Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack 1-02-05

"Bicentennial Serenade"

2005 began, at least in Granville, with the first Saturday in December. The calendar is just catching up this weekend.
The official launch of a year’s events celebrating 200 years of Granville, from settlement to village, began in Opera House Park at the four corner center of town. Festivities began with town criers, a mayoral proclamation, then an ambling procession down Broadway along sidewalks, gutters, and parts of the roadway, to the Avery-Downer House for speeches, a poem, and a musical setting of the same, commissioned for the big bicentennial day.
In a nice historical irony, the technology for voice amplification was not up to the passing horse-drawn wagons, downshifting trucks, cheerily chattering crowds, and a stiff breeze; meanwhile, the archaic but well chosen criers were heard out to the far edges of the crowd, proven by the brief hushes resulting from their occasional pronouncements.
What resulted, for the participant, was a performance piece suitable for the occasion, of found sound and planned moments punctuated by reality, a fit product never to be repeated for a singular event, that can’t fit into the time capsule to be buried next December for the close of Granville 200.
As best as I can recall, it went something like this:

(intro: distant bells toll five)
"Hear Ye, Hear Ye . . ."
(Rumble of traffic, grinding of gears)
"Resolved, these 200 years . . ."
"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the . . ."
(A lighter set of bells that did jingle, in fact,
shaking off the collar of a slowly stepping horse.)
"We on the committee have been working on this day for years . . ."
(softer, not much:) "Did you bring more cups for the wassail?"
". . . what does that new store have for sale?"
"Let us now proceed . . ."
(Interlude: of jostling sleeves and scuffling feet,
a general movement to the east,
perhaps a salute to the first settlers from Massachusetts
and Connecticut, who came west to jostle for space
in this mound-strewn, Shawnee-settled land)
"Were we supposed to sing?"
"Angels we have heard on high . . ."
"Hey, good to see you! How’ya doin’?"
"Take a candle, here’s a candle, light stick for the little one?"
(Clopping hooves pace the introductions, as feet start to stamp,
Damp turf with fresh smell from heel gash and idle, turning toe.)
"My family came here in (drowned by passing truck,
the weight of years and the passing of time
in commerce and just dumb luck), and they found a land filled with . . ."
(whispered, piercingly:) "Do you know where the flutes are playing?
I meant to hear them last year, and don’t want to miss . . ."
(Second interlude: the passing of flame from hand to hand,
most quickly snuffed by an impersonal southwest wind, many
relighting from friends, from strangers, some persistent
and others indifferent, puddles of candlelight showing the
presence in the crowd of the earnestly stubborn
in the face of Nature – another settler image?)
"So we have come to this day, and I now introduce . . ."
"Who is that?" whispered in the ear.
"He just said as you asked me," the wry retort.
More greetings out by the edges of the spreading audience,
noise growing from outside in, silent near the center.
A general shuffle throughout the crowd, a mass
of people step to the risers, more introductions, a downbeat:
singers join in voice and gaze, stilling most and gathering more
by their faces unified in direction and intent, drawing passersby
into a circle of anticipation and expectancy.
Gently coming to a close, the end of the song marked by
New greetings and conversations, paused by the sharp bark
From the crier, "Enter the tent, see the displays, drink the wassail!"
And for once, everyone did as they were told.
Coda: "Good job, great work, what a relief, right?"
Answers; "more to do, many more to go, learn from lessons."
With night washing over us from the east (like the settlers),
the lights in the tent,
sharp smells of cut soil, spiced drink, and from canvas out of storage
are all the brighter.
Inside the Greek Revival home, tours begin mingling period costumes
with mail-order catalog parkas, wandering past windows
whose glass is age-warped and seasoned with bubbles,
an effect 200 years or so in the making,
framing the mix of commerce and hospitality
that is a bicentennial.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio; if you have an event to announce or news to share, e-mail him at

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas Day Advocate 2004

(Your two choices follow; go with whichever fits or contrasts best!)

* * * * * * *

Christmas and Meaning
Jeff Gill

Many comment on the growing secularization of the public celebration of Christmas. Music on TV, public images in store windows and civic displays, all seem emptied of what those who call themselves Christian would maintain as "the reason for the season:" The birth of Jesus in humble yet marvelous surroundings, and the meaning of the life that baby lived for the world.

The issue has its points, but it can be interesting to look at the attempts to fill the manger shaped hole left in Christmas festivity by making it "the holiday season."

For instance, the songs. When songs about Christ and Mary are called out of bounds, the replacements are usually, from "White Christmas" in 1942 to the more recent ballad "Sending You a Little Christmas," about Home. Whether looking for Home or trying to get back there wistfulness goes deep around that longing for . . . well, a place where you can feel at Home.

Or the images. Pictures of Christmas-ey stuff that isn’t Bethlehemocentric are tied up with a fantasy of How Things Once Were. Santa talking on a wood-cased, cabled earpiece phone; writing his lists with quill pens; even riding in a sleigh! The images of this season are bound up with wooden toys (handmade, natch), mulled wine, and Grandma’s cookie recipe.

So even in the midst of attempts to secularize, to domesticate this essentially religious observance to a calendar date (with mainly retail significance), the basic need within each of us is to fill that God-shaped hole within us (as Pascal first said). We know deep down what is real and what is counterfeit satisfaction of our inmost desires, and our hearts are not made to let us settle for anything . . . anyone . . . less than their true fulfillment.

