Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Jim Magruder

Why I occupied Wall Street

by Jim Magruder

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Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan covers something less than a square city block, all granite, marble and cement, with a sprinkling of trees. No soft ground anywhere, no power, no bathrooms, no showers, no escape from the noise of the city. My biggest concern the Friday in late October when I arrived at Occupy Wall Street was, where would I stretch out my sleeping bag for the night without getting stepped on?

The long-haul occupiers are dug in. Defying Mayor Bloomberg’s edict, they erected a tent city the day after Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up to defend the occupation’s first-aid tent against the NYPD.

Detractors have complained that the occupiers are “dirty hippies.” Mayor Bloomberg won’t allow them to provide port-a-johns and recently confiscated their generators, so what would you expect? This ain’t no family campout.  In fact, I’d say after more than five weeks of occupation, the park is cleaner than any group campout I’ve seen after a couple of days. We hear rumors of sex and drugs. The OWS Good Neighbor Policy declares “zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol anywhere in Liberty Plaza.” I never smelled pot in my three days there. As for protesters engaging in “free love,” the park is as about as private and romantic as the subway at rush hour. The occupiers run a community kitchen serving three surprisingly good meals a day to thousands – protesters, local homeless and the curious. A phalanx of police, NYPD squad cars, scooters, buses and mobile observation towers form a double ring around the plaza.

I am a middle-aged small town guy with a wife, kids, a job and a house. I pay my taxes. I believe in capitalism (regulated). I believe the limited liability corporate structure and financial markets have valid, even vital roles in a modern economy. I believe in the motivating power of profit incentive and the efficiency of decentralized free markets. I don’t smoke pot or play bongo drums. So what compelled me to drive 807 miles to sleep on concrete with hundreds of strangers in the middle of a monstrous city?

There are a lot of ideas swirling around Liberty Plaza (the occupiers’ name for Zuccotti), some of them pretty detached from reality and many I don’t agree with.  What drove us all together, I think, was an overwhelming outrage at and rejection of the wholesale purchase of our representative democracy from under our feet.  If you’ve observed our political process over the last decade, our government’s response or non-response to the greatest crisis of any of our lifetimes, the calls to action (unheeded) from a super-majority of Americans, it’s clear that the government doesn’t work for the people, the government works for the money.  Wall Street is the logical and symbolic nexus of the Occupy movement, but the occupation is generally against money from any source that is swamping the system.

We’re three years out now from a man-made financial disaster that knocked ten million Americans out of work, the greatest swindle in our history, and nothing substantial has been fixed.

The message or more the mood of the Occupy movement seems to be, “We are here. We will be heard. Corporations and the super-rich can buy all of the Congressmen, Senators, Presidents, regulators and judges they want, in order to undercut the will of the people, but we are here, we will be heard.”

It’s hard to imagine a ragtag bunch of idealists prevailing over the richest and best organized mercantile juggernaut on the planet, but students of history can tell you, it wouldn’t be the first time. One thing I know for sure is, the team that doesn’t show up always loses.



Jim Magruder lives, works, and pays federal income tax in Greenville with his wife, two kids in public high school, and two dogs that occupy the best couches. You can see his photos of OWS at


Susan Simmons

Hope we PASSed

by Susan Simmons

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By now, our governor is deep into her cross-state tour to reveal her graded report cards for every member of the General Assembly. This week she held town halls in Rock Hill, Irmo and Aiken. Next week: Hilton Head and Charleston.

Alas, we will have to wait until week three to hear a live report on how the Spartanburg and Greenville delegations fared on the Haley PASS test. Those so interested should plan to join her Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Byrnes High School in Duncan.

As this column was due before the first town hall, I don’t know whether the governor chose to be combative or collaborative in tone. Experience shows she is fully capable of both. Either way, the town halls are sure to reveal more about Nikki Haley than any of the legislators she judges.

