Goin’ to Carolina In My Mind

For a Midwesterner who spent seven years on the East Coast, I’ve spent a good amount of time in the South. My father lived a few years in North Carolina, when he and my mother had divorced for a spell, and work took him down to NC. And my longtime paramour was from Knoxville, Tennessee. I’ve been to Selma, to Montgomery and (one of my favorite places on Earth — I believe there’s a certain embarrassing Facebook pic you can find if you really try), New Orleans.

My favorite memory of my sojourns south, though, comes when I was just 18, a college freshman on a Habitat For Humanity trip to build a house in Greensboro, NC. I don’t remember our leader’s name, just that he was older than me, and for a confidence-challenged freshman, that was enough. The work was hard, especially given that I’m 5’6″ (1.67m), 135 lbs. (with clothes and shoes on) (61.2 kg). So basically I’m not an offensive lineman, yet one who cares about the homeless. It was hot — and heat and I don’t mix well together; I avoid temperatures above 75F/23.9C whenever I can. I also have no talent whatsoever with tools of any sort, but I gave my best.

What made it wonderful were two things. Chronologically, the first was a stay in a church (Baptist, if I recall correctly, which, ironically, is the faith I was baptized into) where we had a communal meal, then slept in sleeping bags. Most memorable, however, was when the group leader invited us to his parents’ home in Winston-Salem. Beautiful home, but what stays with me is sitting out at their fire pit, under a North Carolina moon and stars, just talking, taking in the silence around us and the majesty of the skies above us. There have likely been words written to describe that quiet, that brilliance, but there are none that I can share that would give it justice.

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~ by Benji on 5 February 2015.

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