LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Charting the seasons of our lives
The other night, I awoke from a deep sleep about 2:45 a.m. I began to suddenly reflect on my senior year in high school and all the great times and great friends. In my mind, I went back in time 50 years.
It was February 1972, we were the mighty Blue Devils from St. John’s High School, and we had just won the conference championship in basketball by sweeping the conference tournament games, starting with a 73-58 win over Southside, 76-66 victory over Kingstree, then a 58-53 upset victory over the Tigers from Wilson High School.
The win over Wilson was special because they had beaten us twice in the regular season and were the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Coach Neilson came up with a “rope-a-dope” style defense and slowdown offensive tactic that worked great against the Tigers.
They became so frustrated by the end of the game that we were able to outwit, outshoot and outplay them down the stretch and win the game.
I won’t even mention what happened when one of the Tigers intentionally fouled Keith, and Keith jumped up and slammed the basketball off the Tiger player’s head … but it did take a while for the security folks to get everyone back in the stands.
That same school year, “the sons of autumn” had finished the football season with a 9-2 season, defeating our arch-rival, Hartsville High, 7-0 in the final game of the season … which turned out to be Coach Welch’s 200th win and made him one of the winningest coaches in South Carolina at that time.
The track team under Coach Lynch, and Coach Welch’s golf team, were the strongholds for spring sports. Our baseball team finished with a mediocre season, and I don’t remember much about our tennis team, except that Mr. Cain, our principal, and Tom Greer played on the team.
Little did we know that in just three months, the life we had known for 18 years would be coming to a halt. The season of our lives was about to change. In the early 1970s song “Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac reflected on the change of tides in one’s life. “Time makes you bolder, children grow older, and I grow older, too. … Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?”
We had no clue what was ahead. All we knew was that we were about to embark on a journey into our futures. We often sat at Joe’s Grill, or in cars at the Dairy Bar, and talked about our plans for the future. For some of us, our dreams became a reality. For some of us, our dreams were lost. And some of us had no real dreams, just take life one day at a time. What happens, happens.
Some of us headed to colleges, some went to work. Some joined the military and others started their own businesses. Some got married, some became parents, some got unmarried, some stayed married, many moved away. Were we ready?
Had our teachers and coaches prepared us for the future Us?
Who were we about to become?
Would we be able to make a living and support ourselves?
Would we be able to take care of a family?
Many said we were about to transition away from the best time of our lives.
Others said we would be moving into the best time of our lives. It was an exciting time, and a scary time, but it was “our time.”
As we each set out in our own directions, armed with the knowledge, the love, the experiences and the security that had been given to us by our teachers, coaches, parents as well as other influential adults. And, for most of us, we had the security that comes from a relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
Each of us charted our own way based on what we had learned and the moral compass that would guide us.
But we all had one constant and that constant was change. So as we became teachers, coaches, preachers, factory workers, businessmen, medical professionals, husbands, fathers, community leaders and more, we were transformed by change into the time and season God had placed us into.
Who knew that our generation would experience more change than any of the generations before us. Some changes were good but many were not. Technological changes led the way. We went from two-channel black and white TVs to hundreds of channels with streaming movies and shows. Cable, satellite, color, high definition, Internet, computers, cell phones, apps, streaming were just a few of the new words we would learn.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to watch a news station or a sports channel 24 hours a day? Who would think we would pay for TV service or buy bottled water like soft drinks? Electric cars and cars that drive themselves seemed like a pipe dream. Politics changed our country by dividing our citizens one against the other. No one ever thought change would affect gender, family structure and churches the way it has. No one ever expected COVID and the changes it brought.
I reckon there is a time for change. In Ecclesiastes 3:19, the Bible says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up. …”
Now fast forward 50 years. I’m sitting at a table, at the Raceway Grill, having dinner with 12 friends, reminiscing about the past and updating each other on the past 50 years and the changes in our lives.
Some of us became part of the change and some of us resisted it.
Some of us turned into our parents and some of us became just the opposite of who our parents were. Some of us made it through the past 50 years unscathed, but most of us have the battle scars to show what the trials of life can do.
And all of us got older, some of us got bolder, and every one of us did rise above, and each of us continue to sail through the changin’ tides of life, and we have a proven record of handling the seasons of life.
As I looked around the table that night, I noticed two things. First, I noticed that I was in the presence of a group of really fine “old” men. I also realized just how much each of these men impacted and influenced my life and the lives of each other over the last half a century.
And the takeaway is that if we have had a positive impact on each other’s lives, then how many more people have been influenced by this group of men over the years?
And finally, knowing that our teachers, coaches and parents worked hard to help us become successful members of society, did we succeed?
I was once told by a coach that the litmus test for success in life is to be able to answer this question with a yes. While you were making a living, did you make a difference? I believe we have! I believe without doubt that this group has made the world a better place.
Thanks to Jeff for getting this group established. Thanks to the Raceway Grill for their fine food and hospitality. Thanks to Hal for inviting me and thanks to all my Blue Devil friends who were there.
And thanks to God for giving me the chance to know each of these fine men. Can’t wait for the next time!
(Those in attendance: Jeff Sansbury, Barry Mims, Leon Kirven, Hal Baldwin, Danny Sansbury, Ricky Langley, Darrell Newsome, Randy Britt, Greg Suggs, Bobby Beckham, Roger Taylor, Stan Bailey and me, Stan Drawdy.)