Start with the events themselves. As vehicles to unveil the governor’s agenda for the next year and get a grassroots reaction, town halls are a great idea. But to crisscross the state calling out individual lawmakers for their performance on her goals, not their own, presumes a superiority Haley doesn’t have. As Columbia Sen. Joel Lourie asked back in March, “Am I supposed to take it home and get my mother to sign it? Or maybe my wife?”

Again, if Haley takes a we’re-in-this-together approach on her travels, the end result may be a nudge toward many useful reforms lawmakers have avoided for years.

But the school marmish way she did it will still rankle, I bet, even with the lawmakers who put a good face on it. Legislators are accountable to South Carolina voters, not the governor. In the end, this is exactly what Lourie said: a publicity stunt. A good show, with questionable enduring effect.  Sound familiar?

But while the show is definitely Sanfordesque, Haley differs from her predecessor in one key aspect: Sanford was a master of the fine detail. Haley is all Big Idea. I picture her striding around Columbia tossing them off, underlings scurrying beside her, scribbling, “It’s a great day in South Carolina!” “Worker training!” “Drug testing for the unemployed!”

Big idea people are characteristically averse to documentation and detail, which is why Haley could repeat “a million times” – without checking her facts – that half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests. The actual number was less than 1 percent. But some unidentified someone told her the flashier statistic, and “I’ve never felt like I had to back up what people tell me,” she told the Associated Press (a quote that still staggers me every time I read it).

It’s why she can brag about bringing 10,000 jobs to the state when her own Commerce Department counts 5,000 and claim she “closed two deals” on her trip to Europe when “in the works” was far more accurate.

These are all things Haley wants to be true: the jobs, the deals, the justification for drug testing she told her hometown Rotary Club she has “been wanting since the first day I walked into office.” Wanting it so badly she can casually smear the reputation of hundreds of SRS job-seekers in its support rather than check her prattle long enough to see if the words are true.

Big ideas can be great ideas, and South Carolina surely needs some great ideas. South Carolina also needs a governor who understands that words matter – that big ideas rooted in fiction turn out to be fairytales.


Lyn Riddle

On honoring heroes, humble souls

by Lyn Riddle

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John Robert McClure was a quartermaster petty officer on the USS Zaniah when it was commissioned in 1944 in Mobile, Ala.

J.C. Ponder was a lieutenant junior grade paymaster.

Known as the Bloody Z, it was a cargo ship that delivered equipment and other goods to the war zone and was capable of producing 80,000 gallons of fresh water. Perhaps more importantly, the ship carried men to repair ships damaged in the South Pacific during World War II.

McClure and Ponder were onboard the Zaniah in October 1944 for the invasion of Letye in the Philippines, which was led by General Douglas MacArthur.  The ship then sailed for Okinawa. What would become the bloodiest battle of the war began on April 1, 1945 – Easter Sunday and April Fools Day. It lasted 82 days.

It was the battle of more – more ships, more bombs, more troops, more guns, more deaths. In all, 38,000 Americans died, 107,000 Japanese and Okinawans, 100,000 Okinawan civilians.

Shortly after the campaign ended, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

The war ended.

McClure and Ponder ultimately returned home, to different lives.

McClure came to Greenville and founded Morningside Baptist Church on Pelham Road.

Ponder went to work for R.J. Reynolds and then Burlington Industries.

McClure and his wife Frances had five children. He retired from the pastorate after 17 years to establish Christian radio stations all over the country.

Ponder didn’t marry for many years. Then he met and married Elizabeth Fisher, an elementary school teacher. They never had children.

McClure and Ponder had no contact with each other in all those years.

Then 1985, in Hickory, N.C., at a reunion for sailors who served on the Bloody Z, they met again.

They realized they lived a few miles apart, McClure in Simpsonville; Ponder in Greer. McClure had lived in the Greenville area since the 1940s, Ponder moved here in 1979.

They kept in touch after that, trading war stories and memories.

Then about six months ago, McClure and his daughter Carolyn Robinson were at a funeral. McClure pulled her over and said, “This is my buddy. We served on the same ship.”

Robinson was astonished. The coincidence of these two men, now in their 80s, living all these years in the same town without knowing it was amazing to her. Another astonishing fact was Ponder was married to Robinson’s third grade teacher.

