I believe my biggest influences were women. My grandmother left many impressions on me that exist even today. I remember her asking me one day if I knew why people used profanity. Her explanation was they do it to make people listen to them and it works. People do listen but they don't hear what you say. They only hear the profanity. She was also the person that told me being honest was the most important thing you'll ever be in life. She told me it's more important how you feel about yourself than what others think. I've lived her advice and found she was right.
The preacher at the church my family went to was named Lea Joyner. She was the first woman ordained in the Methodist church in the country. She was an amazing person. Even though she knew of my problems with organized religion, she advised me when I asked and managed to not preach. I've never known a more giving person. I remember a story told by a member of the church. He arrived at the church one day and observed a person that he knew to be a local wino. He asked her how much she had given him and she answered twenty dollars. She explained that he had told her he needed to get his life together, get cleaned up and get a job. He responded that she should know he would probably go out and by more to drink. She said I know but what if this was the time he really would straighten out and I said no. This is the way she lived her life and the way it ended. She was murdered in 1985 by a young man that she was counseling. She is the one who most taught me that you couldn't judge someone by their appearance. She was the one I first heard say that we had no right to judge anyone else and should spend our time getting our own lives straight.
My mother and I had what I can only describe as a physic link. She knew what I was going to do before I did it. I remember grounding myself one time while I was in high school. One of the rules was I was not supposed to go out of town without informing my parents. I picked up my date and a friend of hers and her friend asked if I would take her to pick up her boyfriend. The place was about an hours drive away and we went straight there and back. No big deal or so I thought. When I walked through the door at home the first words out of my mother's mouth was "where have you been!". One thing I always knew was not to lie to my mother so I told her. She said OK now what is going to be your punishment? That's when I grounded myself from using the car except to go to school. To this day I have no idea how she knew. On the other hand when I began my rebellious, radical ways, civil rights stuff, anti war protest, hippie ways and that sort of things) she was the first to back me. She told me she may not agree with me but she would defend my right to my beliefs. She loved and defended the rights of all animals. She helped me see the beauty of the world.
There have been other influences. My grandfather was literally a cowboy when he was fifteen. Broke horses and everything. I always loved listening to his stories. My aunt's husband grew up on an Apache reservation. Listening to him I believe is a large part of my interest in Native American culture. Beginning in grammar school one of my best friends was Jewish. His father and mother met in the prison camps. Both lost all their families in the camps. Even though I know he didn't tell us the worst, his stories of the camps left a lasting impression on me. My first political influences were the Kennedys. I remember the day the President was killed. They were giving updates over the intercom at school. When they announced that he had died a kid next to me started to clap. If you have seen the movie Airplane and remember what the nun did you'll know what happened. Without thinking or looking I backhanded him and knocked him and his desk upside down. First and only time I was ever sent to the principal's office. Bobby Kennedy was running for President in 1968, the year I turned 21 and was able to vote, and I campaigned for him. It was an exciting time. He made probably my favorite quote of all time. "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." When he was killed something in me went with him.
There have been many more influences. Far too many to mention all of them. I believe in some way everyone we come in contact with influences us in some way. Sometimes that influence is good, sometimes not. It's what makes us who we are. I believe my cracks have been good ones. So if I have become a good person it because I have had many good influences in my life and I observed them, listened and absorbed all I could. I truly am a mirror of my past.
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