I had forgotten that I had written a long letter to Former President Carter when his grandson died. I
was full of grief after losing my own grandson just weeks earlier. I wrote to him and sent it to the Carter Center after pouring out my sympathy and telling him I appreciated his humanity, his service past and continued service to our country. I told him I was praying for he and his lovely wife as I KNEW what it was like to lose a grandchild unexpectedly. I spoke to him of his deep faith and I had a Daddy, also from Georgia and also a man of great faith as a pastor who admired him as a President, a Governor and role model of leadership and held that regard until he passed away at the age of 90 two years ago. I had forgotten about that letter. I was reminded of the letter when Former President Carter’s Communication Director at the Carter Center sent me a private message thanking me for the letter. She was so kind and told me I should visit the President during his scheduled Sunday School Class in Plains,Ga.
I needed to go to the little church in Plains to hear the Former President speak. I NEEDED to have some inspiration instilled to give my activism, my advocacy, even my faith a renewing. I had also always wanted to meet President Carter and his wonderful wife. I thought about it. My husband and I talked about it. I knew I needed someone or something to inspire me to get busy with some of our candidates here in Florida and to get on with it but I was more or less stuck. I called the church and and spoke to the pastor. He encouraged me to come and gave me the protocal. My husband, daughter and me packed an overnight bag and headed 4 hours up the road to Plains, Saturday night.
When we got to the little town of Plains and make no mistake about it, it is a tiny little town and the church is small. I liked that. There were visitors at the church to hear President Carter but not nearly as many as I expected. We took our seats and I noticed The Former first lady take her seat several rows ahead of us.
I want everyone to know that President Carter’s lesson was exactly what I personally needed. His smiling face and gentle voice was so full of humility and kindness, that the hardest heart could be melted. He spoke of loss and the dissapointments of life and how it had affected him. He spoke of love for one another, good will, overcoming the setbacks in life including sorrow, disease and hate and yes even losing to people who did not share the values of justice that some hold dear.
He spoke of how we must keep on keeping on doing our part to make life better for those who were left behind, or disadvantaged and hurting. He mentioned the loss of his grandson, and the pain he felt. He mentioned the brain cancer and his will to do as much everyday to overcome hatred that so many love to display. He spoke of the hurt he felt when people voted for Lester Maddox in 1966 and how people could vote for hatred and bigotry over his vision for Georgia, and how it was extremely hurtful to him. I listened and knew I was in the presence of living history, our 39th president , Nobel peace Prize Winner and yet I felt an old friend was speaking as a REAL human who had suffered loss and wanted to encourage everyone in that room to overcome and make a difference.
I saw and heard a man speak from his heart in this small SundaySchool class telling people how real faith is not defeated by fear. I watched him look upon the sanctuary as if we were all special to him. He spoke with such articulate purpose that one could forget he was this great leader of the world. It was such an intimate gathering that it felt humbling and yet so very motivating. He was excited to be heading to the UK to speak to the House of Lords for the first time this week. He said it was the first time to speak to them. He had spoken to the House of Commons but this was an opportunity to discuss his projects at the Carter Center of eradicating disease on a world level.. He spoke of this before his Sunday School lesson. He asks us questions….He wanted to know where folks were from and we chuckled when one man said he was from Washington DC and he quickly quipped, “ I used to live there”. He had few rules before he entered his class. The rules were.. No applause at all...ever… and no standing to acknowledge him . He spent time acknowledging us ...not him. He made us everyone feel special and no less important than him. This part of his talk brought me to tears. He spoke to us about the work we all had to do to make a better future for our children and future generations. We had to keep on fighting against hate and live examples of good will. We all had our talents and basically to yield to our better selves and be what was possible in this land. We as a people had to use our hands, heads and hearts to make life better for all.
I knew there were only three people I had met in all of my years who inspired and lifted my can do spirits such as this… One was Dr. Ferguson Reid, Sr., a civil rights icon who continues today past the age of 90 to freely give his knowledge and friendship to people who want to learn how to organize and put leadership in place for a better future. He is an accomplished individual and very humble. Dr. Reid is a great man with much knowledge. Dr. Reid has rallied the fifty state strategy regarding the organizational skill for getting out the vote with no excuses with almost every democratic candidate signing on to his 90 for 90 campaign across America started in his honor. Two of those people who signed on is Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The third person would be my Dad, who had the same spirit of calm, humility, faith in action and ongoing motivation to overcome. I was blessed to have that kind of role model. President Carter put me in mind of my Dad with his gestures and even his appearance...I teared at this observation in person as well. Daddy died in 2013 at 90. He never gave up even suffering from Alzheimers.
As my family stood with President and Mrs. Carter, President Carter asked me to have Sierra stand with him. I stood beside President Carter and my husband stood next to the Former First Lady. He told her she had such a pretty dress on and she smiled so big and said, “ Thank you very much”. I had tears in my eyes as I knew she had no idea how much greatness and a giant historical figure had his frail hand on her small shoulder but she would one day. She would someday know a great man took the time to recognize she and all of her generation was the future. He had also taken the time to inspire parents and grandparents to get busy and help make change and do all they can to make things better, no matter the obstacles. I took away from this great man, that age nor sorrow nor illness and especially fear should hinder us from doing all we can do to be not just citizens but good citizens of the world. I took away the fact it is our job to overcome the hate and each day make life better for someone else.
I thanked President Carter and his wife for their lives and generosity and service and hospitality. I spoke for a bit to the Pastor and some of the members and went out of my way to thank the Secret Service for their service and I hugged my daughter and husband. I walked out of President Carter’s class with a renewing of my mind and an inspiration to get to work not in fear of the haters but to work to defeat the hatred.
We were invited to attend the church anytime and to visit Plains often. I want to encourage each person reading this to find someone to motivate you and join me and my family to know you DO have the Can do in you and our future depends on you to participate in moving this country forward.
Just do it.
We did not have nearly this big a crowd and grateful he spent so much time with everyone. He makes you feel so welcome. I thanked the Carter Center for encouraging me to go meet him. I got a message from them tonight asking me if I would like to tune in to his UK webcast. I am very much interested.