After glooming through last week, I decided to sort and re-sort my raggedy pile of sticky notes searching for positive memories and moments to savor. Happily, I more than managed to make my eyes crinkle, even twinkle, just before my heartstrings got involved.

Friday I watched a 70th anniversary celebration: January 14, 1952, was the inaugural broadcast of a now-iconic staple of the morning airwaves: the TODAY Show. I was a month shy of being three that morning – our River Road house did not yet contain a television. Soon enough, however, I was watching the new show, initially intrigued by the row of clocks showing current times all across the country. The archival footage of those early broadcasts seems quaint when compared to the show’s current sleek appearance: bespectacled host Dave Garroway with a hand microphone strapped to his chest for mobility purposes, goofy sidekick Jack Lescoulie smoking on air, the grainy black-and-white of it all. I also remember the time I viewed the TODAY Show in my school bus driver’s living room. Roy Shirk had a service station in Westville where the post office now stands, but fortunately he also worked on vehicles at his home on Hanna Road.

When engine trouble developed one morning on our way to school, Mr. Shirk pulled into his driveway. The entire busload of kids, grades 1-12, was ushered into his living room, where we watched the TODAY Show until he completed repairs – quite the adventure for this former first grader whose eyes still crinkle in happy memory of that unlikely morning!

So, what do “People, people who need people” and a convertible with the top down have in common? Imagine a high school junior cruising the open roads for a couple summer days while seated next to the really cool driver of the really cool car. In the vernacular: it was to die for – and it happened to me!

Our church group, the Concord MYF, had saved money for an exchange trip to a church in West Virginia. Our caravan included a couple of parent drivers in addition to the cute guy at the wheel of the convertible, whose radio kept playing young Barbra Streisand’s hit that summer. My eyes still crinkle into an immediate twinkle of schoolgirl delight whenever I hear even a couple of measures about “the luckiest people in the world!”

I felt a tug at my heartstrings right after Christmas when I read of the passing of Desmond Tutu. Although I was more likely during the 80s and 90s to keep the South African archbishop on my radar rather than following his every move, I was well aware of his activism in fighting against apartheid and for human rights. With his unique combination of affability and straight talk, he appealed eloquently and staunchly to the best in all of us.

His solutions to fiercely-complicated problems may seem elusive but are reachable if we work together. According to Archbishop Tutu: “…ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value…” / “…my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together…” / “…do your little bit of good where you are: it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world…” Yes, let’s overwhelm the world!

My heartstrings were in motion again at the passing of a lovely local lady, a centenarian. Betty Hill Woods was already living at Hearth and Home of Urbana several years ago when my father became a resident there. During my every-other-day visits, I sat at the fireplace waiting for him to finish lunch, just as Betty settled in at the piano for one of her frequent “concerts.” I especially enjoyed the many church hymns she played.

Betty carried a stack of cards to the piano, which I assumed contained the music for the songs she performed. Not so! Written on those cards instead were lists of titles only. Every piece she played was from memory – as a young child she had learned to play by ear. How special it was that she shared her God-given talent so freely and cheerfully with the rest of us!

Oddly, I learned about the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s only prison for women, on an episode of Sewing with Nancy. The reason: a nearby quilt guild has been working for 20 years with inmates in a successful outreach program. For several weeks now, I have been crinkling, twinkling, and heartstringing for ALL the ladies involved.

Guild members serve as teachers for the 80 prison residents enrolled in sewing classes, always with a long waiting list of interested sewers-to-be. Requirements are that new quilters make two quilts to donate and one quilt to keep. Many create quilts for children to whom they have never been able to give gifts. Others sleep under the quilts they have made. Most importantly, however, they have been treated as the women they are rather than the criminals they have long been considered.

If we make it our life’s business to treat each other – Desmond Tutu style – as human beings rather than the labels assigned to us, if we make it our life’s business to share our talents – Betty Woods style – for the betterment of ourselves and others, crinkling and twinkling and heartstring tugging might just become a naturally-beautiful way of life!

Boomer Blog

Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.