Senate Sketches # 1230
Senator Hank Sanders
I want to follow up on last week’s Sketches about giving. I want to share an experience with you. It touched and enlightened me. I hope it touches you.
As my family sat around the dinner table after a good meal, I asked the question, “What is it that you would like me to give each of you that is not material?” One person explained the “not material” as something you cannot “buy with money” since at least one participant was a pre-teen. The giving table was set.
My 12 year old grandchild wanted the gift of a fifteen minute phone call each week “so we can talk about some things.” That was something I could easily give. In fact, it was something I should have been giving anyway. It was so little and yet meant so much.
I had often given money. Occasionally I would give a gift certificate from a book store because she likes to read. Still, I had missed the “need mark.” Her need was more communication with me even by phone. I resolved to give this gift to fulfill this need.
Another person said, “mentorship.” Even though this person was grown, they had never had a mentor. The need was still there. We are never too old for mentorship. I was gifted by the expression of the desire for mentorship.
To be frank, I knew of this need but I had been derelict in meeting the need. The person was reluctant to initiate communication because I was so busy. I intended to but I just didn’t get to it partly because I was busy. However, we must never be too busy to give of ourselves. We worked out a scenario where either of us could call and talk after 8 p.m. on any night.
Another said, “I have my gift. We just have to get back to it.” The gift is a weekly lunch or breakfast date where we talk about the “art of leadership.” It was something that had been asked for earlier and I made the time. We rarely missed our leadership date until the holidays set in and disrupted our schedule. I became more determined to get back to our schedule so I could give a gift I better understood.
I thought about how good it was that my child could ask for what she needed. It never would have crossed my mind that a weekly lunch or breakfast about leadership was a gift that met a special need. Most of the time we just don’t know what others’ real needs are or how we can meet those needs. It is easier when someone asks.
Another wanted an ongoing dialogue on “purpose in life.” He said he felt like I had been a mentor but we had not explored purpose and it was important to him. Who would have thought that? I certainly didn’t. I was not quite certain of how best to meet this challenge but I resolved to do so.
Another wanted my advice without my probing questions. I believe that so many decisions are, as the old folk say, “six in one hand and a half dozen in the other.” Our underlying values determine whether we go with “six” or “a half dozen.”
It never would have crossed my mind that this could be a need. I thought I was doing the right thing by encouraging her to explore the underlying values and come to her own decision. What she really wanted was to know what I would do which took into consideration my underlying values. It was not too much to ask. In fact, it is a lot easier and it’s what she needs, not what I want.
Another wanted patience and understanding. It was pointed out that I show great patience and understanding with so many people but not this person. I knew that this person felt strongly that I was not as patient or understanding with them. On the other hand, I felt I was very patient and understanding. There was a communication gap.
But this is about giving what is needed, not judging the need or judging whether the need is being met. It’s about the person in need, not me. If the person does not feel the patience and understanding, there is still a need. Therefore I resolved to give.
One of the basic questions is how do we manifest patience and understanding in disagreement. The true test of patience and understanding is for me to help the person feel that I’m with them although I disagree with their position.
Giving material things are easy for us for they are concrete. Giving what is needed comes in different wrappings. We must see beyond the wrappings.
I have since asked several others what I could give to them that was not material in nature. I was surprised by the answers. I wish I had space to share the responses. However, I will say one person asked for weekly spiritual lessons from the Bible. There may be more sharing in the near future.
Now on to the Daily Diary.
Saturday – I drove to Birmingham for a family gathering, following the same routine of each Christmas since1971, some 39 years. This time a young man from Mali, West Africa was riding with me and we talked about his impressions of Christmas in the United States. I led the dinner prayer and called several Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) leaders to wish them a Merry Christmas including Barbara Pitts of Auburn, Dr. Roberta Watts of Gadsden, and Dr. Carol P. Zippert of Greene County. I also talked with Walter Gaines of Birmingham and Charles and Gulla Gaines Sanders of West Blocton. I then stopped by West Blocton for a brief visit on my way back to Selma.
Sunday – I did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy and Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard. I then left for Gulf Shores on our annual get away between Christmas and New Year. There were eleven of us including the babies. It was a special experience.
Monday – We were still in Gulf Shores. I helped cook breakfast and talked with Lorraine Capers of Selma who informed me that the mother of Dr. Margaret Hardy, co-host of Radio Sunday School, had passed. I called Dr. Hardy to express my condolences. We talked about relationships after breakfast.
Tuesday – I cooked breakfast, which included Umoja, banana pancakes, and scrambled eggs. After our meal, we discussed the giving of non material things to meet the needs of others. I talked with Shelley Fearson of ANSC and Sharon Wheeler of Montgomery. The entire family went to see a Narnia movie. I discovered that the invitations to our annual community Kwanzaa that is held at our house had not been mailed so I had several persons to send out e-mail invitations. I talked with the following: former Judge J. C. Norton of Dallas County; Susan Kennedy of the Alabama Education Association (AEA); Joe Jackson of Nashville, TN; Dr. David Hodo of Selma; Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas; Lowndes County Commission Chair Charlie King; and Ginger Avery Buckner of the Alabama Association for Justice. We returned to Selma to prepare for Kwanzaa. I was still cleaning up at 2 a.m. that night.
Thursday – I traveled to Lowndes County and returned to Selma. I was swamped with challenges. I made remarks at the funeral of Gertrude Jackson, mother of Dr. Margaret Hardy. I talked with the following: Collins Pettaway of Selma; Barnette Hayes of Selma; Dorothy Hulett of Lowndes County; Kim Bossie of Selma; Lowndes County Commissioners Dickson Farrior and Joey Bargainer; Anna Taylor of Dallas County; Bob Dillon of Montgomery; John Zippert of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (the Federation); Dana Thomas of Sumter County; Jack Buckner of Prattville; Selma Businesswoman Yvonne Hatcher; and Ruby Fuller of Selma. I cooked a big pot of Umoja for Kwanzaa and helped clean up the house. In spite of the invitation snafu, it was one of our larger crowds and I facilitated the Kwanzaa Program into the night.
Friday – I was in my office early handling Black Farmer and other issues. I talked with Kirk and Carolyn Wheeler of Chattanooga, and Josephine Curtis of Selma. I asked Sharon Wheeler to help me pull from the internet some quotes by Abraham Lincoln for my speech at the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration scheduled for the next day.
EPILOGUE – It’s one thing to have an idea. It’s another to act on it. I feel good that I acted on the concept of giving beyond material things. Even at 68, I’m still growing and that amazes me.
NOTE: Sen. Hank Sanders (D – Selma) has written weekly columns for papers in his legislative district for over twenty years. They are not available online from the rural, weekly papers which publish them. This column is provided by Sen. Sanders’ office to Doc’s Political Parlor for inclusion in the Daily Headlines.