A Farewell Student Piano Recital on Fire

In a white La Jolla chapel May 2004

Our daughter held a recital for her students and what’s more

The pupils and family came to wish their good-byes

Their attention was fixed on her with adoring eyes

As their maestro and mentor was leaving in a week

Knowledge, nature and spirituality to seek

Preparing her farewell address caused the tears to flow

From the lovely pianist who was privileged to know

Beginners she molded from four to seventy-four

From novices to the accomplished she opened a door

Her passionate love of piano and beauty too

Each had to develop on their own with so much new

Musical notes, rhythm, tempo, fingering and poise

Gradually they produced music within without noise

Asian, Jewish, Indian, Hispanic, White and Black

Purpose, determination, confidence, none did lack

Strolling up to the piano, sharing what they learned

A fire had been lit inside their spirits that burned

With enthusiasm as friends, parents and Brette cheered

Only a short time before a recital they feared

Music from popular to Beethoven and Mozart

Fingers, body, and mind drew energy from their heart

They were carefully trained to grow and improve with time

Their music flowed from them from the cute to the sublime

When finished all demanded their teacher to perform

Her Beethoven’s “The Tempest” simulated a storm

Captivated by enchantment the audience heard

No rustling of paper, coughing, or even a bird

Disturbed the magical 3 hour celebration

Smiling faces replaced the discord of our nation

She started a fire in these learners like a seed

That sprouted and blazed so that each of them could succeed

The students embraced their mentor with adoration

They had a creative artistic transformation

Of their imagination waiting for a catalyst

She entered their lives clearing away the fog and mist

That inertia in our lives impedes us not to strive

To light the fire inside and be fully alive

To those lyrical impulses for students she taught

Caring, discipline, determination can ‘t be bought

So now that she leaves all of her well-wishers behind

They have her gift of music and memories in their mind

Who enthralled all of her students, relatives and friends

With her spirit, grace, and care as she explores all ends

Awaiting a foreign world she will learn from and grow

We will long for her to return as off she must go

Hike roads untraveled by lakes, rivers, and nature’s wealth

That will energize her own and spiritual health

Remembering what you did for students young and old

Will brighten everyday with your lovely heart of gold


Related Images:

Puppies, Ellsberg, McGovern, and Nixon

Legal treatises spread across the library shelves in our second bedroom where I studied hard for the California Bar exam. Old legal concepts swept away the cobwebs in my memory, and the outlines helped me frame cogent arguments to complex problems in contracts, torts, crimes, civil procedure, and many more. A welcomed relief from the drudgery came when we mated Shiva, to Quiet Hills Zodiac Traveler, a magnificent pedigreed show-Lab.  Before long, Shiva had a bulging litter kicking inside her. Our front porch served for a birthing place.

In a few weeks, Shiva delivered twelve black pups during an all-night marathon. Unfortunately, one didn’t make it. The energetic black glossy pups provided plenty of entertainment as they maneuvered for the nearest full teat. We called it “equinipple.” To tell them apart we tied colored yarn around their neck.  They romped out in the back yard, chased their tails, and bull-dozed unwitting gawkers of butterflies. We could tell that "Sky," with blue yarn, largest head, and best coat, would be the first taken. Others were faster, more agile, and energetic.

Soon it was time to advertise our brood. When Tom saw the advertisement, he wandered up to me and said, "I never thought you would be a dealer in flesh!"

"Come by and see our beautiful Lab pups. I'll bet you'll want to buy one," I said.

The next day a happy couple had Sky in a hug and were carrying him home. Attached already to him, I was sad to see him go, but his sale paid for the stud fee and we had ten more to offer. In two weeks we sold seven more leaving us with four: Caliban, Shadowfax, Bear, and Greenie. The latter three were black shimmering females full of energy. We took them out to a field to run and they tried valiantly, but failed, to come close to catching scurrying rabbits whose speed was like a motorcycle to a tricycle. Unbelievably, we were so attached to our pups, we kept them all except “Greenie.” She was a sleek black beauty we sold to Jerry, who named her, “Sabra.”


Although the Pentagon Papers surfaced in 1971, the voluminous document took time to digest and decipher. Ellsberg was in hiding in fear of deadly revenge from the outraged Nixon Administration for showing the people their cynicism and cruel disregard for American soldiers, the Vietnamese people, and protestors. So the delay in getting the information out to the public was a mixture of not having the spokesperson, Ellsberg, available to discuss it to the public as well as the gigantic amount of information and intelligence to sift through.