* * * * * * *

An unexpected birth
Jeff Gill

An unexpected birth is usually not good news for anyone, not now and not long ago.

A child born with questionable paternity to a young woman is generally destined for hard times, low repute, and a bad end. Mary was such a young girl, tradition tells us, as young as 14 was when a young girl in Roman Palestine would be committed to a particular fiancé.

Joseph was likely an established tradesman who perhaps had married earlier, had older sons, and lost his wife as was so common in childbirth. Perhaps an aged man in his 30’s, he had the lineage of David but none of royal wealth.

His betrothed also had good genealogy, linked to the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem (witness her cousin Elizabeth and Zechariah, who served in the holy sanctuary and was father to a voice in the wilderness known as John the Baptizer). Still, there was little of comfort or security in her family background. An unexpected birth was not what their families would have welcomed. Complication, difficulty and embarrassment cloud the future.

Yet this advent, or "bringing forth," leads to the fulfillment of hope, the promise of greater glory to come, and joy everlasting, in the birth of a child anointed to lead God’s people.

How many awkward encounters do we fend off, which difficult moments do we avoid, without thought or reflection, that might lead to a birth of new hope, better days, and renewed living? What unexpected births around us might tug us and turn us away from our ruts and habits, to pause in thankfulness and anticipation?

The meaning of Christmas, in 2004 Ohio and in the days of Caesar Augustus, is that God’s good news is breaking forth into this world, born somewhere nearby, in some unexpected manner, inconvenient but always amazing.

* * * * * * *

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Revised Cover Story
Booster 12-19-04

While You’re In Your Slippers

As the reindeer pull a certain sleigh back to a barn by the North Pole, around dawn on Dec. 25, some Licking County folk are just heading off to work.
Many fortunate local residents enjoy a meal with family and friends, made in their own kitchens on Christmas Day. Quite a few, on the other hand, are making and enjoying holiday meals in slightly different circumstances.

4 a.m. is when the first cooks show up at the Heath Big Boy on Rt. 79, where Skip Salome has opened up the doors for years with a volunteer crew on Christmas to make sure that people, especially seniors, have a place to go and enjoy some warmth and fellowship.
"Many senior citizens who come by thank us for being open," says Salome, who will serve customers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a buffet style arrangement. "We really see the largest interest in breakfast items, people are looking for that through 2 o’clock, and then it steadies down to individuals and couples wanting to have a meal with others around ‘em."
Salome says that cook Mike Lanning has been working this day for years, preparing 10 turkeys, but also going through 80 pounds of bacon for that breakfast crowd.
"We’ll go through five, ten, fifteen gallons of gravy probably," Salome laughs. "But the staff here and at my catering business fed 1,400 plus when the 211th ONG was mobilized, feeding them and families and volunteers over at the Armory, so I think we can handle the Christmas crew. We’ll cook non-stop, that’s for sure."

Homer Curry and his family have worked a different sort of Christmas meal set-up for years, in the basement of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.
On Christmas Day at Noon, anyone at all who wants to join for a holiday meal is invited, at no charge, to come and eat together.
"We feed over a hundred people, maybe up to 175, along with all the police on duty that day," Curry says. "Lots of families with little kids come, and we’ve got hats and gloves people donate through the year, and my family gets some toys and stuff together for them."
Christ Lutheran Church in Heath has helped out greatly with clothing items; the Dairy Queen next door to that church is assisting as well.
"We’ve been working, all of us, on this dinner for 27 years," said Curry, "and my daughter Molly Phillips has really been organizing things the last few years."
"Starting in the spring, we start buying and picking up items for the next Christmas," said Phillips. "We’ll have 9 turkeys, 70 pounds of dressing, and Dairy Queen is donating 240 hot dogs and ice cream bars. My brother Denny Curry is our head chef."
A long-time firefighter and former Newark City Council member, Curry knows that there are people in need of company as much as needing a meal.
"Hungry isn’t everything on Christmas Day," Curry adds, "there’s people just hungry to hear a friendly voice. We feed all that. So many people say to us that they just don’t know what they would have done without having here to go."
The children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren (with a new one on the way in February) plus friends who cook this meal haven’t really measured how much gravy or other recipe items they go through. "We just keep cooking ‘til we run out," Curry says.

On East Main Street, the Licking County Justice Center may feed as many as 320 inmates on Christmas Day. "That’s how many we have right now, but it could be a bit lower come Christmas," says Rhonda Barcus, food service manager at the county jail.
With three kitchen staff cooking and ten trustees (inmates who have earned the right to work and serve around the jail) doing the cleaning on two shifts, everyone gets a holiday meal.
"The first cook gets in about 4 a.m., with the others arriving around 11 a.m. and Noon, and we close out to get ‘em home by 8 p.m." says Barcus. She and the staff plan carefully to make a good meal out of lunch on Dec. 25.
"They may be in jail today," Barcus notes, " but these folks are also our neighbors and family members. No one wants to be in jail just to eat our sweet potatoes; we want them to go home soon wanting to be better people, and have Christmas dinner at home next year. This meal reminds them of that."
On the menu are five hams, 25 quarts of mashed potatoes, sixteen #10 cans of green beans, 30 #10’s of sweet potatoes, and 38 pumpkin pies.
"We make our own gravy," Barcus says proudly, "five gallons or more."