Robinson asked Ponder if he had his war medals.

“No, ma’am, I don’t,” he said.

She had gotten her father’s as a father’s day present some years before so she was familiar with the government red tape and paperwork and helped Ponder apply to the Department of Defense.

She also got him a seat on the same Honor Flight her father was to go on. Honor Flights take WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., for a day to see the WWII Memorial, an honor many would not have otherwise.

It is a race against time. The youngest veteran of the war would be 80 now and the Veteran’s Administration says about 740 WWII veterans die every day. Of 16 million who served, about 1.7 million are still living.

The two took the flight on Sept. 20.

They saw the Memorial. They posed for pictures in front of the statue of Iwo Jima.

“It was the best day of my life,” Ponder said.

When McClure, 85, and Ponder, 88, came off the plane at Greenville Spartanburg International Airport that night, Robinson was waiting.

And so were Ponder’s service medals. Robinson had received them, gotten them framed in a shadow box and presented them to him at the airport.

The next day he called and asked how much he owed her for the framing.

She said, “Nothing, you’ve already paid me.”

Lyn Riddle

On seeing all that’s beautiful and good about life

by Lyn Riddle

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Natalie Dopp is a senior at Riverside High School.

She runs track, volunteers at Meals on Wheels and has a smile so big it makes you think there can be nothing wrong in the world.

This past week, that smile was the most obvious thing about her.

That’s because Natalie was voted by her peers to this year’s homecoming court, an honor bestowed to five seniors, and three in each of the younger grades.

It’s commonplace in most schools for the homecoming court and especially the queen to be the most popular, prettiest girls.

And that’s what the senior class at Riverside saw in Natalie, who has Down syndrome.

“She’s small, cute and bubbly,” said her teacher Karen Carnes, who nominated Natalie for homecoming court.

“We talked about it for several years, but decided to wait until she was a senior,” said Carnes. “We didn’t do any politicking.”

Natalie’s mother, Gail, said she thinks the vote for Natalie is a testament to the character of the students at Riverside and their upbringing.

“There are lots and lots of pretty girls there,” she said. “They picked a young lady for her inner beauty and spirit. It exemplifies the heart of the school.”

Natalie has been at Riverside since the new school opened in 2005. As a special needs student, she was able to stay in public school until she is 21. She’s 20 now.

Carnes said everyone at school knows Natalie. They know Natalie’s loving heart.

“She doesn’t know how to hate,” her mother said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that?”

Riverside students are accepting and open minded about differences, Carnes said.

“Students here are just great kids. I’ve never had an issue with any of these kids being hateful toward mine,” she said.

Carnes has taught special education at Riverside since 1992 and for seven years before that in Anderson. She spent 16 summers as a teen and young adult working with kids at Camp Spearhead, a camp for kids older than eight with special needs.

Studies show special education teachers burn out within five years.

What keeps Carnes there is the unconditional love she gets from students like Natalie. Half of her class of 10 has Down syndrome, which is caused at conception by the development of an extra chromosome. People with the syndrome typically have a similar look and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people will never be able to care for themselves; others can live independently.

Natalie falls in the medium range.

Her mother said when Carnes called her Monday morning to say Natalie had been chosen, she was astounded. Never would she imagine her daughter would have such an honor.

“I wasn’t picked for homecoming,” she said, and laughed. “I called my husband and I could barely get the words out.”

That afternoon when Natalie’s brother Andrew, who is 18 and also a senior at Riverside, brought her home, Mrs. Carnes met them at the car.

“She looked at me through the car window and her smile was from ear to ear,” she said. “She got out and gave me a huge bear hug.”

Natalie’s family will be well represented the night of Oct. 14 when she walks out onto the field at Riverside’s stadium: her parents, her brothers, grandparents, who are moving here this weekend from the Chicago area, and her aunt and uncle from Charlotte.

She wants to wear a pink dress and maybe even pink shoes. She wants both her brothers, Andrew and Ethan, 17, to escort her.

She’ll go to the homecoming dance with them.