After returning from Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg went back to the Rand Corp. As an expert on Vietnam, he was invited in 1967 to contribute to a top-secret study of classified documents regarding the Vietnam conflict. Defense Secretary McNamara had commissioned the analysis in the Johnson Administration that showed our government knew we could not win the war but continued it, knowing it would lead to many more deaths than publicly admitted.

With the assistance of colleague Anthony Russo, and his own children, Ellsberg secretly made photocopies and leaked the Pentagon Papers to Neil Sheehan of the New York Times. They published the first installment in June of 1971, and after a legal battle, the entire document, but did not reveal Ellsberg as their source. He knew the FBI would eventually learn he caused the leak. Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska entered 4,100 pages of the document into the Congressional record and publication followed.

The nefarious Nixon administration began a vengeful campaign to discredit Ellsberg. The president’s plumbers broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Lewis Fielding, to try to find something damaging to discredit his piercing criticism. When that failed, they made plans to break into Fielding's home for the same purpose. They feared releasing these papers would bring discredit upon Nixon, whose judgment would no longer seem reliable to a wider audience, and that the public would also realize Nixon was dangerously vindictive, anti-Semitic, and might not support his re-election campaign.

Equally important, the Pentagon Papers showed President Johnson’s mendacious exaggerations and lies regarding the Gulf of Tonkin incident, as military slaughter escalated in Vietnam, and had no likelihood of success. Joan and I could not awaken many Bakersfield residents with whom we spoke on these issues.


Of course McGovern was our choice for the Presidential Campaign. I had lived across the street from him in Chevy Chase, Maryland when he as a Senator. While playing step-ball, I often hit homeruns into his yard. He lived two doors down from Senator Hubert Humphrey, our liberal Vice President under LBJ. We fervently hoped the country would not re-elect Nixon. He had lied about a plan for peace in 1968, escalated the hostilities in Vietnam, invaded neutral Cambodia without a declaration of war, and caused so much discontent in our generation that National Guards killed four students at Kent State. The lying, and deceptive icon of the right wing establishment ran on a peace platform against a gentleman, scholar, and humanist. Joan and I went door to door trying to convince Bakersfield residents not to vote for Nixon, and that we desperately needed McGovern’s wisdom and empathy. Revelations about the Watergate break-in had surfaced, yet no one but liberals and radicals believed Nixon was involved.

The Republican Convention in Miami during November 1972 infuriated me as I watched the flag-wavers scream, “Four More Years” until I had to shut the TV off. They supported a lying president who ordered criminal conduct out of revenge, treated protesters like scum, and repudiated the vets who protested against their dirty war.

Mutilated vet Ron Kovic in his wheel chair close to the podium during Nixon’s acceptance speech with passion  screamed, “Stop the Bombing. Stop the War.” The Republicans, in character, responded, “Four More Years,” to drown him out. They chanted their mantra endlessly, while the police pushed Kovic and his friends out of the Convention Center.

(Ron Kovic, Disabled Vietnam Vet,at the Convention , author of Born on the Fourth of July)

Nixon’s victory devastated me. The nation gave "Tricky Dick" more power to destroy American lives and the Vietnamese people after having sacrificed nearly fifty thousand Americans and an estimated two million Vietnamese. America’s ignorance never looked so destructive, although it seems like déjà vu (all over again), when I reflect on Bush and Cheney’s lies for invading Iraq to justify a war against a country uninvolved in the Al Qaeda 9/11 attacks, who they knew did not have weapons of mass destruction.

Naval Aviation Training Hazards and a Hyped Lecture

(click to zoom photo of Vigilante about to land on Carrier)

Soon we were ready for Carrier Qualifications. My pilot and I had completed twenty training missions, learned all the features of the RA5C, and become an efficient team. Our snake-ranch group realized we had to give up the rental home we had enjoyed because each of us flew to an aircraft carrier on a different schedule. I moved into a two-bedroom apartment with another RAN who had Carrier Qualifications close to my schedule.

“Did you know the RAN who graduated from Yale, ejected from the RA5C twice in eighteen days, and was sent to Puerto Rico to recover?" he asked when I met him there.

“Yeah. What happened?”I asked curious and concerned.

“In the last accident his RA5C had a mid-air collision with an F-4 approaching a landing on a carrier near Cuba. The F-4 pilot and navigator ejected when their plane was beneath the RA5C. Their bodies still in their ejection seats smashed into the fuselage of the Vigilante causing his pilot to eject their crew at night over dark water.”