On down the street at the Salvation Army emergency shelter, Major Diana DeMichael explains that the shelter normally closes at 8 a.m., and only reopens at 5:30 pm, including Christmas. "We hope that most of our people find a place to eat, like Mr. Curry’s dinner at St. Francis or have some family that will take them in for at least a few days around Christmas." Some special arrangements will be made for Dec. 25 and the 50 some shelter residents, of whom half are families, with movies and games for the children.
But on Dec. 27, the residents are again expected to leave in the morning to go out in search of jobs and a place to live.
It all makes running out of milk, not getting a present you wanted, or finding out you don’t have the right size batteries seem like very small problems on Christmas Day.

Notes From My Knapsack & Cover Story
Booster 12-19-04

While You’re In Your Slippers

As the reindeer pull a certain sleigh back to a barn by the North Pole, around dawn on Dec. 25, some Licking County folk are just heading off to work.
Many fortunate local residents enjoy a meal with family and friends, made in their own kitchens on Christmas Day. Quite a few, on the other hand, are making and enjoying holiday meals in slightly different circumstances.
4 a.m. is when the first cooks show up at the Heath Big Boy, where Skip Salome has opened up the doors for years with a volunteer crew on Christmas to make sure that people, especially seniors, have a place to go and enjoy some warmth and fellowship.
"Many senior citizens who come by thank us for being open," says Salome, who will serve customers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a buffet style arrangement. "We really see the largest interest in breakfast items, people are looking for that through 2 o’clock, and then it steadies down to individuals and couples wanting to have a meal with others around ‘em."
Salome says that cook Mike Lanning has been working this day for years, preparing 10 turkeys, but also going through 80 pounds of bacon for that breakfast crowd.
"We’ll go through five, ten, fifteen gallons of gravy probably," Salome laughs. "But the staff here and at my catering business fed 1,400 plus when the 211th was mobilized over at the Armory, so I think we can handle the Christmas crew. We’ll cook non-stop, that’s for sure."
Homer Curry and his family have worked a different sort of Christmas meal set-up for years, in the basement of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.
On Christmas Day at Noon, anyone at all who wants to join for a holiday meal is invited, at no charge, to come and eat together.
"We feed over a hundred people, with some take-outs we get to folks we’ve heard about along with all the police and firefighters on duty that day," Curry says. "Lots of families with little kids come, and we’ve got hats and gloves people donate through the year, and my family gets some toys and stuff together for them."
A long-time firefighter and former Newark City Council member, Curry knows that there are people in need of company as much as needing a meal.
"Hungry isn’t everything on Christmas Day," Curry adds, "there’s people just hungry to hear a friendly voice. We feed all that."
The children and grandchildren and friends who cook this meal haven’t really measured how much gravy or other recipe items they go through. "We just keep cooking ‘til we run out," Curry says.
On East Main Street, the Licking County Justice Center may feed as many as 320 inmates on Christmas Day. "That’s how many we have right now, but it could be a bit lower come Christmas," says Rhonda Barcus, food service manager at the county jail.
With three kitchen staff cooking and ten trustees (inmates who have earned the right to work and serve around the jail) doing the cleaning on two shifts, everyone gets a holiday meal.
"The first cook gets in about 4 a.m., with the others arriving around 11 a.m. and Noon, and we close out to get ‘em home by 8 p.m." says Barcus. She and the staff plan carefully to make a good meal out of lunch on Dec. 25.
"They may be in jail today," Barcus notes, " but these folks are also our neighbors and family members. No one wants to be in jail just to eat our sweet potatoes; we want them to go home soon wanting to be better people, and have Christmas dinner at home next year. This meal reminds them of that."
On the menu are five hams, 25 quarts of mashed potatoes, sixteen #10 cans of green beans, 30 #10’s of sweet potatoes, and 38 pumpkin pies.
"We make our own gravy," Barcus says proudly, "five gallons or more."
On down the street at the Salvation Army emergency shelter, Major Diana DeMichael explains that the shelter normally closes at 8 a.m., and only reopens at 5:30 pm, including Christmas. "We hope that most of our people find a place to eat, like Mr. Curry’s dinner at St. Francis or have some family that will take them in for at least a few days around Christmas." Some special arrangements will be made for the 25 th and the 50 some shelter residents, of whom half are families, but on Dec. 27, the residents are again expected to leave in the morning to go out in search of jobs and a place to live
It all makes running out of milk, or finding out you don’t have the right size batteries, seem like small problems on Christmas Day.

