail Myers, encouraged me to write down our family’s stories—some funny, some serious but all of them helping to form our unique unit.

This got me thinking, do all the young ones on the Higgins side, know their beloved “Momma” was a reporter for The Ironton Tribune for many years, and loved her job? Did they realize their “Grandads” McKnight were involved in local politics and had an ideology they passed on to us to serve others? Do they understand the true meaning of not giving up from their Pappaw Blankenship? Do they know the impact others, not biologically related, but related through the life lessons they taught us and the unbreakable bonds formed, have made?

Judy Gail inspired me as she can so lovingly and eloquently do; and my fingers began racing across the keyboards of my computer once again, writing story after story of people who have made an impact in my life.

Today we are inundated with “reality” shows that we adults know are mostly the extreme opposite of reality. There was yet another show depicting Appalachian youth in a stereotypical non-intellectual way, which truly made my heart sink.

Why is our society making celebrities out of people who mock their heritage?

We also have to take a stand against bullying sites which allow people to cowardly say things about others.

I am far from a Pollyanna, but what if we all started writing or talking to our children more about people who make a difference and continue to make a difference in our minds and hearts?

There are stories like this one about the unforgettable Olive Brammer Dudding that will resound in my mind as long as I have breath in me. These are the people I want my children and grandchildren to know…

She stood there, holding the quilt with outstretched hands toward mine. “And this one is yours and Todd’s,” I stared at her astonished because I knew she had been articulately piecing cloth together for some time now. She had explicably told me she had made one for each of her children and grandchildren.

Now, she was smiling, tilting that pretty white head, like she was surprised that I was surprised that she had made one for us. We were not biological family, but to Olive, and to me, we were definitely bound by our hearts, forever.

“ I want you take this, and on those bad days when you’re feeling like the world is all against you, Honey, come home, wrap yourself up in this quilt, and let my love put a blanket over whatever is hurting you. Feel my arms wrappin”round you, givin’ you a big hug!”

She emphasized hug with her deep Appalachian drawl, and threw her hands up like she was in church praising Jesus. She was so happy to be giving. That was always when I saw her at her best—freely giving to others. Today, although Olive has been long gone from this earth, the “Olive Blanket”, as my girls call it, has adorned each one of us in our household during difficult days. It’s a magical piece of quiet strength in our home.

Thanks to Olive, this old girl found God’s grace after a long period away from Him. One thing I know for sure: People like Olive who love beyond all our faults already have a piece of heaven in them while they are still on earth.

I pray one day, I will be more like her.

Tomi McKnight-Blankenship

Coal Grove