Greatness can come from humble beginnings
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 10:00 PM
I have been thinking lately about what great things spring from the most unlikely places. Boss, forgive me, but I am going to write just a little bit more about our trip to the Ernie Pyle museum. (See Tim Timmons' column in Tuesday's edition.)
For years -- decades -- I have been impressed with the humble beginnings of some of our most influential people. Ernie Pyle was a legend during World War II, yet he came from very humble beginnings. His greatness is showcased in the quonset huts that house his museum. As you wander through the displays and the movie theaters, you notice the sound of vintage aircraft that drones, slightly more than barely audible, through the museum.
I loved seeing the house in which he was born because it was easy to imagine my grandparents' home outside of Winamac, a house in which I never walked. It was torn down before I was born. But the rooms in Ernie Pyle's boyhood home were small. Chamber pots in the bedrooms replaced indoor plumbing and the house was heated by a wood stove and fireplaces, just like I remember grandpa and mom telling me about in stories of their home.
No, I don't aspire to the greatness of Ernie Pyle, but I was reminded how important it is to share stories with my children and grandchildren.
I go to church in Alamo. In fact, I have preached there more Sundays than not since 1995. I first visited Alamo in 1975 and stayed for three years, preaching every weekend when I was studying to be a preacher, in another life. They still let me preach. Like many churches, we have a handful of people on Sunday morning (OK, that's an exaggeration. We have two handfuls of people.) They remember before consolidation closed the Alamo school and more than 100 people croweded the wooden frame church for Sunday school each week.
I try to encourage them by telling them the truth: Even though there may not be many of us now, that church has had great influence on many people, including some notables.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know Charlie Bowerman, for example, His mother-in-law told me stories of helping Charlie and Coralee load up the pickup truck with all their earthly belongings when they moved to Oklahoma. The kitchen chair backs hung over the tailgate because there was no more room in the bed of the truck.
"I had them get small boxes to pack because you can get more in many small boxes than you can in a few big ones," Louise Weir told me.
Charlie and Coralee grew up in Alamo. Just a little town miles from a state highway, miles from the county seat. But Charlie rose to a high position with an oil company before he retired.
Occasionally, Charlie and Coralee visited the Alamo church when I was preaching. That always made me nervous. I know it shouldn't, but having famous or wealthy people around always makes me nervous.
When I was 14, our family visited Springfield, Ill., and saw the Lincoln home and his gravesite. To be honest, if you have never been there, Lincoln's gravesite is much more impressive than his home. From the bronze bust that is dark except for the nose which is kept shiny by visitors to the mausoleum that holds his casket, Lincoln's gravesite is impressive. Why do people rub Lincoln's nose? The legend is that if you rub his nose, it will bring you good luck.
The home looks pretty ordinary except that it is much better maintained than other homes built in the same period I have seen. The rooms are small. The staircase is small. It's hard to imagine a tall lanky attorney navigating those rooms and stairs with any comfort.
I've seen his log cabin in southern Indiana when I was a boy. It made me grateful my room when I was growing up was nearly as large as the house in which he was born.
The point is simple.
You don't become great because of where you were born or how you started in life. You pretty much determine your own destiny by the decisions you make.
And then there was another fellow I heard about who came from humble beginnings. About him they said, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
Frank Phillips is the editor of The Paper of Montgomery County.