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5 years before @TheBeatles released "I Want to Hold Your Hand", I wanted to hold her hand in Columbia, SC!
First Sense of the World
Life in Columbia, South Carolina was wonderfully simple yet infinitely full of the romance of discovery for me. I loved exploring the neighborhood woods; the bright Palmetto skies; the intense colors of our local wild flowers! I had a sense of wholeness and comfort and from the perspective of a 5-6 year old boy all seemed prosaically normal and would continue to seem so until I was roughly 7 years old.
I will never forget this part of my life for it was at this time that a convergence of events would occur that would set the tone for the rest of my life.
Prayer - A New Instrument of Vision
During what I believe was September of 1958, my mother bought for me what turned out to be the most prominently remembered item of my childhood. It was a copy of the child's prayer -
"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take."
I felt special when she took the time that evening to read the prayer with me. We then made a project of hanging it over my bed. It became a ritual for me to say the prayer each night before going to bed, establishing a bond of communication between me and God that still persists today.
The characteristics of the material on which the prayer was printed is as clear to me today as it was when my mother first bought it for me. The prayer was printed on deep blue construction-like paper with raised lettering. The lettering was made even more prominent by the silver flakes that were sprinkled all over it giving it a feeling of coarseness that my hands still remember.
This prayer probably would have held no more significance for me than it did for any other child had it not been for a still clearly remembered and still startling event that happened at around the same time that I was given my prayer.
A Heart on Fire - Introduction to Love
One day on the grounds of Carver Elementary School while there was the bustle of hundreds of children - I saw her! I saw the love of my life - Pearline Monroe!
What was so striking about this event is that she was not standing alone, but was thoroughly involved in talking with 3 or 4 other girls. However, at the moment that I looked at her, the sun, in back of her, aligned with her head as if it were forming a halo! I was transfixed immediately! Everything from that point revolved around Pearline and remained so for the next ten years! This was the anchor event that would have me meditating on love for the rest of my life.
The Strategy To Love
During the next ten years my prayers, every night, centered on Pearline - I wondered how I could get her attention; how I could be near her; how I could be with her. Every night I would return to the prayer that my mother gave me, utter it and then continue my talk with God by expounding on my desire to love Pearline.
I prayed that I could be in the same class room with her (which helped me to focus on studying). I prayed that I could be in the same school band with her (and so I practiced my saxophone with so much intensity that I often fell asleep with it still hanging around my neck). Because of Pearline, prayer, music and studying were to become seminal factors in my life.
However, in 1966 when I transferred across town to an integrated school, I lost touch with Pearline. And music was the only thing that could approximate my feelings for her. In the absence of seeing her at school, I blindly threw myself into music as if I were loving her at last.
Reflections on Love in Action
Except for a kiss from Pearline on the last day that I would live in South Carolina, my love never reached fruition. After graduating from high school in 1969, I left Columbia and would not see her again for over twenty years.
However, as I reflect on where my life has taken me, I see that my mother did the greatest possible thing for me by pointing me to prayer; that God gave me the greatest possible education by making me hunger for love for ten long years; that Pearline provided the greatest possible service to me by leading me to music and by being a carrot for me to chase and pray over.
I must concur with the Bible that love is the greatest of good powers. (I Corinthians 13:13). I, too, must say that there is nothing greater than love. The confluence of my mother, prayer, God, music, and Pearline proves that love is the supreme tool that I must master in order to live fully and to be of service to others. In order to be of service; in order to live fully, to do fully, to exist fully - I must be an instrument of love.
If I am to live fully, love must be the center of my life. All good things are brought to life faster by injecting them with the power of prayerful love. This seems to be the main theme that life has been whispering to me.
As I enter the second part of life I see that I could not have chosen a better time to reflect on the most seminal events of my life. I see that all has been pointing me towards what I have always sought - a life of love. I now see from the vantage point of middle age, that all that I need to do in order to have all that I want is to apply love first. That is my first duty. All else remains in the hands of God.
My thanks to Mom, to prayer, to God, love, music and of course to my carrot - Pearline!!
Forever in Love,