Notes From My Knapsack 12-19-04
By Jeff Gill

Darkness really does get to be a tangible, physical presence this time of year.
We string our lights, classic white or festive multicolor, with little sense that we do so to fend away evil spirits or ward off bad luck, but this impulse to put candles in our windows and outline the rooftop with bulbs goes very deep.
You can call it seasonal affective disorder, cabin fever, winter blues, or what you will, but whether it’s the faint apprehension you feel on realizing that the sun is setting and it’s just past 4 p.m., or the overwhelming frustration that leaving for work in deep darkness punctuated with starlight can bring on, night seems to be in charge.
Daytime is more of a break, a temporary respite from the dominant experience, which is after sunset, and before . . . long before, sometimes, a new sunrise.
So the need to put up lights, string glittery garlands, and light candles is probably wired deep in our brains, along with how seasons of light are embedded in our culture at this time of year. All around the world, from Diwali to Hanukah, we want to see a flame burning bright; whether Christmas or Kwanzaa, magnifying a glow into a flicker into a shining hope is native to this season.
Good news: this week, the days start to get longer. It will start after the solstice, the "standing still," (which is what that means) when day and night find their balance swinging astronomically back the other direction, when the too-late sunrise pauses a few days on the horizon, and then begins a subtle march back to the north, to a higher arc, with days slowly and then more briskly lengthening.
Can you imagine what the experience was like for ancient peoples, with little built-up knowledge in almanacs and daytimers to assure them that day would reign again, that light would return to the majority experience? How nervously and expectantly would they watch, along an alignment of posts or between two well-placed mounds to see if the sun would, once again, pause in the journey south and start back to the brighter latitudes? How much excitement must there have been when the hesitant pause became a certain return, and the promise of spring, though distant, was clearly at hand?
For Christians, the fact that December 25 is celebrated as the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is well known to be a date of convenience. No date was recorded in Matthew or Luke, since no one other than Roman nobility celebrated birthdays then, anyhow.
Some scholars have used the nativity accounts in the gospels to propose a March date as more likely, and such a date was celebrated in the early church. But the opportunity to merge cultural observance with spiritual power was taken centuries ago, and Christians celebrate a star in the East and a light in the stable to good purpose at this time of year. Other faith traditions jostle uneasily in America with this season, but there is space and time enough, easily felt if you go out into the starry darkness and look up, for many to gather, and watch, and wonder.
This is, for us all, a season of light. Light may you have, with those you love around you, in this Christmas season, or whatever you call the brightness that lights your way.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio; share the light that has shone on your way through

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack 12-26-04

(Please note that this is posted early, for the Community Booster's Christmas issue! We now return you to regular programming. . .)

Atop our Christmas tree in the living room is a little plastic angel that is my "Zuzu’s petals," my "you’ve had a wonderful life" moment.
She came from the top of a tree in the back room of an abandoned store in a half-empty mall, a tree half-heartedly decorated that was about to be trashed in a pile of frozen turkey boxes, empty tubes of wrapping paper, and the scraps from the largest Angel Tree program I hope ever to be involved in.
1,200 children from some 800 households in a county whose total population was well under 60,000. That’s just how many "applied" to the program through the Salvation Army. Often people would observe that they "knew" there were applicants abusing the system. My response was (and is) "I agree." Based on extensive and up-close experience, I’d allow up to 10% as "users," folks gaming the system to get stuff. 120 out of 1,200 seems like a modest price to pay . . .
. . . even more so, when I factor in what I saw when delivering some of the gift bundles to isolated ridgetop and holler-dweller homes where transportation plans had gone awry. Personally, I’m sure there were more like 2,000 homes and some 3,000 kids who could have qualified. If the families chose not to use assistance for Christmas, that can be an honorable choice, but those numbers left me impatient with those who were unsupportive because of the so-called "undeserving."
Overall community support in our West Virginia county was strong, from individuals, churches, civic groups & businesses. But for all that, we also walked parents (or grandparents, or guardians) through a room where they could get one more toy per child. There was little complaining and many "Thank yous" in that room, but for those of us who were escorts through the big space with the adopt-a-family bundles, the food pantry with the baskets sized per household, and into the "one more toy" room, we knew all too well the sidelong glance, the hesitating hand.
The choices that were made in that room were ones no person who loves a child should have to make.
As escorts, we had some latitude. If the "adoption" bundle looked awfully light, or was obviously just clothing, we could let families take an extra or two. But we also had to watch each other, because the temptation to be generous meant that there might be nothing left for the last families coming through, and some of us had seen that, too.
Some of us, anyhow. The job of escort had a fairly low return rate from year to year, and many just vanished after a few cycles through the rooms as escorts, even when they were signed up for all day. It was sad work, punctuated by moments of sheer joy, with a steady undertone of hopefulness that you could hear if you listened closely with your heart, hard though it was to hear over the chaos of 800 trips through the Angel Tree set-up in that empty grocery store.
Through it all, in the former meat department, this angel looked down calmly upon us all, from the peak of an afterthought piece of décor.
She was (and is) about to blow a note on a long golden horn, getting ready to call a halt to all our muddled uncertainty and announce a new day. The first few times I looked at her, I saw her as the anticipation of the end of a long day, then as a herald of the possibility that those two days would go by swiftly.
With the weary hours, she began to promise something more, as she patiently watched the parade of humanity pass by: the end of poverty, the close of hopelessness, the conclusion of sorrow. And I began to hope that her trumpet might point to a beginning, a brighter day to come.
When the last packages were gone, and the remaining half-thawed turkeys carried away, we swept and tidied the space better than we had found it when we moved in the previous week (we might want it again next year, after all). The tree in the toy room had been largely stripped of ornaments, and was revealed as the half-barren store reject it was. But the angel still perched on the top.
"I’ll keep her," I said, plucking her off as the last load went to the mall dumpster. She is on our tree today, still ready to play that note of ending, and beginning.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio; if you have a tale to tell of a new year, write him at

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack 12-12-04

If you were to ask me if this story happened in Hebron or Utica, Granville or Newark, recently or a while ago, I’d be hard pressed to answer with certainty.
But I’m pretty sure it happened, somewhere, sometime.

