Turtle Talk Editorial: Birthday Reminiscing

Only four days remain before I pass another milestone (my 95th, 11/7) on life’s brief pilgrimage.

   Years ago I threw a birthday party at my home which was attended by family and friends, several of whom have since passed on. Yet oddly enough I face each new day with new enthusiasm, new appreciation, and renewed determination to rise above whatever would diminish the light of the eternal flame within me–as within each of us. Such collective brilliance is critical in a world being steadily darkened by the eclipse of social, moral, and spiritual values.

   The light, warmth, and brilliance of love are unquestionably more desirable and more powerful than the darkness of hate, envy, greed, war, and bloodshed. But there must be a Collective Center. The light of individual fireflies is bright and unique. But none is bright enough in itself nor stays on long enough to have any sizeable effect upon the impending darkness.

   So too the multitude of religious lights shed upon the world, all unique and brilliant within themselves but inevitably dimmed by division and widely diverse interpretation. A Collective Center is needed to pool such brilliance and dispel the accumulating shadows of darkness. Darkness is but the absence of light just as hate is the absence of love.

   “None of us is as smart as ALL of us” reads the caption on a cartoon of Little Leaguers which I included in an editorial years ago. Unfortunately, the value of such teamwork is emphasized primarily in this country in sports where the monetary rewards are highest while in most cases an atmosphere of competition and inevitable rivalry is overtly and covertly instilled from cradle to grave affecting sibling, parental, social, political, fraternal and especially religious relations at home and abroad.

   As I stand at the precipice of the final phase of my life on this plane, I am humbled by my beginnings, by the unique experience of growing up in a family in which my mother and three of her four sisters were graduates of Ohio State, West Virginia State, and Wilberforce and entered different phases of the teaching profession at the turn of the 20th century when few Blacks were being educated on any level. I am further humbled by my elementary, secondary, and high school education experiences in Quaker schools when at age 8 my father accepted the pastorate of First Memorial Baptist Church of Cambria, VA (now Christiansburg) which he later renamed after its Quaker founder, Captain Charles S. Schaeffer. 

   With no public schools for Blacks West of the Roanoke County/Salem area, Black students were bussed (to achieve segregation) to Christiansburg Institute from Elliston, Shawsville, Blacksburg, Radford, Dublin, Pulaski, and other points west, along with boarding students from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, recruited by the Quakers.

   It was through such basic training in humility and servitude that I eagerly enlisted into the voluntary Collective Army of Light once recognizing the smallest glimmer of the reality of this inestimable Day of God in its embryonic stage, and God’s Manifestations throughout past Prophetic cycles in their new attire. 

   These and my mother’s perpetual spiritual attitude of gratitude which, regardless of what’s wrong, kept her focused on what is right, now find me, not weary from the years but–Another year older, Another year bolder!

   According to the Baha’i Writings, “This is clearly the century of new life, the century of the revelation of reality and therefore the greatest of all centuries.”