“What happened after the mid-air collision?”I asked even more worried.

(click to zoom Vigilantes passing over a Carrier)

“As their parachutes opened they saw the F-4 pilot and radio intercept officer being attacked by sharks in the water below them,” he said motioning with his hands to show jets colliding and his disgust at the sharks as I listened in awe.

“He and his pilot used super human strength to make their parachutes’ carry them away from the swarm and blood. A helicopter with a spotlight on the scene picked them up  from the water shaken by unharmed almost an hour later.”

“What kind of a mission did they fly over Cuba?” I asked bewildered by the news.

“Photo-Intel. How much do you think that cost the Navy?”he asked.

“I haven’t a clue, but those jets cost millions not to mention the lives!”

“They told us each RA5C had a value of $22,000,000. That makes $44,000,000. When you lose two crew members, with all that training, the loss is staggering.”

We soon learned of another fatal accident that affected all of us. Two of our classmates involved in carrier qualifications after a touch-and-go-landing off the carrier deck, drove directly into the water without ever gaining altitude! The right engine blew up when the pilot increased the throttle, killing him and a RAN from our class. It happened so fast, neither had a chance to eject.  Even if they had ejected, their parachutes would not have saved them, as the ejection seats are useless at such a low height and speed. My mind replayed what it had to be like for my friend, not knowing what had happened before it was too late because of the obscured visibility and split second nature of jet aircraft accidents. My stomach rolled every time I thought of the incident and tried to put it out of my mind, but it was firmly lodged.

(Dan about to enter the back seat of a Vigilante at Sanford Naval Air Station)

At the base ready room I checked all the RA5C safety reports and found many more fatal Vigilante accidents had occurred on carriers or military air stations all over the world. Just at Sanford, the RA5C suffered many fatalities since I arrived and there had been numerous before. “The Navy made a mistake when it accepted seventy-six of those high altitude A-5A bombers from the Air Force and converted them to RA5C’s by adding an extra fuel tank, cameras, side-looking radar, and electronic counter-measures equipment that made some call them ‘elephants’ because they were so heavy and reacted so slowly during carrier landings. Others called them the ‘flying coffin,’” an experienced pilot said.


Midshipmen from Annapolis on summer cruise visited our training squadron to learn about the RA5C for the pilot and the RAN program. “Mr. Lavery, I like the way you handle yourself here,” said our Commander Brown of the training squadron RVAH-3. “I’m impressed with your athletic activities leading our squadron flag football team to win first place and winning the squadron championship softball game with a homerun. Finding time to get involved and relate well to the enlisted men is a sign of leadership. I played football at Annapolis and always follow Navy sports. Would you address the Annapolis midshipmen tomorrow at 1000 (10 A.M.) and discuss the RAN program since you also graduated from the Academy?”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll gladly tell them all about the program.”

Although I had serious misgivings about the RA5C and the RAN program, especially after learning of the most recent horrific accidents, and my own hazardous experiences, the base commander had honored me. Many positive aspects about the sleek Navy jet were impressive. I flew with a very skilled pilot and had an opportunity to impress the squadron commander. After preparing a talk emphasizing all the plane’s best characteristics, I stood before a mirror in my rental house and practiced. In an auditorium set up in an empty hanger that normally housed aircraft, I addressed sixty Naval Academy midshipmen who had completed two years at Annapolis. They wanted to learn what the RA5C had to offer prospective naval aviators. After lauding the best features of the RAN program, the RA5C, and the naval aviation training at Sanford, I opened the lecture up to questions.

(Click to zoom Vigilantes flying over Florida)

“I’m concerned about the chance for advancement as a naval aviator in the RAN program if we do not qualify as pilots due to eyesight or other factors,” a thoughtful midshipman asked.

“That’s what I’m doing. Wearing contact lenses because my eyesight is 20/30, up to this point in my training I haven’t experienced anything that conflicted with my career plans,” I said. This midshipman had mentioned one of my own major concerns.

“Why should any senior aviator select a navigator of a jet aircraft to command a squadron made up of pilots and navigators, since a pilot is in a better position to know all the features of the RA5C and is regarded as a leader over any navigator?” one asked identifying the dilemma that most bothered me.

“I’m new to the RAN program and have heard that there are many opportunities for us to advance with the pilots, but whether a RAN could command a squadron, I’m not sure. The RAN program is new and well may offer advancements we may not envision. The RAN is the center of the intelligence gathering mission in the fleet and should be able to advance in Naval Intelligence equally with any pilot. We will have to observe how RANs advance over the years.” My answer seemed to have deflated the questioner, my audience, and me.