“I’m a princess queen,” she said.

No matter who is crowned homecoming queen that night, Natalie has already won.

“It’s a big deal, and she’s part of it,” her mother said. “She will never, ever forget this.”

Susan Simmons

Small box store anyone?

by Susan Simmons

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Reading about Walmart’s flirtation with a possible Supercenter on Church Street brought back the memory of how vexed I felt, years ago, when the big box giant abandoned its Laurens Road megastore for the siren call of Woodruff Road.

What had once been a few blocks drive from Gower Estates suddenly demanded an interstate and gridlock traffic. Yes, yes, said gridlock equaled hundreds more potential Walmart shoppers. But every time I passed that empty box down from Michael’s I felt snubbed.

Times do change: sans Supercenter, the city of Greenville is now an “underserved market.” Walmart isn’t saying when a formal proposal for the corner of Church and University Ridge might appear at City Hall – but its execs have been meeting with the two neighborhoods likely to make the most noise, in favor and opposed.

Of those, the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association is more alarmed than pleased about the footprint Walmart would bestow. Haynie-Sirrine, on the other hand, is excited about abundant low prices right on their doorsteps, instead of two long bus rides away on gridlock row.

Alta Vista hasn’t committed to “no” or Haynie-Sirrine to “yes.”  These are still flirting days. One big question looms over all, for neighborhoods and city alike: whether the big box giant will act like, well, a big box giant.

When Walmart’s proposal comes, spokesman Glen Wilkins told the Greenville News, it will be for a 100,000 square-foot store – 60,000 square feet larger than the city master plan for that block of Church Street allows. Told that’s too big, it won’t fit, you’ll have to go smaller, Wilkins says Walmart “couldn’t make a store work for much less.”

He has to know that to give his bosses 100,000 square feet, City Council would have to hand Walmart its very own Amazon moment and shred the city’s master plan. Toss the zoning, ignore the protests and forget all thought of the walkable, mixed-use “urban neighborhood village” the city and community conceived after weeks of public hearings, workshops and neighborhood charrettes.

If this is indeed what Walmart envisions, I have a word of caution: Greenville City Council is no state Legislature. I’m reminded of a quote from Greenville writer Ashley Warlick’s marvelous essay in the August issue of Garden & Gun magazine: “Greenville is a place that’s thought very carefully about itself and how it wants to grow.”

In a dozen years, she writes, city leaders have reimagined downtown to such an entrancing degree that people drive in “from the other country off Woodruff Road and its big-box stores” to enjoy it.

What City Council reimagines for Church Street is a tree-lined, median-divided boulevard with wide sidewalks, and for Haynie-Smith and Alta Vista, affordable housing, public green spaces and a series of compact, mixed-used buildings creating “a vibrant environment for living, working and shopping.”

Haynie-Sirrine Neighborhood Association president Felsie Harris was on the panel that created that plan. As she told The News, “Everybody wants (Walmart)” as long as the retailer respects the master plan.

Smaller is not an impossibility. Walmart recently rolled out two new store models elsewhere – Walmart Market and Walmart Express – that focus on groceries and limited general merchandise and average 40,000 square feet or less.

No, they’re not Supercenters, but Church Street is not Woodruff Road. Walmart can be a welcome neighbor, if it can bring itself to act like a neighbor. That means respecting the neighborhood’s plans and dreams – plans and dreams that don’t, by the way, have to include a big box giant.

Lyn Riddle

On getting healthy despite life’s challenges

by Lyn Riddle

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Caroline Harrington gained 15 pounds while her son, Aden, was in the hospital.

Junk food. Vending machine food. Hospital food.


It was a steady diet of bad food and worry.

Aden was three when doctors discovered he had cancer, Wilms disease, which began either in utero or in the months after birth as a tumor in a kidney and spread to his lungs. Stage 4.

Harrington said she and her husband, Scott, decided Aden should take part in a study that looked at the results of light chemotherapy and no radiation for the disease, which is one of the more curable cancers.

It worked for nine months.

