This Or That, One Or The Other
By Bill Shepard
Can you remember when most every decision one had to make fell into the category of one or the other, or this or that? Choices were limited to this or that. It certainly made shopping in the market place more simple and less strenuous on the mind. Cars came in the colors of black or blue only. For a long time they were black only. A man’s suit was either black or blue serge, before pinstripe was added. Shoes were either black or brown, and men’s dress shirts were white and his work shirt was blue chambray to match his blue denim overalls. Those are just a few of the items that once fell into the one or the other category. With so many choices being available, shopping can be a stressful experience these days. I went to the store recently to purchase a loaf of bread. There before me were at least a half dozen name brands. There was thick slice, thin slice, light, wheat, rye, and several others. I thought of the donkey that I read about, that was going along the road and came upon a bale of hay, a sack of wheat, and a bundle of fodder. Being hungry, the donkey stopped to eat. He started to take a bite of the hay, but the wheat looked better so he turned to it. Just before filling his mouth with the wheat, he decided the fodder might be better. But then he looked back at his first choice. The poor donkey was later found where he had starved to death trying to make a decision.
Back to light bread, that’s what we called it when I was a boy. I remember when it came in one size only and not sliced. It cost a nickel a loaf. In the summer time when I went to the field to pick cotton, I would often stop by the local store and purchase a loaf. With another nickel, I would buy a can of Pork & Beans. At noon, I would break the loaf in half, dig the inside out, and fill the cavity with the beans. What a meal! And all for a dime. Of course just having the light bread was a real treat in those days.
Life is just not that simple any more. Take us humans for instance. Could we all be placed in one category or the other? Recently I read a poem and the writer said that there are only two kinds of people. This is what he wrote – “There are just two kinds of people, just two, I ween, those who lift and those who lean.” Would not life on this planet be less complicated if that were true? However, it just ain’t so! No, this or that, one or the other, went out of style a long time ago. As to Lifters or Leaners, I have found in life that some who are at one time heavy leaners, at another time they prove to be strong lifters. I have found that to be true in many of my own situations. At times I needed someone to lean upon and was grateful that they were available. At other times I have been able to be a lifter and help someone with their heavy load. Yes, I have found myself in both categories.
Perhaps we should try two other headings for our list. Why not, Good and Bad? Surely we can divide the human race into those two groups. Not so! We have all seen both traits show up in everyone at one time or another. I don’t believe that I have ever met a person who was All Good or All Bad. A few times I might have thought I had, but over time and with close scrutiny I learned better. Concerning the Good and Bad issue, I like the lines that were written by someone other than myself that go like this, “There is so much good in all of us, and so much bad in all of us, that it doesn’t behoove any of us, to criticize the rest of us.” That just about sums up the Good and Bad categories.
Try forming some other groups like, those who can and those who can’t; those who will and those who won’t; those who have and the have-nots. What about the educated and the uneducated, whatever those terms mean; then the rich and the poor?
Now the rich and poor group would be a hard one to define. It would depend on so many things, like where a person lived. The poorest person in America might be considered rich if he lived in one of the poverty-stricken nations elsewhere. Also, one would have to determine what was meant by rich or poor. I have never been a rich person when wealth is determined by material things but by other standards such as health, peace, and contentment, I consider myself to be a very wealthy person. I don’t like labels. They can be so misleading and so terribly wrong. I am wise enough to know that I wear them. Not the ones that I have chosen for myself, but those that other folk have penned on me. You wear them, too! Those that the world has placed upon you. That could account for a bit of the unsolicited mail we get these days, as well as the phone calls from the Tele-marketers.
Recently, I had a call that began with, ”I’m doing a survey in your area and you have been selected. Would you answer a few questions for me?” Before I could answer, the caller continued, “Are you married or single? Do you own your own home? What is your age and your yearly income?” The answer to the last two questions wrapped it up. There was a click, followed by silence. As I sat and stared into space, the operator spoke, “if you want to make a call, please do so, if not please hang up.” I figured it out; I was placed in the column of, ‘too old and too poor!
Too many categories and too many choices have added complications to our way of life. It is certainly not as simple as it once was. Right sometimes looks wrong and wrong sometimes looks right. Good and evil is often decided in the eyes of the beholder. Rich and poor may depend on what one values as wealth, and whether one is lifting or leaning might depend on the moment in time.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.