The boy who came in the store, walking down the aisle past the wrapping paper and blue bulbs, standing in front of the bolts and faucets, barely looked old enough to be out on his own. He was clutching something in his hand.
"Can I help you," said the cashier, with something less than the usual boredom. It was a quiet time for December shopping, and even this teenager felt maternal looking at this nervous child.
"Yes," was the answer, followed in a rush with, "and do you have this stuff for sale?" He held out, stiffly, his hand with a silvery piece of paper in the palm.
She reached out and took the object, which up close was a label off of a bottle of perfume. Even if you couldn’t read the slightly shredded label, the odor off of just the scrap of packaging was enough to tell you what brand we were talking about.
"That’s one we carry, all right. Here, let me grab it for you," she said as the boy’s eyes widened with obvious hope and expectation. She trotted from behind the counter to a nearby aisle, got the box with the bottle of perfume, and came back to the register before the child could even move. With quick motions, she slid the bottle out of the box and held it up in front of him.
"That whatcha want?"
He didn’t even speak, just nodded his head up and down.
"This is nice stuff; your mom will like it. You got enough to buy it?"
Again, wordlessly, the boy reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. Ones, crumpled up, which he flattened out carefully on the counter: one, two, three, four. Looking up into her skeptical face, he reached into another pocket, and pulled out a fat handful of change, which he very gently released onto the stack of dollars. Quarters, some nickels, quite a few pennies.
She paused a long moment, looking at the heaped offering, and then at the child.
"Let me get the manager."
Hollering a name out, a door opened in the side of an enclosure around the staircase in the middle of the store.
"We’ve got a customer you need to talk to here."
The older fellow stood, carefully, in the slanted doorframe, leaving a creaking chair. He walked up to the front, and surveyed the scene. The cashier explained the situation over the boy’s head to the man, who also looked at the inexpertly twisted bandage around the finger still holding the original label, and the worried look on the child’s face.
"Come back to my office," he said to the boy. There was room only for a desk and the one chair under the steps, where the man seated himself again. The boy stood in the doorway.
"So you want to get a bottle of perfume for your mom?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. But I don’t have enough to buy it?" The boy’s voice was more of a statement that a question, really.
"Well, you might after all, but we have something else to talk about." Looking a bit relieved, the boy replied "OK."
"Here’s what I’m thinking. Someone was looking for their Christmas presents in a closet, up on a shelf, where they weren’t supposed to be." The boy’s eyes widened with a jerk of his whole body. "As they were poking about, a package for someone else, like a mother, fell off the shelf and broke. How’m I doin’?" Bobbing up and down emphatically, the boy’s head looked like it was on a spring.
"So then he tried to clean it all up, and cut his finger on the broken glass, peeling off the label so he could go get another one to replace what he had dropped. Is that where we’re at?"
"Yes, sir."
"OK, then. Was this on a carpeted floor or something like linoleum?"
A young face starting to fill with hope suddenly looked downcast. "Carpet."
"Of course. Well, here’s what we’re going to do." The man heaved himself out of the wooden swivel and expertly bobbed past the angle of the doorframe. He walked around two corners, the boy obediently and gratefully following.
"Here’s some carpet cleaner. Does your dad get home before your mom from work?"
"Yes, sir. About. . .about any minute, I guess."
"That’s just fine. Now let’s go back up front."
He took the spray can, put it in a bag with the box sitting next to the register. Looking at the pile still on the counter, he picked up a dollar bill, a quarter, and a couple nickels, and gave them back to the boy. Crouching down, he handed over the bag after the money was tucked into various pockets.
"Don’t use the spray cleaner ‘til your dad gets home. Tell him what you were doing, just like you told me," glaring briefly at the cashier after she snorted a strangled laugh, "and tell him you bought and paid for a new bottle of perfume and this carpet stuff. You guys ought to be able to get everything cleaned up before Mom gets home, and she’ll think you’ve been cleaning house for Christmas. If he has any questions, tell him to call the number on the bag," he said, pointing, "’cause I’ll be here ‘til ten. OK?"
He stuck out his hand, which the boy gravely shook.
"Thank you, sir. And Merry Christmas."
Like a shot, he vanished through the glass door. The manager slowly stood up straight, and said to the cashier, "Well, give me an employee purchase invoice."
"Geez, you had that kid thinking you saw right into his house and what happened," she said, handing him the carbonless triple form. "He must be thinking you’re one of Santa’s helpers, right from the North Pole."
"And how do you know I’m not?" he answered smiling. "Anyhow, I’m old enough to be an elf, and when you have as many grandchildren as I do, Santa’s just part of the job description."
"You were sweet, though. Can I cover half the difference with you?"
"No, but thanks. Get your boy something for me instead, OK? Put it in his stocking. Tell him Santa gave it to him."
"And how do you know he didn’t, right?"

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio; if you have a Christmas story to share, e-mail him at

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Scouter January 2005
Licking District Trailmarkers

"Bobbie Merritt",

A new year and a 75 year anniversary for Cub Scouting! That’s right, 1930 was the start of our younger Scouting program, now starting in the first grade with Tiger Cubs and working up through Webelos in fourth and fifth.