But then in May of last year, the cancer returned and the whole weight of modern American medicine was applied to Aden’s case.

Almost a week of hospitalization for chemotherapy every three weeks.

“You lose sleep and eat and this becomes the normal routine,” she said.

But she learned from a nutritionist who was treating her mother that there could be more to the protocol than medicine. He encouraged certain healthier foods and nutritional supplements.

They decided to give it a try.

Aden never developed the sores common with chemotherapy, Mrs. Harrington said. She doesn’t know for sure it was the supplements but the other children did develop sores.

“This whole time we were trying to get Aden healthy, and I realized I needed to get healthy, too,” she said.

The woman who describes herself as a meat and potatoes girl became a vegetarian. She read books on the subject and ate tofu and actually started cooking for the family, which she said, she didn’t do before.

“Meal by meal, day by day,” she said.

And she started running. She had never been a runner before. She owns a highly sedentary business, a web development and marketing firm. She grew up in Simpsonville, where her father, Ray Guenthner, served on City Council. He runs the acoustic cafe Coffee Underground.

Harrington, 37, met her husband after she graduated from University of South Carolina and he from Winthrop. Scott Harrington, 41, works as a server at Rick Erwin’s.

Nine months ago, she started her regimen.

Tuesday, she returned from a four-day trip to Alaska, where she ran a half marathon and raised $3,500 for Children’s Security Blanket, a Spartanburg organization that provides essential items to families of children with cancer.

She chose the organization because most money raised for cancer goes to research and she knows the financial burden families face. She remembers talking to a woman in the hallway at Greenville Memorial Children’s Hospital who said all her daughter wanted to eat that day – when she was undergoing chemotherapy – was Chic Fil-A. But she couldn’t afford it.

Mrs. Harrington said Aden’s hospital bills are the equivalent of two car payments. And they have good insurance.

She chose Alaska because she decided if she was going to put that much effort into health, she was going to have the reward of going someplace she’d never been. The whole family went and the weather was cold and rainy.

Except on race day.

The temperature was 59 and the sun was shining. Bold blue sky hovered overhead.

It was a family event with 2K races for children that she found heartwarming.

She ran the whole way – 13.1 miles.

“Aden’s run his race. Now I’ve run mine. Mission accomplished,” she said.

Aden turned six on Aug. 28. He is cancer free. He started first grade at First Presbyterian.

Caroline Harrington has started a non-profit organization to educate families about healthy eating and supplements during cancer treatment. For information go to

Lyn Riddle

On embracing what seems impossible

by Lyn Riddle

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Converse College graduated its first masters in fine arts in creative writing on Saturday, and I was one.

It’s been a two-year effort – at once exhilarating and exhausting. There were moments I was not quite sure I was going to see the ceremony in Twichell Auditorium.

That’s because low-residency certainly doesn’t mean low work. It equals, at the very least, a part-time job.

It’s also not for people who think every word they write shines like expertly cut diamonds. Faculty and your friends in workshop stand by to erase that image.

And, after about three decades in the news business, I showed up to learn to write fiction. I’ve been saying to my journalism students at Furman University for a long time, “Good writing is good writing.” That is true. But writing from your imagination is a whole lot different from writing from your notebook. And, while journalism can be literary, it most often is not.

The first time I heard about the MFA program was when I interviewed Converse President Betsy Fleming about the school’s efforts to step into the world of creativity, to make its mark as a place where reaching for what seems impossible is commonplace.

I knew then I would apply once the program started. June 2009 brought the first residency, 10 days of lectures and workshops.

The 16 of us met in the lobby of a dorm on campus, and I am pleased to say, I was not the oldest one. Interestingly it was a mix of folks with established careers – some in areas very different from writing – and recent college graduates. One woman was from southern California, another Seattle. A woman whose husband is a certified rocket scientist came from Florida. Most were from the Upstate.

Phillip Belcher, the executive director of the Mary Black Foundation in Spartanburg, was a poetry student. He already had graduate degrees in law and theology. Jeffrey Schrecongost, a former Mauldin High School teacher and fiction student, had a master’s in liberal arts. Kasey Ray-Stokes, a creative non-fiction student from Savannah, had made award-winning films.

