Tag Archives: Forest Mississippi

LSS: Rivals offer new outlook on life

I grew up in a small town.

In trying to convey its size, my memory debated all week if there were three or four stop lights. Either way, you get the picture.

As small as our town was, we were the largest town in the county. Another small town, 12 miles down the highway was our rival.

We were Forest.

They were Morton.

Conveying the level of the rivalry is beyond my skills. But I will tell you that for thousands of people in this county, in football and basketball, whether Forest beat Morton (or vice versa) defined much happiness, self-respect and a basic belief in goodness. The rivalry went beyond sports and deep into our psyches.

They were the enemy.

If you lived in one town and had friends in the other, you were regarded with a strange blend of suspicion and respect by most. In extreme cases, there were people who actually dated people from the other town.

Most of us knew people in Morton, but my family very much kept our social circles on our side of the county.

That is until I started lifeguarding at a lake outside of Morton.

And, in the second summer I lifeguarded, I really crossed the line. Everything about my life was up in the air. I was 16. My mother had a baby. My dad left coaching to become principal of another high school in another town. My family loaded up and moved 50 miles down the road.

The combination of pulling up roots so deep, combined with the new baby and the job change for my dad shook everything I knew to be. My world was spinning. My parents were so occupied that I had more time and liberty than I ever had before.

In the course of that summer that was rather full of magic, I became great friends with Kim Cooper and Cindy Parker — two girls from Morton.

And that grand friendship shaped much of the rest of my life. During those few short months, I realized that I had a lot in common with Kim and Cindy — more in fact than most of my lifelong friends in Forest. Discovering those commonalities with people from, of all places, Morton, forever changed the way I thought about making friends.

The deep friendships we made that summer sent me on my way to making strong friendships with new people across the world.

Looking back, the whole rivalry scene blows my mind. But it wasn’t crazy back then. We all believed in our little towns, and they had a great sense of place.

Even though these girls were from less than 15 miles down the road, their friendships led me to the discovery that I could become great friends with people I hadn’t known all my life and with people I perceived to have very different backgrounds than my own.

And to learn that with a little exploring, finding common ground with others really wasn’t all that tricky.

When I count my blessings, those two girls are on my list.

Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears in Lafayette, Louisiana’s The Daily Advertiser ever Sunday. Email her at jan@janrisher.com.

LSS: May your 2012 calendars be full of good things!

Just as my family loaded up our car with all our recently received gifts and a week’s worth of luggage last week, my mother hurried out the door with something in her hands. We were about to drive away from my parents’ home after a Christmas visit, when in the middle of the driveway, she said, “Here, we’ve got more calendars than we know what to do with. Take these, if y’all can use them.”

She handed me not two calendars, not three, but four 2012 calendars.

Though I expect I’ll primarily be using the electronic calendar on my phone that syncs with my computer, I appreciated the variety and beauty of the calendars my mom shared with my family.

One from the Easter Seals with a bright sunshine made of handprints on the cover.

A 16-month Special Olympics calendar.

A Garden Walk calendar from the bank my parents have used my entire life.

And a pretty, brown leather bound calendar from a poultry vaccination company.

Quite an assembly of ways to plan for and look toward the coming year.

There’s comfort in these calendars for some reason. For one thing, there’s a sense of present-tense nostalgia these days with a printed calendar. For another, there’s that little thrill that goes with a full calendar with a year in print out in front of you.

So fresh.

So clean.

Today represents the metaphor of a blank slate—a whole year wide open in front of us, full of possibilities.

It is why we start exercising at this time.

It is why we make decisions to improve our lives in a variety of ways on this day full of promise and prospects. On this day, no matter how many new years we’ve welcomed, the world is our oyster.

And yet we know next year at this same time, if the good Lord is willing and the creek doesn’t rise, we’ll be having the same thoughts and saying the same things at this same time. We’ll do it all over again like the Roman god Janus who had the ability to look toward the past and the future simultaneously. Janus, as the god of gates and doorways, represents exactly where we find ourselves today.

Maybe part of why this time of year is especially poignant is because it’s more alike from year to year, than the months in between. The rest of the year is so full of so much and that fullness morphs in activities and people from year to year, but often this day and the week that proceeds it have an air of sameness to them that the rest of the year misses. We know and reflect on exactly who and what have been added to the mix or is missing from one year to the next.

From this vantage point, we can look behind us at where we’ve just been and ahead to where we’re going. We don’t know what’s there, but we recognize that this is the place that begins a new chapter—and that offers a fresh sense of control.

This is a time to reflect on the lessons life is offering us and make deliberate choices about which paths to choose and which steps to take. We can reflect on how to change our lives for the better.

If we’re resisting what is, today is the perfect day to take a look at the situation and figure out how to either make it work or make a change to create something that works better. Part of the secret is realizing that making it work is up to each of us an individuals. Even if fault lies with another, blaming the situation or circumstances on anyone or anything else is pointless.

Today is a day to relish the wonder of possibility the blank pages of the calendar holds.