The blue beanie cap with yellow piping may be gone, but Cub Scouts are everywhere (and our largest single branch); if you get invited to a Cub Pack “Blue & Gold” banquet in February or March, don’t miss it! And thank a Cubmaster or Den leader if you get the chance, since they really “make the pack go” as the Cub’s Akela.

And if you don’t know who Akela is/was, this winter would be a great time to read Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” (I’ve heard someone may have made a movie or two out of it), which was used as an imaginative foundation for the Cub program, just as Kipling’s “Kim” was formative for Baden-Powell’s vision of Scouting itself.

Scout Sunday – February 6

The first Sunday in February, near the anniversary of the national charter for the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 on Feb. 8, is often a day when units meet to worship together in a church that charters them, or a convenient place of worship for other Scouting organizations.

That afternoon, helping packs and troops “make a day of it” if they would like, is the District Bowl-a-thon at Park Lanes in Heath. Each participant, youth or adult, needs $20 in pledges to bowl (more is fine, too!); 40% goes to the unit, 25% to the event costs, and 35% to Friends of Scouting (FOS) for Licking District. Contact Bill Burgess, 366-7768, or come to the January 4 Roundtable for forms.

If your unit hasn’t scheduled their FOS presentation for their Blue & Gold banquet, family night, or troop program evening, call Bill or Larry Lorance soon!

Pinewood Derby for Cub Scouts – Mar. 13

A newer but still traditional part of the Cub program is the gravity-powered excitement of the Pinewood Derby. The district wide Pinewood Derby is scheduled for March 13 at Indian Mound Mall; more information will be available through the Roundtables Jan. 4, Feb. 1, or Mar. 1 at Central Christian Church on Mt. Vernon Road in Newark, 7:15 pm. The district elections will be immediately before the first Roundtable of the year, Jan. 4, at 7:00 pm, open to all chartered organization rep’s and at-large members of the district.

District Recognition Dinner – Apr. 17

It is certainly not too early to think about nominations for District Award of Merit, Scouter, or Rookie Awards. Bring your nominations to Roundtable, and more information will be in next month’s “Scouter” under Licking District Trailmarkers.

Looking WAAAAY Ahead

Bill Rissler, with Troop 11 at Central Christian, is working on a plan to provide a special camp experience for children of the 211th ONG deployed to the Middle East last month. More information on how you can help or assist will be in future issues as well, with Bill assembling a staff and setting some training weekends to prepare for the support and activities we’ll need to serve these children and their families.

Less unusual is Cub Scout Day Camp, but the unique opportunity you will have is to sign up your Cubs for this great activity early, at a double great discount! June 14th to the 17th at Camp Falling Rock, a Tuesday through Friday, will have a base cost of $40 if you register scouts in April. It gets higher with each passing week after that, but you don’t want to know how much: just start now to plan on getting your Cubs signed up in April for those dates.

And Looking Back . . .

The final results on School Night/Round-Ups from Fall 2004 from Bill Acklin is 275 new scouts for Licking District. We would have loved 300, and suspect from activity levels in our packs and troops that we may have 300 new scouts, but some registrations may still be in pockets and purses and briefcases. If you have unregistered youth in your pack, troop, or crew (Venturing for young men and women 14 to 21 is growing; look for the dark green shirts at a Scouting event near you!), please pass them along to your unit commissioner or call Bill Burgess at 366-7768. Let’s get ‘em insured, on the mailing list, and with the charter!

Our popcorn sales were great (no numbers as yet), and thanks to popcorn Kernel Mary Rose Lewis for her work this first year; if they’re selling popcorn, tho’, they’d better be registered – sign ‘em up today, and we may have our 300 after all.

More on the history of Cub Scouting in the months ahead: just follow the Trailmarkers! For your stories, send ‘em to