Sometime on the fourth day into the residency I realized this was nothing short of a marathon. The day started as early as eight if you had a meeting with your mentor, craft lectures, lunch, a three-hour workshop, another lecture, night readings, homework. Twelve-hour days. At least.

I don’t know of any other experience I’ve had that can compare to an MFA workshop. No editor combed through my work with such specificity. The word ransacked comes to mind. I left my first workshop feeling as if I had been flat run over by a truck. And the driver backed up. It was brutal.

But then something amazing happened. We were told to rewrite a few pages of the 20 we handed in. And when, later in the week, we reviewed that, it was called exquisite. A phrase I wrote was considered inspired. I was a student. I was learning. My teachers were published authors who could articulate the mysteries of every good novel I’d read.

I left there with a reading list of about a dozen books and five due dates for writing assignments and book critiques. That semester, the work was to be sent to my mentor by email, other semesters hard copies were required. I, for one, helped FedEx with my tendency toward working right up until the deadline.

And, yes, I’ll admit one particular semester I missed a couple.

I wrote short stories about a hairdresser with a drug problem, a mother unable to have an adult relationship with her daughter, a man who left his wife for another only to find heartbreak himself.

During the second year, I returned to the business that took me to Converse in the first place, a novel I had dallied with for years. I worked under the expert tutelage of two-time novelist Leslie Pietrzyk. Her lessons are as integrated in my writing life as my Mac. No character is all bad or all good, nor should he be a plot device. Clip off the first word of dialogue to make it more realistic. Start on a day something is different. Voice is not a standalone item.

Night after night, I finished editing the Greenville Journal and Spartanburg Journal and turned to my fictional world of Holly Hill, South Carolina, and the people who had become very real to me. The novel is half finished, bound by the Converse MFA office in a neat navy blue.

My thesis.

The impossible doesn’t quite yet seem commonplace, but certainly achievable. Half a novel awaits.

Lyn Riddle

On learning about life through baseball

by Lyn Riddle

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Sometimes a batting cage is oh so much more than a place to improve a batting average.

Take the cage at Sevier Middle School, its new netting draping over it like an oak leaf canopy.

The cage was installed two seasons ago – two teams of 15 kids each – have taken practice there.

But before them, there were a hundred or more. Some are playing minor league baseball. Many played in college. All learned life lessons from the sport.

The cage was ordered online and delivered to the Hoffman home at the base of Paris Mountain 10 years ago. It cost $800.

Jeff Hoffman remembers three boxes, one of them huge (that would be for the net). This is no pretend batting case. It’s 50 feet long and 10 feet high all around.

Hoffman bought the cage for his son, Asher, who was playing on the Wade Hampton High School team.

Hoffman had been coaching Asher’s teams since T-ball, but this cage, that was something different, something more.

“We probably spent a thousand hours out there,” Hoffman said. “A true father-son bonding experience.”

On winter nights, Asher would come home after baseball practice. It was dark. So Hoffman installed lights. He bought a pitching machine.

“In the baseball world, the more practice you get, the more balls you see,” Hoffman said.

Make no mistake. This was not a father living vicariously through his son. Hoffman, who is 64, was a runner in high school and college.

It was most often Asher who was picking up the bucket of balls and asking his dad to hit a few.

Soon, teammates were showing up for some practice. He never worried about the liability if someone got hurt. In fact, he was the one who was beaned a few times with balls hit back at him while he was pitching.

Coaches from other teams would call to ask for cage time.

Hoffman accommodated.

That’s how Brad Chalk, who played at Riverside and Clemson, got there. The Padres drafted him in 2007, and this season he’s with the AA Altoona, Pa., Curve, an affiliate of the Pirates.

Hoffman estimates Major League Baseball drafted six players who used the cage. Dozens, like Asher, received college scholarships.

Asher went to Hiwasee Junior College in Tennessee then transferred to College of Charleston, where an elbow injury ended his baseball career.

