Monday, November 04, 2002

Hebron Crossroads 11-10
by Jeff Gill

Monday is Veterans Day, November 11. The roots of this observance are in what was once called "Armistice Day," when World War I ended at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," 11 am on Nov. 11.

We all know that President Wilson’s "war to end all war" wasn’t, and sadly we know little beyond that. Marshal Foch, Edith Cavell, Ypres, and even Bellau Wood are names and places that ring only the most distant bells in our modern era.

John Keegan, the great British military historian, recently wrote a fine one-volume summary titled "The First World War" which is now out in paperback. He comments on the fact that the last living memory of that conflict is just now passing entirely from our sight, and I’ll always count it an honor that, as a pastor, I’ve had the privilege to sit at the side of WWI vets and hear their stories of Camp Funston out on the plains, of crossing the Atlantic on luxury liners turned troopships, and of endless seas of mud as our AEF troops came, years late, to the well-trodden muck behind the trenches of the Somme and Marne.

However you observe Veterans Day, I hope you find an opportunity to think a bit back to 1918 and the moment when our country found itself waking up to wider responsibilities in a world growing both smaller, and more dangerous. The Ohio Historical Society’s most recent "Timeline" magazine carried a fascinating story of how one of Ohio’s own carried himself well in the final moment of the sinking of the Luisitania, which in turn was the first moment of our now-inevitable entry into that global struggle. That story will be part of my remembrances on this Nov. 11.

And this may just be a particular concern of my own, but I like to think of Memorial Day, over in May, as the day we pay special attention to both the memory and the memorials of those who died for their country. This observance, Veterans Day, is when I hope we can all pay some extra appreciation out to those who served and returned, and now carry the proud but heavy burden of being a veteran back into their everyday lives among us.

No veteran that I know would dream of complaining about it, but being a veteran is hard work in and of itself. . .really! There is an awareness that never stops of being the one who keeps a memory alive for those who aren’t here to speak of it; a sensitivity to issues of patriotism, saluting the flag, and service to country that you’re not always sure others share or appreciate your always reminding them of.

It is a burden, a responsibility, and certainly a privilege, and vets carry this with them every day. That, and their own memories, not just of battle and terror, but also of tedium and waiting, of days spent doing nothing far from home and wondering if the time spent has been worth the while, or if you’ll just be that many days behind your peers when you return. There’s "Dear John" letters and joyful birth announcements that carry a sadness of their own as you’re not there to share the reality of the event. . .and always the waiting.

While we always want to properly respect "these honored dead," in Lincoln’s words, I hope we can make sure at some point of this Veterans Day to thank a veteran. You know one, of course, and if you think you don’t, ask around and you’ll probably find you’re wrong, and that veteran will be glad you cared enough to ask.

Our Hebron American Legion Post, in simple acts like their carefully crafted ceremony to dispose of worn out American flags last Sept. 11, is a home and haven for many such who proudly carry the burden of flag etiquette, saluting at parades, and reflecting on their past and how that touches our nation’s present. They make sure that an honor guard is present at the church or cemetery when one of their own passes on, and they are there to support when a yound man or woman makes the choice for national service.

Make sure to be there for them; keep a moment of silence at 11 am this Monday, and later on, if you can’t do anything else, drive by the Post on Basin St. and just honk! They’ll know what you mean.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a proud holder of a simple honorable discharge; if you have a veteran’s story or other news of the Hebron area to share, call 928-4066 or e-mail

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Hebron Crossroads 11-17
by Jeff Gill

Somehow, for some reason, the "Holidays" (that run of festive days and events from Halloween to New Year's Day, now extended to Jan. 3 for the Fiesta Bowl) are a time for a double dose of Nostalgia.

Something about the memory of family gatherings long past, recollections of "how we used to do it", and the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the holiday season bring along with them a powerful impulse to do wild, irrational things like grind coffee beans in one of those old black cast iron gadgets, or hang up herbs to dry in the basement, and even to try getting the family to sing around a piano.

It may also have to do with the longer nights and colder temperatures, causing us to "click" on the electric ignition of our gas-log, before which we perform feats of complex explanation of how that jolly old elf will come down the chimney of a ventless fireplace.

And do you notice how Santa and his elves, seen in their workshop under high, timbered, open-beam ceilings, are busy at work making blocky wooden toys of the sort that are, shall we say, a hard sell to modern kids? Rocking horses, dolls made from two-by-fours, wooden whistles. . .

Perhaps it's nostalgia for what never was, but it works on a deep level for most of us, triggered by the simplest raisin cookie made with an excess of cinnamon and allspice.

Trains are a part of this, that form of transportation so crucial to making modern life possible, but so irrelevant to most of us today. Not just Lionel train sets (another part of that wistful scene of St. Nicholas snoozing before a fire and an empty cookie plate, with an old style elctric train looping about his feet), but the real deal with smoke stacks, cow catchers, and conductors with gold braid on their caps.

