>"The Stranger"

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I heard this story read at a convention and had to find it to share. Whatever your personal beliefs, I encourage you to consider what shaped those beliefs or contributed to a lack of belief. It is important that we guard our thoughts regarding truth. Biased information from the right source can, in an instant, make destructive ideas seem attractive through the use of omission and misrepresentation of truth.
No one is right because they say they are right. It is my opinion that free thinking requires a commitment to frequent, if not constant, evaluation of new information and old wisdom. It is imperative that we seek to discover whether our personal constitutions should be amended in light of the new information, or if the new information ought to be discarded.
As in this story, many families use the Holy Bible as their moral compass, though there are libraries of classical literature that contain the same principles of wisdom. Maybe you don’t believe in the Bible, but decide what you believe and be mindful of that which goes against it.

A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.

As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. In my young mind, each member had a special niche. My brother, Bill, five years my senior, was my example. Fran, my younger sister, gave me an opportunity to play ‘big brother’ and develop the art of teasing. My parents were complementary instructors– Mom taught me to love the word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it.

But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spell-bound for hours each evening.

If I wanted to know about politics, history, or science, he knew it all. He knew about the past, understood the present, and seemingly could predict the future. The pictures he could draw were so life like that I would often laugh or cry as I watched.

He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars. My brother and I were deeply impressed by John Wayne in particular.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up– while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places– go to her room, read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.

You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house– not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted. My dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in his home – not even for cooking. But the stranger felt like we needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often.

He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (probably too much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man-woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.

As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.

More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive. He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad as he was in those early years. But if I were to walk into my parents’ den today, you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name? We always just called him TV.

Told by Keith Currie

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Quotes

"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley

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