“How does it feel sitting in the back seat of a Mach 2 jet working on equipment while the pilot controls the aircraft and you cannot see or assist if he were injured? another asked.

(Click to zoom Vigilante on the ground at Sanford N.A.S.)

Pausing to reflect quickly, "Navigators seem vulnerable because of dependence on the pilot in an emergency where the back-seater can’t see to evaluate a hazard,” blurted out of my mouth. “If we encountered a dangerous situation, I had the option of ejecting independently of the pilot, but would never do that unless that was the best solution. If there were time to discuss the emergency, we could work out a plan. I trusted my pilot would eject us both if it required immediate action due to some serious malfunction.” A few in my audience were shaking their heads in disbelief. Accidents in jet aircraft were instantaneous cataclysms. My words were hollow. Navigators in the Vigilante were sitting ducks. These questions haunted me on my way back to my apartment and realized I had over-hyped the program. Not convinced that this program had such career potential for a navigator compared to a pilot, I should have revealed the conflict to them but couldn’t. Had I failed in my duty?

(Click to zoom Vigilantes in the clouds)

Yokohama High School Football 1955

(Offensive Backfield Jon Lynn 17, Chip Lavery 15, Dan 13, Tom Hemingway 14) (Line: Pinky Hart, Gary Porier, Sandy Milwit, Jim Crank, Roy Busby, Pete Orth, Harold Greene)

The team selected Tom Hemingway and Roy Busby co-captains. Tom was also the president of the Yohi student body. Since he had played quarterback at his Texas high school, he worked on my passing, laterals, and fakes until I became the first team quarterback. John Lynn was our fastest halfback and Chip played fullback. Tom played a passing and running halfback who chose all the plays to run in the huddle.

(Click to Zoom Images-Tom running with ball, Dan and Chip blocking)

Our team won every game except to Nihon University in Tokyo. Jon Lynn led the team in touchdowns and yards gained, and Tom was right behind him. On a broken play designed for a handoff to Chip, I scored a touchdown. As the ball came to me from the center, I turned to handoff to Chip but he had started to run wide to the left instead of at the tackle as the play required. Tucking the ball under my left arm, I dashed into hard-bodied line-backers in front of the end zone. They smacked me hard at the goal line, but I managed to drive them back for my first varsity touchdown. Picking myself up from the ground, aching from the collision, I saw Tom approach with a concerned expression. “What happened? That was Chip’s play,” he asked.

He did not want a brother feud and was assured it was not after I explained why I kept the ball to make the most of a broken play. Near the end of the game from defensive end I chased their college fullback down from behind as he went around the opposite end on the sidelines. I surprised him by grabbing his shoulder pads and yanking him down to the ground with a THUMP and jumped over him smiling.

(click to zoom YoHi Football Team 1955)

We won the Japan championship against Narimasu of Tokyo in a game that featured a moment when Tom took over the stage. Narimasu had a linebacker who had attended Yohi the year before who was about Tom’s weight and size. Early in the game we were back on our own five yard line. Tom called a play that failed and he dove for an extra yard. The linebacker kicked Tom and elbowed him on the ground. “Oh, you like to play dirty?” Tom responded, and ran back to the huddle and yelled, “43 on one!” That meant he would run the ball through the “3” hole between left guard and tackle where the Narimasu linebacker stood proudly beating his chest.

When Tom yelled “Ready, set, hut one,” I took the ball and stepped toward the “3” hole to my left as Tom barreled through where muscular guard Roy Busby and huge tackle Pete Orth drove open a hole for Tom’s streaking body to bust through. Tom hit the linebacker with his helmet to his chest, churned his feet like a Sherman Tank, knocked the defender back four yards, bull-dozed him again, knocked him to the ground, and then buried his shoulder pad into his grimacing face. CRACK, BAM, THUD was heard by all from Tom’s assault and the brute’s helmet hitting the turf on the 15 yard line. The linebacker’s helmet was turned halfway around from the impact and sweat poured down his dirty worried face.

“Let’s do that again men.” Tom barked so all could hear, “43 on one. Ready, set, hut one.” He zoomed through the "3" hole, lowered his helmet like a bull, raised it into the linebacker’s midsection with all his might as his thick thighs and huge leg muscles dug spikes into the ground and lifted his body into his opponent with maximum force. THWACK! Tom jolted the defender back four more yards, then hit him again with a thunderous blow from his forearms and helmet that threw the linebacker on his back to the 25 yard line, and fell on his chest knocking all the air out of him—WHOOSH!