Chris VanAllsburg's "The Polar Express" perfectly captured that gap between memory and modernity by using an Art Deco train of the imagination to give a child a preview of Christmas preparation. Buckeye Central Scenic Railway has some very popular Christmas season runs on weekends leading up to Christmas, there on US 40 across from the Lakewood Schools complex, and the sound of a train whistle travels far across the snow and deep into the heart during this time of year.

Our Hebron Library will have a speaker on "the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad" next Monday, Nov. 18, at 7:00 pm. Carl T. Winegardner has written extensively on "the old B&O", the railroad that opened up business and trade between the Midwest and the East Coast in the 1850's . . . just like the name says!

We here in the Hebron area might be forgiven if we hold a small grudge against the railroads for a) not going through Hebron, and b) killing off the canal system. But it has been 150 years, and we're good people, so come to 934 West Main St. and enjoy a wonderful evening of nostalgia for an era that most assuredly did exist for a time, and is now part the nostalgia that is the heart of this season.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church, and always stops to listen when a train whistle sounds in the distance. If you have evocative sounds to recount, or local news to share, call 928-4066 or e-mail

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Hebron Crossroads 11-24
by Jeff Gill

Time to give thanks! That’s not a weighty problem, that’s good news; how often do we have a whole lot more to give thanks for than we have a place to give thanks at?

Seriously, I think all of us have regular occasions when we have a passing awareness of the good someone has done us, or the good fortune we enjoy, and there is no one person or no opportunity with the person nearby (or still living, alas) to give those thanks directly.

That’s why about a half-dozen churches in the Lakewood area are joining together to hold a Community Thanksgiving Service at the Lakewood High School auditorium this Sunday, Nov. 24, at 7:00 pm. This will be a simple, ecumenical service open to all faiths and backgrounds. We plan to have music, a small dramatic presentation for the message, a few hymns to sing, and an offering to support LEADS at Buckeye Lake with their holiday assistance and food pantry programs.

Giving thanks isn’t complicated, and it isn’t the private preserve of any one religious tradition. "A thankful heart" brings joy to God throughout the Bible, and a spirit of thankfulness is good for us as individuals in ways almost beyond number. I’d like to express my thankfulness right now for all the work and energy Bob Beyer, pastor of Jacksontown United Methodist Church, has brought to effort to pull together this Community Thanksgiving, and we hope to be thankful for your presence Sunday night at the LHS auditorium!

We are all thankful for the work Lou Staffilino, outgoing superintendent of the district, has done not only for this event, but also throughout the years he has led us to becoming "the most improved schoold district in Ohio!" We all knew we could do it, but it took Lou to show us how.

Some of you may still be asking: do I have anything to be thankful for? In any one situation, I wouldn’t dream of telling someone how or why they ought to be thankful, but for us all around the Hebron crossroads, let me try a few. . .

We really ought to be thankful for how good the corn and soybean harvest ended up, considering how deep our fears were back in late summer. The yields per acre haven’t super, but the fact that they’ve been surprisingly average is a real cause for thankfulness! And while we’re at it, why not be thankful for farmers?

We can be thankful that the Hebron area has so much going for it that we had two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin here, right? When was the last time that happened! We have a real, (not-) live rhino inside village limits, too, which my little guy thinks is quite amazing.

We really ought to be more thankful than we are for clean, pure drinking water, and the pumping station on S. High and the waste treatment plant on north Rt. 79 are the input and output of our part in keeping clean and safe drinking water around for generations to come. So you could be thankful the next glass of water you pour from your tap. . .

I’m thankful for the highly professional, but strongly volunteer supported fire and police departments we have in Hebron. Chief Mike Carney has left a mark on our saftey services here in the area that will influence us for many years to come, and while we’re sad to see him go, we’re very proud in how our village played a part in preparing him for greater responsibilities with the federal Department of Justice – Newark may have Judge Frost, but we claim Chief Carney, and we’re thankful to have known him.

And finally, I think we all can be thankful for having so many active, vital churches in the immediate Hebron area; from Licking Baptist and their new worship center on Beaver Run Road, Hebron Church of the Nazarene and a new wing behind the church on Canal Road, the United Methodist Church of Hebron on East Main St. and of course my own Hebron Christian Church on West Main, this village has a reliable source of community spirit, mutual support and encouragement, and a willingness to serve, which was so evident when those churches and staff from our wonderful elementary school turned out late at night for a child safety drill some weeks ago.

Great churches, a wonderful community school, fine businesses, a well-trained and reliable village staff from street department to volunteer firefighters, a crop now in the silos. . .are you thankful yet? Come join our Community Thanksgiving Service Sunday night at 7:00 pm, and I bet we come up with more!

Did I mention being thankful for the fried bologna sandwich at Hometown Deli and strombolis at Clay’s CafĂ©?

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and he’s thankful for a wide variety of things; if you have food items you’re thankful for or local news to share, call 928-4066 or e-mail