So Hoffman packed up the cage. He and his wife, Lucy, wanted to do some landscaping after all those years.

Then Hoffman got a call from Foothills Little League. Would he coach a team? Eleven and 12 year olds?

“We put it in somebody else’s yard – the parent of one of the kids,” Hoffman said.

A season later, he was asked to become head coach at Sevier Middle School, home of the Falcons. The cage went with him.

Now it’s sunk permanently in the ground near the school’s new athletic fields. Hoffman, who owns a textile company in Mauldin, has used his $1,200 yearly stipend for a new pitching machine and the new net.

“I wasn’t looking to be paid,” he said. “I just have a passion for the sport.”

Baseball teaches life lessons, Hoffman said. The most important: baseball is a game of failure. You’re doing exceptionally well if you hit the ball three times for every 10 at bats.

“You learn it doesn’t matter if you strike out. Forget about that. Your next at bat is coming,” he said. “You can’t give up because you made a mistake.”

Not too long ago, Hoffman went to Sevier to work on the field. He saw a father and son – 10 years old or so – going into the cage, carrying a bucket of balls.

“I thought, boy this thing has come full circle.”

Lyn Riddle

On having your eyes open

by Lyn Riddle

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Beth Templeton has a new book out.

Her second. The new book follows a five-part DVD collection.

She’s done hundreds of workshops and events, reaching thousands of people.

That’s what she’s done in the past four years.

The four years since she resigned as executive director of United Ministries.

Templeton was once a high school math teacher, then went to seminary at Erskine. United Ministries hired her as a part-timer, but soon she became executive director. Twenty-four years later, she stepped down and her desire to teach, preach and write has become a United Ministries outreach program called Our Eyes Were Opened.

Where as a leader of United Ministries she worked with people who were poor, now her work centers on helping those with means help people who are poor.

It’s all about education. Setting aside judgment in favor of compassion.

Templeton has developed poverty simulation programs that, even though it is pretend, cause people to do some of the very things they had judged before – lie, steal.

The outreach includes taking people on tours of poverty-stricken areas, those places hidden by bamboo groves or railroad beds. Those places we really don’t want to think about.

She’s given workshops for businesses, organizations and even an entire community in Kansas.

In her first book “Loving Our Neighbor, A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Poverty,” Templeton taught us we need not feel guilty about refusing to give that dollar to a person on the street. What we do need to feel guilty about is looking past him as if he doesn’t exist.

“You don’t know if the money you give is the money that buys the hit that kills them,” she said. If the person is hungry, get food.

Her response is to say, “My name’s Beth. What’s yours?” And to encourage the person to contact an agency that can actually help – like United Ministries.

The DVD series “Servant or Sucker,” released in 2008, has a similar theme. How to help constructively, realistically, without judgment, with life-changing opportunity.

Now comes her newest book “Understanding Poverty in the Classroom.” It’s meant, obviously, for teachers and school administrators, but it is truly a book for us all. For opening our eyes.

The book is about understanding differences. Actions and reactions may be different, but one is not better than the other.

The child who is loud and interrupts could be perceived as rude, lacking respect of authority or even having ADHD. But it is more likely he lives in an overcrowded family and that is how he gets attention.

“If you have lived in poverty, every day is a struggle – a roof over your head, healthcare for kids – and what’s most important are relationships. Relationships become a bottom-line value,” she said. “For the middle class, work and achievement is the bottom-line value. We assume our way of thinking is universal and we’ll tell someone how to fix their lives.”

Earlier this year when the Japanese were reeling under earthquakes and tidal waves, Templeton was conducting a workshop. She told the middle- and upper-middle income folks gathered they would not be her choice of pals if she were in Japan.

“I want to be with the people in Place of Hope (homeless shelter),” she said. “You can appreciate their fund of knowledge then.”

People in poverty know how to live without electricity. They live without banks. And cars.

Once Templeton was working with a group of women. To be in the group they had to be homeless, pregnant, a prostitute or an addict. She asked about their hopes and dreams. Dead silence. Finally someone said she wanted a little house with a white picket fence, and she wanted to work in an office.