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack 12-05-04
By Jeff Gill
Red kettles and ringing bells have long been part of the Christmas season; they are one of the best known fundraisers around, supporting the Salvation Army throughout the English-speaking world.
Our local Salvation Army post, which is both a provider of services to the poor and homeless and also a church with a congregation like all posts of this peaceful army, has a magnificent history of care and comfort in Licking County. Nationwide, the Salvation Army has one of the finest track records around for fair use and open accountability for all funds entrusted to them, going back a hundred years and more.
Which made it all the more newsworthy when Target, Best Buy, and Giant Eagle decided this year to ban the bellringers at their store entrances during the holiday season. In fairness to those stores, they all have a “no solicitation” policy to which, traditionally, they made an exception for the Salvation Army. So the change is, they would point out, not a ban but an end to making exceptions for anyone. Hmmm. OK.
Some have called for a barrage of e-mails and letters to the CEOs at corporate headquarters, complaints to store managers (who have no say in this, by the way), and even boycotts. For those who miss this Christmas staple of the shopping experience, there may be a certain sense to those actions, and for myself, having stood in the cold and rung the bells and worked with their programs to the point of being made an honorary captain in their army in West Virginia, my sympathy is with the “bring back the kettle” crowd.
There is another way of looking at this, however. These (insert insulting adjective here) CEOs may be doing all of us a favor, unintentionally.
First, they’re taking away our ability to kid ourselves that a few dollar bills here and there when convenient is really doing our part to spread Christmas cheer to the most desperate in our community. We can think of our kettle contribution as our own anti-Scrooge inoculation, but five to ten dollar bills don’t buy the goods and services they once did in our homes, so why would it be different for Major DeMichael on East Main Street? If you want to shop exclusively at kettle-friendly stores, fine; better yet, send a check to 250 E. Main, Newark 43055 and make it $20 or $50 or $100 . . . you know what you can do. Or make a donation through a virtual kettle at, where you can designate our area for your gift on-line.
And how’bout that on-line shopping, anyhow? If more and more people are shopping through the internet, then the kettles at the door are passed by less of us no matter where they go, and we need to learn new ways of giving.
Or even virtual cash is part of the changing landscape: with less cash changing hands, the fiscal model of “break a twenty at the register, give the change at the kettle” doesn’t work as well. Swipe your card to purchase, to buy dinner, in making reservations, and pass the bellringer without a qualm because you have nothing that goes in the slot on top, right? Even churches are having to rethink Sunday offering with the rise of a truly cashless society, with committed, regular giving the only kind that really is going to show up in the plate or on the financial secretary’s desk.
Will I miss the Salvation Army presence in Christmas shopping? Sure I will, but I won’t miss the good feeling of knowing I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem. Give consciously, give intentionally, and give generously, whether through your church, the Licking County Coalition for Housing, the Center for New Beginnings, or the American Red Cross (they’re all in the book). Those are some that have a solid reputation and that I know to do good, gracious work here in our area.
And smile at the bellringers you do pass; they appreciate it more than you know, even if you don’t have any cash to contribute that time around. Nothing is warmer during the Christmas season.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio and Licking County. If you have news or notes to share for the knapsack, e-mail him at

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Booster Cover & Notes/Knapsack -- 11 - 28 - 04
Jeff Gill

Traditions Old & New in Licking County

Tradition is where old and new intersect, and traditions can start from scratch or have many years behind them.
Along with the long-standing tradition of Newark Courthouse Square lit for the holidays, a new regular event among many in the local holiday season is “Sights & Sounds of Christmas” organized by the City of Newark and a number of downtown churches.Thursday, December 2, 2004 from 6 to 9 pm is your chance to take a walking tour of many downtown Newark churches with music played at each church stop, along with the chance to see the interiors of each decorated for the season.The cost is $5 per person, and all proceeds benefit the Licking County Food Pantry.Tickets are available at Park National Bank offices and each of the participating Churches. They are: Second Presbyterian Church, Trinity AME Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church, Plymouth Church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, First United Methodist Church and St. Francis DeSales Church.
Terry Mooney with the City of Newark and a committee of local church leaders have been working since last year to build a strong base for an ongoing tradition in downtown Newark. With buildings that date back to the Civil War in the case of Second Presbyterian, or featuring beautiful art glass windows by the famed Tiffany Studios at Trinity Episcopal, there are many architectural features that the average Licking Countian may not ordinarily have the chance to see.
While musicians in each building will be sharing their Advent and Christmas best with visitors, most churches will have guides available to tell the story of their worship space, whether ancient symbols filling the stained glass at St. Paul’s Lutheran or a new and bold Christ figure at First Methodist.
And even many long-time residents of the area have not seen the renovations and additions at St. Francis de Sales, including the Lamy Center, named for their first priest, who later built a cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was fictionalized by Willa Cather in “Death Comes For the Archbishop” (look for his statue!).
Stories aplenty have been written about the venerable tradition of the Granville Candlelight Walking Tour. Held on the first Saturday of December each year from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, the day falls in 2004 on Dec. 4.
What makes this year unique is that the candlelight walking tour will be the first “cornerstone event” of seven through Granville’s bicentennial celebration. Founded in 1805, the next year will focus on the settlement and pioneer history of this transplanted New England village.
With a slight head start (to get so much into the year), the 200th anniversary activities launch with the setting sun on Dec. 4, luminaries aglow, churches offering music through the evening, tours in a number of downtown museums and historic homes, and the unveiling of music written for the bicentennial celebrations.
Commemorative items (mugs, t-shirts, and many other objects) will also be open for sale starting with the walking tour.
New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, will see a special event downtown as well for the dedication of a new signature element of Granville’s history. The Booster will have more coverage of this and other cornerstone events in the bicentennial later this December.
Next year, the walking tour will close (on Dec. 3, 2005 for those planning their social calendar well ahead) with the placement of a time capsule that wraps up the 1805-2005 activities.
May your days be merry and bright, as someone once said in song, and let one of your evenings take you for a walking tour somewhere in Licking County!