Unbelievably Tom yelled, “43 on one” again. When it was over we had the ball on the 35 yard line and two teammates dragged the disheveled linebacker off the field. That series was the most dramatic in any sport I had observed. Tom triumphed without playing dirty and advanced our team down the field making one first down after another until we trounced Narimasu for the Japan Championship.

(Click to zoom Images)(Dan running with ball, About to tackle a Narimasu runner,Kneeling with Bux, handing off to Chip)

(Click to Zoom Tico, Our white Chihuahua, the YoHi Mascot)

Bull Fights, Agua Caliente Race Track, Jai Alai, and Reverend Carson 1953

When we lived in Coronado in 1953 for weekend amusement, Dad invited us to go with him to Tijuana, Mexico to see a bullfight, but my grandmother, Gammie, and my Aunt Jane, wanted no part of watching the killing of animals for sport. Since he also loved horses, Dad took us all to see the horse races at Agua Caliente Race Track usually on a Sunday. We would each pick which horse we thought would win. Since Dad raised horses as a boy in Chicago and owned one called "Pep," he had expertise in pointing out what horse and jockey he thought had the best chance to win. We enjoyed watching him take a wad of bills out to place his bets for each race while we sat back, sucked on a root beer, and decided if he would have done better by putting money on a different horse to win, place, or show. Binoculars brought the action close enough to see the jockeys' colorful outfits, and the horses' beauty, and helped us give our opinion on which one would win. Unfortunately, cigarette and cigar smoke drifted over every seat but the cheering crowd  and the speed of the horses as they raced down the stretch with manes and tails flying in the breeze and jockeys straining in their saddles, made it exciting.

Afterwards Dad took us to a restaurant called Mary Jane’s where we were introduced to Mexican food. Tacos, enchaladas, salad with chips and salsa or quacamole, pleased us every time. At the end of the meal the waiter served all with an alcoholic drink in a shot glass with Khalua and cream as an after dinner surprise.

Dad observed Chip and my confusion from protests about animal cruelty at a bullfight. “Watch how well the matador performs with the bull. His graceful motions with the cape in the path of a charging bull make knowledgeable fans cheer. It’s really not a fight at all.”

“But, they kill the bull with a sword every time,”I said remembering the visit to the stockyards in Chicago the year before that upset my stomach.

“The matador does eventually kill the bull that will be slaughtered and carried off for meat, but the drama is the colorful costumes, and movements of all the actors before. The finale is done so the bull is quickly dispatched when the matador plunges the sword into the bull's heart through his shoulders when he makes the bull dip his head,"Dad said.

"What happens during the lead up to his death"? I asked.

"The noble animal struts in the ring, we admire his massive size, power, and ability to charge with large pointed horns that could kill anyone struck by them."

"But he's going to get slaughtered and everyone knows it," Chip countered.

"For those who enjoy bullfights, the bull’s dignity, energy, and beauty live forever. When the mighty brute is the center of attention for those thirty minutes, the crowd sees both his ferocity and majesty, rather than the docile nature most bulls exhibit that the farmer fattens up in a field where he spends most of the day resting,"  Dad said with conviction.

"So it is a show to praise the bull and the fighter," I said.

"A fierce bull charging past a skilled matador makes us appreciate both the bull and the athletic and graceful matador. The public will remember the bull far more in that ring than if he died at a slaughter house like millions before him who were known only as meat."

This explanation made me believe there might be a different side to a bullfight than just the slaughtering of an innocent animal. Maybe watching a bullfight would allow me to enjoy knowing the massive bull had at least displayed his strength for the crowd rather than end his life meaninglessly at the slaughterhouse like so many before him. Wanting to see the bull show off his power, speed, muscles, and strength, I agreed with Chip to go with Dad to see a Tijuana bullfight.

When we arrived trumpets blared in the circular arena, beer (cerveza) flowed, and cigar smoke wafted. In the first match, the matador allowed the bull to charge past him a few times gracefully manipulating his heavy cape somewhat like a dancer, while other participants arrived. The merciless picadors rode on padded horses  and lanced the bull with a long spear to weaken his neck muscles and infuriate him making the contest more interesting to the bloodthirsty crowd. It seemed brutal and mean. The injury caused his head sink and blood run down his back.  The matador worked his way around the rink tiring the bull who always charged at the red cape held up by the sword time and time again in a futile attempt to gore the multi-colored proud matador. Eventually the bull showed signs of weariness signaling to the matador it was time to end the show with a spectacular conclusion."If he didn't make a swift kill the crowd would burst into whistles showing their disdain," Dad said.