Templeton couldn’t understand. The entry office job was not going to get that lady the picket-fence house.

But then it became clear. An office job has set hours, a title, air conditioning and heat. You get to sit part of the day and go to the bathroom when you want. You dress nice.

“It made a whole lot of sense,” Templeton said. “I take those things for granted.”

If you get a copy of the new book, I encourage you to read the section about double standards.

My eyes were opened.

Courtney Tollison

The view of July 4 from afar

by Courtney Tollison

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I am in the midst of a three-week journey throughout northern India. I am with nine other professors from liberal arts colleges across the United States and we are visiting sites of religious, cultural, and historical significance.

The objective of the program sponsored by ASIANetwork and funded by the Mellon Foundation is for us to incorporate what we learn and experience into our classrooms. I am currently in Varanasi, the city along the River Ganges.

I am very far from home, but am constantly making connections with upcountry South Carolina.

Varanasi is in the northeastern part of India, and is the closest our group will be to Shamshernagar, a town which hosted an American and British air base during World War II.

As part of the Upcountry History Museum’s World War II Oral History Project, my students and I interviewed Greenville native Harold Gallivan, who was stationed at Shamshernagar during the war. From the base, he flew the C-109, which was essentially a B-24 that had been converted to haul nearly 3,000 gallons of high-octane aviation gasoline.

The plane became known as the “C- one oh boom” because of the spectacular explosion that would occur upon crash landing. He and other Allied pilots and crew were here to fly high altitude aerial supply missions over the Himalayan Mountains (an often perilous endeavor they called “flying the Hump”) to deliver fuel into China to thwart the westward expansion of the Japanese. Their efforts in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II are some of the most under recognized of the war.

During my travels, I am also mindful that, at home, the Fourth of July is approaching. Last week, a historian at a university in Delhi said to our group, “You Americans were smart to throw off the British when you did.”

Others have said to us, “you got rid of the British and then they came over here to bother us!” The historian in me cringes a bit at this chronology and oversimplification but the point of these statements is clear.

India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, during an era of post-World War II decolonization. Many of the former European colonial powerhouses simply could not manage to rebuild their infrastructure and economies in the aftermath of the war and maintain their colonies abroad. Furthermore, the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, widely considered the father of independent India, and others cannot be underestimated.

In India, the influence of the former colonial presence remains.

In the US, we are much further removed from this phase of our history. We tend, and especially in South Carolina, to focus more on the Civil War, a conflict that fractured our country less than a century after we gained independence.

We all know that the opening shots of the Civil War were fired off the coast of our state. Less known, however, is the fact that many conflicts from the American Revolution were fought in South Carolina. Several of those sites have been preserved and are maintained by the National Park Service.

Within a two hour’s drive from Greenville are Kings Mountain and Cowpens, two important battles of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution.

Throughout the colonies, British General Charles Cornwallis tried aggressively to recruit loyalists to the British crown; his efforts were challenged by Rev. Richard Furman, who traveled throughout South Carolina and the South recruiting patriots. Furman, for whom Furman University is named, was eloquent and successful in his efforts, and allegedly Cornwallis placed a price of one thousand pounds on Furman’s head.

British loyalists were defeated at King’s Mountain, and months later, some of Cornwallis’ troops were defeated at Cowpens. Soon thereafter, Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington near Yorktown. In 1782, he returned to England as part of an exchange for Henry Laurens, for whom Laurens County is named.

Four years later, Cornwallis received another extremely significant appointment from King George III. He was named Governor General of India, where for the next several years he proceeded to “bother” others who would remain firmly entrenched in the vast British Empire long after the American Revolution.

Cornwallis’ legacy in India and throughout the empire is extensive, and includes a Hindu college he founded in 1791 here in Varanasi.

Travelling throughout India has certainly provided new perspective, not only on the fact that American patriots declared our independence 235 years ago, but that veterans such as Harold Gallivan and so many others have and continue to travel to the far corners of the world to maintain it.

Happy Fourth of July!