A cut hard to swallow

Published 11:58 am Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Camp E-Tu-Nake. The name probably doesn’t mean much to most of you. However, for almost 500 young boys and girls it was a chance to change their lives and to make a difference in the world. For the last 12 years, I had a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by these young people who had gotten off track.

The dinner was cooked by one of the “tribes” the kids were assigned to when they arrived at the camp.

The turkey wasn’t cooked in the oven or even in a deep fat fryer. No, these kids dug a hole, filled it with coals, put in the turkey and then covered it with dirt. “Turkey in the hole” was the phrase the boys proudly stated as they talked about the dinner they had prepared.

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Sounds like a camp for upscale kids whose parents had sent them off for some pampered gathering. What captured my heart was the fact that these kids were juvenile delinquents that had been assigned to this place by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

These kids lived in the wilderness along the Chattahoochee River and Coheelee Creek. They build their own tents and cooked their own food. Underwritten by the Eckerd Foundation, they provided schooling and follow up for those most in need. It provided self worth for teenagers who saw no hope and no future.

If you want to feel some of the pain of the budget cuts caused by the current recession, look no further than this gem in Early County. It has fallen victim to the budget cutting going on in the General Assembly due to the $2 billion shortage.

As painful as the 30 jobs worth $600,000 that are lost with the closure of the camp, for me it is the opportunity lost for youth in need. The press release announcing the closure states that those still in the camp will be place in other Department of Juvenile Justice programs.

Somehow that doesn’t make me feel better. Camp E-Tu-Nake was a different way of dealing with kids that had no hope. When you mourn the cuts and cost of the current government budget reductions, put those kids at Camp E-Tu-Nake at the top of your list.

Witnessing a response

I heard the crash even though I couldn’t see it. I was walking my dog, Harry, in the early morning fog that has been common the last few days. As soon as we turned the corner we saw the accident at the next intersection.

There was a car and a truck in the intersection that we had walked through just a few minutes earlier. As we headed to the site, the truck pulled out of the path of traffic although no one got out of the vehicle.

As we approached, I was struck by the number of vehicles that were passing by the stalled vehicles. Yes, this was on the busy road on the way to school, but is the safety of a fellow being less important than being tardy by a couple of minutes?

The more people I saw bypass the accident, the angrier I became. Then I noticed a lady turn on the side street, check on the driver, and then call 911 with her cell phone. It was only when she knew everyone was all right that she drove away.

I was a too far away to see exactly who the good Samaritan was. If she is reading this, she knows who she is. Thank you for caring for a stranger.

By the time I reached the intersection, I could hear the sirens. Because I had a stop watch on my wrist, I was able to see how long it took the responders to arrive following the 911 call.

In less than three minutes there were five police cars, one fire truck and one ambulance on site. While I hear the wailing of sirens all day long, this was one of the few times I have ever been to see an incident progress from the call to 911 to the response of the emergency vehicles.

I stood there with my dog, seeing the different vehicles arrive. They blocked the streets, checked the drivers, and were in complete control of the situation. When we call 911, we want a response to our needs immediately. This week I got a chance to see just how well trained these heroes are in our time of need.

Follow your heart

Good days and bad days. Sometimes it doesn’t even divide itself that clearly. Some days are going along just fine and then almost at the stroke of the clock everything turns south with a vengeance.

Today was such a day for me. Until 4 p.m., everything was going just fine. At that point, every visit, call or e-mail seemed to bring bad news.

Perhaps that is why this column has been particularly difficult for me to write. You see, I was just beginning to gather my thoughts at the 4 p.m. mentioned above. It is now 10:30 and I have had the opportunity to swallow a bit of the news.

I can’t really talk about the details of the events of today, not yet anyway. Let me just say to the several people involved that everything will be OK.

Two thoughts to share: The call of the Lord is clear. The second is that family has unbelievable ties to you, the generations before you, and even those generations yet to come.

The purpose is not to be cryptic. The words above apply to all that read this column. Follow your heart. Follow your heart. Follow your heart.

A daddy’s blessing

Finally, I had the incredible gift to share the stage with my two daughters this week at the Decatur County chamber breakfast. Elizabeth left home at 5:05 a.m. to be at the program on time. Not bad for someone 15 weeks pregnant. Elizabeth handles our marketing, advertising and special events.

Catherine picked up the program after I was finished. For most of her life, she has listened to me talk. No matter how well I spoke, I sat there and was in awe of how she talked about the relevance of libraries in today’s world.

People thanked me for sponsoring the breakfast, but they had it all wrong. On this morning, in the same town and in the presence of both my children, I got to see them in their prime.

It doesn’t matter about where they went to school, how much it cost, or what they wanted to do. I had the opportunity as an adult to see my adult children operating in their own environment.

The fact that I was there; well that is just a blessing indeed.