The Love Month --- February | Eastern North Carolina Now

Since February is the month that contains Valentine's Day, why would merchants not turn it into a "month of love?"

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    Since February is the month that contains Valentine's Day, why would merchants not turn it into a "month of love?" We used to shy from doing anything Christmas until the week after Thanksgiving. Now, it is not unusual for stores to put Christmas up after or even alongside school supplies. Our greed for merchant dollars is endless, it seems.

    It was always a great month in the church work I did for many years. The trauma of endless Sunday School parties and pageants wears a preacher out. January is usually relatively quiet and February is a great month to do something. I used to schedule the Youth Ski Retreat in February. My favorite location is still the Valle Crucis Retreat Center near Boone and half way over to Grandfather Mountain. The name means "valley of the cross." Years ago 2 streams crossed down below the buildings. There was a great storm and a flood obliterated the landmark of the cross, but the name has great meaning and inspiration for all the groups I took --- along with my own family when children were small. It was initially a school for Native Americans near Boone.

    I shall never forget the first trip with a group from Hartsville, SC. We had an extra-long white bus I drove. My initial mistake was driving the bus and trying to lead the retreat at the same time. As we left Hartsville it was a little misty and the prospects of fresh snow were endless. We went through Charlotte and the mountain climb got nasty to dense fog. It was uphill and we could not go that fast anyway, but I had never been there before. All I could do was follow the signs. The first one off the main highway to Grandfather Mountain was small so I missed it and had to turn around. The fun of turning around a 60' bus on a place you don't know is unspeakable. I am glad the kids could not see!

    I found a narrow drive to make my right and start the backing. I could see the road with my side mirror and knew it was close. When I reached the edge of the pavement, it was time to get out and take a good look. Here is the scene: I have about 5'more of backing space = GREAT! Already the back of the bus (10' behind the rear wheels) is over the mountainside. It was straight down into the fog. If I had wanted to scare anybody to Jesus, I could have gone inside and shined my big light into the valley! We had ski time at Cataloochee so I had to behave!

    A good 4 hours later we are headed to the retreat itself. They knew our schedule and had a late night snack prepared in great Episcopal fashion. I just had to get there. The turn off the main highway put us on a winding narrow road with clear signage to Valle Crucis. Before we got to Valle Crucis was another sign, "Retreat Center." The next sign was not so good: "Sharp winding road / not suitable for vehicles more than 30'." Remember, now, I am driving a 60' bus already put over the ledge in a turnaround. Could I make it or not???

    I had never been on the back road to anywhere Boone, NC. Thank God the drive to the Retreat Center came before that awful hairpin turn toward Lees-McRae College! I went to sleep dreaming of fog / narrow roads / a bus full of teens and adults with no clue how they were hanging over the edge of a mountain!

    Our retreats always had some fun and even more spiritual things to do. Any youth group can have fun, but when you are going at church expense it is wise to have spiritual growth involved. We have many adults today who learned about love and God and one another as we retreated in the winter and again in the summer somewhere.

    The group at Hartsville had a problem of social arrogance. They were split into a private school group and one which attended the public school. Some were from wealthy families and others were average. We made sure to provide a stipend to families with more than one teen who might otherwise be unable to go. Another church we attended in Rocky Mount was planning their retreat. My wife and I suggested some financial help. The other leaders quickly said, "All our families can afford to go and that does not need to be." My view was that the poorer families needed help and we SHOULD help those who could not. I'm not sure they ever got the reality check from those who were blessed with plenty. At any rate, they ascended to the idea of help.

    I was frustrated as the Youth Minister with the split nature of our group at Hartsville. The solution came as a serendipity event. We had a bike hike to a lakeside cottage which was all uphill from the church. Some 40 bikers started the adventure on a hot summer day. Soon, some of their bikes were losing chains and the heat was getting a few sick. Without any anticipation of the result, many of those teens started helping one another. They comforted the sick and restored the slipped chains. We finally made it. The attitude from that point forward was much improved. Respectfulness replaced arrogance.

    This awful Recession has not been pleasant for so many. The other thing is that we are forced to start thinking about and helping one another. Some have been patient and kind when I could not pay a bill here in Beaufort County from my poverty and lack of work. Others have been arrogant and did not consider they could let me share their work with my equipment so I could pay them. My position has become "help me pay you and I pay / be a jerk and you go to the bottom of my list of people I owe money. . ."

    I conclude with my usual questions:

    •  Why is it we find so many ways to disconnect and hate---over loving one another?

    •  Why did Jesus speak so much of love and forgiveness of enemies?

    •  How many of us have forgotten how it was to be poor as we began our adult lives?

    •  What is the main thrust of government and relationships today --- Love or Hate?
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