The matador, with a small red cape, finally plunged his sword (espada) into the bull’s heart. Cheers greeted an expert performance followed by awards consisting of one ear, two ears, or two ears plus the tail. Whistles, jeers, and boos showered a matador who performed badly. Observing the way they abused the bull, my sympathy for the muscular animal increased for each match remembering the mighty way he looked when he strutted so proudly into the ring. The crowd cheered the matador for the dramatic episode, but I thought those who gored and killed him, had tortured a dignified animal forced into submission when exhausted and drained of energy. Had this been a Labrador Retriever in the ring no one would have dared speak of the event as honoring his muscular body and proud bearing. People would see it as sadistic torture of a proud and sinewy animal. It would be a crime! Except this was in Mexico where betting on cock-fighting to the death was also allowed as in many other countries. And this was a dangerous bull not a friendly Lab. Furthermore, bull-fighting was a national sport in Spain. It seemed a throwback to the gladiator days that glorified the power to kill and appealed to that cruel interest in observing violence at someone or some animal's peril.

Dad took us to Jai-alai games in Tijuana to show us a different and interesting sport.  Played in a three–walled court with a hard rubber ball or pelota, the athletes caught and threw the ball with a cesta, a long, curved wicker scoop strapped to a player's arm. The audience placed bets on which players might win a match. The athletes threw the pelota from their cesta against a wall often on an angle or with a spin to make it difficult to catch and return to the wall as required. The opponent must catch the ball before it bounced twice or his team lost a point.  A line on the wall indicates the spot the ball had to strike above for play. The players raced after the ball, caught and whipped it against the wall in an exciting match. One of the most difficult challenges came from a cleverly thrown ball that hit just above the white line on an angle as it forced the opponent to run up to catch it and judge how it will react from bouncing off the wall. The ball seemed to travel as fast as any 100 mile per hour hit or thrown baseball and had a unique sound as it struck the wall like a mallet striking a croquet ball, or a golfer smacking a golf ball with a driver.


We regularly played basketball with kids from the neighborhood at the Hutchinson’s garage across the street from my house. Their father attached a basketball hoop and net above their garage. Jordy Hutchinson, a year younger than me and a year older than Doug Manchester, usually shot baskets there and invited us to join him. When he was away, Doug and I took a six pack of beer from his cooler to a tree fort in a field next to Doug's house only two doors down from the Hutchinson’s home. We drank the entire six beers above the roof tops with a view of the Pacific Ocean feeling mighty cool. I went home with a buzz on, felt dizzy, and walked into our house hoping nobody would recognize my beer breath or unsteady movements. Fortunately, no one noticed my condition and I escaped without a headache or anyone aware of our bold theft.

We attended the Presbyterian Church on Orange Avenue where the Minister, Reverend Ken Carson, appealed to us when we met him and heard his sermon. A very kind man who loved the outdoors and wildlife, he regularly took the kids from the youth groups on hikes to trails, creeks, lakes, and forests for a day away from Coronado into Nature. Chip and I enjoyed attending his Church and socializing with our friends in the Sunday school for teenagers.  They never pushed us to believe any dogma like the minister at the Baptist church where we were baptized in Morgan Park, Illinois. That minister preached that God would send us to Hell if we didn’t follow the dictates of the New Testament. Reverend Carson’s sermons were more concerned with the message of love from the teachings of Jesus, or other spiritual leaders, and sought to build friendships among the youth and Church members.

He never preached a message of fear like in Chicago where we heard the drum beat of eternal damnation in Satan’s lake of fire.  God would send people there forever if they didn’t walk a narrow Christian path praying to God for forgiveness and  so that the blood of Christ would  cleanse them from their sinful nature.  At twelve that message always scared and confused me. Rev. Carson persuaded me with kindness and interest in our youth group discovering Nature. He had a better way to reach people of all ages with his message that we should  love all of God’s creation. He reminded me of the words my grandma Ruthie and Mom used to influence me as a child that emphasized love of family, country, Nature, and God. They had a source of strength I admired  and made me feel guilty for my theft so I vowed to not repeat that escapade.