“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party….”

That sentence was changed to read, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” It was used by a typing teacher, Charles Weller, and according to The Straight Dope‘s Cecil Adams:

Many typing books now use the variant ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country’ instead, because it exactly fills out a 70-space line if you put a period at the end.

I’m not sure what the “70-space line” rule is used for, but indeed, there are 70 spaces in that sentence counting the period at the end. I guess Mr. Weller didn’t want his students using 68 spaces with the word “party.” Odd.

You know what else is odd? The stuff I think about. Most of it makes no sense to anyone but me, and sometimes I can’t make sense of it either. For some reason or other, the sentence: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” popped into my head this morning while I was driving. I had just heard news about a Taliban attack on a bus carrying employees of an Afghan TV station. 7 people were killed the report said, one of them was a young woman in her twenties, just starting out with the station, it was said that she was enthusiastic, and loved what she was doing. Terribly sad, just terribly sad that her life, and the lives of six others, was taken, for no good reason!

All the violence going on, here and overseas, I can’t comprehend the depth of it, and lately, things seem to be escalating to the point where that’s all you hear on the nightly news. Just bad stuff: folks in Flint, Michigan, unknowingly drinking lead-contaminated water; criminals shooting cops; bad cops unjustifiably shooting criminals; a political system that sometimes looks more like a three ring circus with too many clowns; “idiot” voters; poverty in neighborhoods everywhere. I wish I could numb myself to all the filth I see and hear, unfortunately, it’s impossible.

If you’re a religious person you might be able to find a little peace of mind from time to time. I started a “Bible in One Year” reading plan on January 1 and comparing what happened in the Old Testament to what’s happening today is a little comforting (not sure “comforting” is the right word).

About the only thing I can truly wrap my brain around and find comfort in here on planet Earth is music, and I listen to all genres (almost all). I’m especially lucky in that I can also play a little music, adding comfort to a few folks on weekends. My ability to play guitar is a gift, you might have one or two gifts yourself. Spiritual gifts are mentioned in the Bible:

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)

And:

 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:4-5)

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could use our gifts for the good of one another? Whatever your gift is, use it for good. I’m certain there’s at least one person you know that would appreciate a little comfort.

A place I used to play

somewhereinlouisville

Four-square court under the viaduct

Four-square is the name of a game I used to play with my brother and a few other friends. We’d gather under the viaduct on any given summer day with a basketball and use a section of concrete lined into four squares, one player per square. You start out bouncing the ball into whatever square you wanted, using only your hands, and you couldn’t “carry” the ball either, you had to bounce it. The recipient of your bounce was then responsible for aiming his bounce into another players square. It was a fun game of strategy and coordination for a bunch of kids who didn’t have much growing up in a downtrodden area of one of Louisville’s many inner city slums.

The "tin thing," just to the left and in front of the yellow house.

The “tin thing,” just to the left and in front of the yellow house.

There was also what we all called “the tin thing.” It was built to help prevent the dirt bank from crumbling into the yards of the houses just below the railroad tracks. We’d often climb the tin thing to reach the tracks, sometimes while box cars were in motion, other times when they weren’t, many dimes, nickels, and quarters were smashed on those tracks. Sadly enough, I don’t have a single remnant of one of those coins.

I don’t think parents use the words “go outside and play” much, if at all, today. We heard it all the time in our house in Louisville. At the time I didn’t know that our family income (and probably everyone else who lived in that area) was probably a good deal below the poverty level, but that didn’t matter to us kids, we didn’t know the definition of “poor.” We didn’t need money to play four-square, as long as the basketball held air.

While playing on the tracks one cold winter day, one of the kids almost got their leg cut off when a box car jumped forward, it happened suddenly. You couldn’t tell it was about to move because the main engine was far ahead, out of sight and sound. Thankfully, my older brother was near that kid and pulled him off the track before the wheel cut his leg completely off. I remember seeing blood and torn jeans, I’m sure an ambulance was called, but I don’t remember hearing or seeing one.

The kid survived, and I remember him walking with a limp after he came home from the hospital. We climbed the tin thing and played on and around the tracks as if nothing had happened. But then something happened: the race riots. Things were never the same after that. Such a stark difference developed between white and black. They hated us, we feared them. Most of the memories I have from my childhood are tragic and nightmarish, but thankfully a few are pleasant and repeatable. I wish I could play four-square under that viaduct again, unfortunately were I to attempt it today I’d probably get mugged. Is it any wonder parents don’t say “go outside and play” anymore?