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A little about Henry

Henry had his first birthday on Sunday. It is hard to believe how fast that year has passed.

He hasn’t crawled in months, much preferring to walk or run. He is exploring his expanding world just as fast as his parents will let him. He likes more kinds of food than his parents do. He sleeps all night and plays all day. Not a bad life.

Henry has good parents. They have read more books about raising children than I knew existed. They don’t let him watch TV or videos yet, although I am sure that will change at some point. They watch his diet like he is in a test kitchen. He had never had cake until his birthday. He didn’t even like the ice cream, but I am sure that I will be able to change that. They talk to him, read to him and play with him like they have nothing else in the world to do.

Henry is fortunate to have two sets of grandparents. As much as I hate to admit it, Henry looks like his other grandfather, Jack. He has Jack’s rounded face, blue eyes and big smile. When they laugh they look just the same. Unfortunately, Henry only inherited my short legs.

I hope that Henry also inherited Jack’s big heart. Jack, or John as he is known outside his family, is such a special person. Jack taught for many years in the Seminole County School System. Mr. V, as he was known to the students, first- taught fifth-grade math. Later, he moved up with his kids and started teaching seventh-grade math.

I heard about Mr. V from my wife and my kids. When Jon West was named Star Student, he named Mr. V as his Star Teacher. I didn’t really know Jack well then, and wondered if it was possible that any student could really say that the most influential teacher in his life was his fifth-grade teacher. Now I know that it is possible indeed.

You see, Jack isn’t only touching the life of our grandson; he has touched the lives of many students in Seminole County.

Jack is also a retired Methodist minister. He is a man of deep and easy faith. He lives his life with a quiet passion about what God means in his life.

Both of Henry’s grandfathers married well. Jack and Doris are both from Canada and still have family there. For many years they have lived in Calvary, in southern Decatur County. They wanted to keep Henry his first year as a gift to his parents, but more importantly as a gift to Henry. They had done that with their other grandchildren and wanted to have that special time again.

Jack worries that Henry goes to him before he will come to me. No, I will have my time as Henry grows older. For now, I am just happy that he has such a role model and caregiver as Jack and Doris. He may not realize it, but I know that it is truly a gift.

Henry was also baptized Sunday, on his first birthday, just like his mother. During the service the congregation is asked if they will love him and help raise him. What a powerful thing that is for me to see people take ownership and responsibility of raising a child that is not their own.

I have often wondered why Christians argue about sprinkling an infant who is later confirmed versus immersion of an adult. Such dissension among believers. I believe God recognizes all baptisms. ML and I were immersed. Our children were sprinkled. One daughter was later was immersed. We chose not to argue about which is right, but rather embrace the promises that all forms of baptism bring.

Actually, Henry got both. The first sprinkle didn’t faze him a bit. However, the second scoop of Rev. Whitfield’s hand sent a gusher of water our way, opening Henry’s eyes in shock, soaking his father’s shirt, arching over his mother, and soaking the arm of my choir robe completely. I didn’t blame Henry a bit for crying out a bit at that point.

I make no fun of this most-solemn occasion. In fact, the only thing wetter than my arm was my face from the tears easing down my face. What a wonderful thing to see my first grandchild embraced as a child of God.

I tell of the joys of being a grandparent because I know that many of you have already been there. Without fail, every mention of Henry brings comments back to me about your own grandchildren. I will never love him more than my own two daughters, but I am so grateful for this gift at this point in my life. When I talk about Henry, I talk about the children who have blessed all of us. God’s gift to you and me.

A changed world

This year will mark 25 years since I left the peanut business. As a fourth generation member of our family’s business, it truly saddens me to see all the negative publicity lately regarding peanuts.

So many people have worked over many years to bring this industry to the place that it is today. Farmers, shellers and processors all had a part in making this particular part of the food chain also a part of Americana.

I didn’t just grow up in the business, I loved the taste of peanut butter in almost everything I could eat. However, I had no idea that a small plant in Georgia could reach almost 2,000 different products. I honestly would have never imagined that there were even 2,000 products made with peanuts.

I often thought that locally this wasn’t just a way to make money. Peanut farming is part of our heritage. Those in the industry were bonded together by history and mutual needs.

With regards to food safety, the world has changed. We have more inspections in one month at Hardee’s than we used to have in two years. The public expects perfection and we have to deliver. It is just unfortunate that the actions of one company could negatively impact so many people.

We will never benefit

Finally, Congress and the General Assembly both have their hands full with all the budget cuts and economic problems. With that in mind, it is interesting to see the changes being proposed with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Gov. Perdue, Lt. Gov. Cagle and Speaker Richardson had jointly proposed a sweeping change in the way the state doles out dollars for our statewide transportation needs.

Currently the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is run by 13 commissioners elected by the members of the General Assembly within each congressional district. The budget of the DOT is independent of the General Assembly.

The new plan proposed by the leadership suggests a new board with 11 members appointed by (surprise) each of the three leaders. Their budget would be approved by the General Assembly like the budget of any other agency.

Maybe the DOT hasn’t hit a home run with its work of late, but this board is one of the few still elected by the local officials.

Be careful of turning over the appointment of officials and their budget to Atlanta. It doesn’t seem that Southwest Georgia will ever benefit with that scenario.