* * * * * * *

Notes From My Knapsack
By Jeff Gill

Coming back from Gettysburg for Remembrance Day, I got caught up with what went on in the 21st century while I was enjoying the 19th with my dad.
Without beating a deceased equine unnecessarily, can I observe that some NBA players should have seen the images and reality I enjoyed at the stone wall along the Bloody Angle, where Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, was repulsed with some of the most horrible losses on both sides seen anytime in American history.
For those who are part of the re-enactor community (those who wear the uniforms and carry the weapons of the Civil War period) or are involved in the heritage associations (descendants and interested parties from the soldiers of the conflict), there is a single compelling image of the after-war years that sticks.
1888, the 25th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, began interest in placing what are now an orchard of granite, marble, and bronze monuments across the fields and hills of central Pennsylvania. With that activity began tourism in earnest, headed by the veterans themselves, and a growing sense of reconciliation and healing among veterans both blue and grey.
Approaching 1913, the 50th anniversary, efforts to build a Peace Memorial were begun (not finished until the 75th in 1938, just in time to see World War II begin in Europe . . . sigh), and somewhere around these years, as the surviving veterans grew older and fewer, something happened one Remembrance Day weekend, which is now re-enacted with as much passion as anything else they do.
A contingent of old soldiers, walking up from the Emmitsburg Road toward the stone wall where the last great charge of the Confederacy met its savage end, were met by a band of veterans of the U.S. Army, members now of the GAR, the “Grand Army of the Republic.”
They eyed each other warily, men who in youthful days had fired Springfield rifles pointblank into their opposing ranks, watching less fortunate friends and brothers fall around them.
And then a great cheer went up from elderly throats, and once again the two groups met at the stone wall, and shook hands. Blessedly, a photographer was positioned to capture the moment that many thought would never come.
And each year, at Remembrance Day with Lincoln’s words echoing in everyone’s ears, the soldiers dressed in Union blue or butternut and grey Confederate garb step to the wall, where not only was a great battle once fought, but also where a remarkable moment of reconciliation was held.
And they shake hands.
The camera crew this year was from Japan; maybe ESPN should come and get some video next time.
(possible addenda follows)

Less seriously, Rolling Stone magazine just put out their results from a poll of “top Rock-and-roll songs of all time” (or at least the last 50 years); their top 20 are:

Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones
Imagine, John Lennon
What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
Respect, Aretha Franklin
Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
Johnny B Goode, Chuck Berry
Hey Jude, The Beatles
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
What'd I Say, Ray Charles
My Generation, The Who
A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke
Yesterday, The Beatles
Blowin’ in the Wind, Bob Dylan
London Calling, The Clash
I Want to Hold Your Hand, The Beatles
Purple Haze, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Maybellene, Chuck Berry
Hound Dog, Elvis Presley
Let It Be, The Beatles

Some suggest that the high placement of “Imagine” may well be a reaction to world and national events (9-11, War on Terror/Iraq theater, Bush-Kerry election tension); “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is kind of an odd fit on this list if you ask me (but I’m tellin’ ya anyhowse).
If you discount the Nirvana song (and I do), nuttin’ in a quarter century? Does this say more about the state of RockNation, or of the dwindling and aging subscriber base of Rolling Stone?

I’m tempted to the latter, not having felt compelled to read it in years, but perhaps there’s something to the idea that pop music has had little to offer in the way of vitality and inspiration for decades now. “Classic Rock” and “adult contemporary” niches fill commercial radio that’s not teen pop while folks play mp3s of their old favorites off their computers. The only actual sales growth in the music business is contemporary Christian niche, while most other genres are shrinking everywhere that’s measurable.

Satellite radio, where both Bob Edwards once of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and Howard Stern are heading, may offer new microniches that could paradoxically grow faster than certain musical approaches do in a mass market. As they used to say in old fashioned analog broadcast radio, “Stay tuned!”

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio and Licking County. If you have news or notes to share for the knapsack, e-mail him at

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack 11-21-04
By Jeff Gill

Johnny Appleseed in his wanderings around east central Ohio carried a pot on his head and a knapsack over his back, says the legend.
He may well have slept in what’s now the downstairs tavern of the Buxton Inn, and knew folks now resting eternally at the Beard-Green Cemetery on the grounds of Dawes Arboretum, or at the Old Colony Burying Ground south of Granville. As a lay preacher in the Church of the New Jerusalem, John Chapman carried in his knapsack Bibles and tracts to give away on the teachings of Swedenborg, from which the New Church folk drew their scriptural interpretations, along with sacks of appleseeds and even bundles of saplings ready to plant.
But other than a few Kokosing-side lots in Mount Vernon, the traveling horticulturist carried his possessions and his passions in a simple knapsack.
With the last of some 170 “Hebron Crossroads” columns, I’m beginning -- or actually continuing! – a column title I’ve used in one setting or another since 1977, “Notes From My Knapsack.” In Scouting and church-related newsletters this caption has been useful to me for collecting thoughts, stories, and news under, and it feels good to continue writing with that header.
The knapsack will still stroll up and down the old National Road, from Gratiot to Reynoldsburg, and it may (like another well-traveled knapsack, that of John Muir) roll down the hills ahead of its bearer into Raccoon Creek, and back up again past Highwater to Homer and ‘round about the long way through the Welsh Hills.
And the old columns and new are still archived at for those who are interested in yesterday’s news, where the knapsack was always in use!

Lakewood, the name of the school district and region (from Buckeye Lake to Dawes Woods, of course), is holding a Community Thanksgiving Service at the high school on this Sunday night at 7:00 pm. Nov. 21 you can begin your week of Thanksgiving with youth in leadership at the Staffilino Performing Arts Center auditorium, representing Hebron Christian, Hebron United Methodist, Jacksontown United Methodist, Licking Baptist, New Life Community, and Water’s Edge Ministry among others.
The offering will help support a special Thanksgiving meal program run out of the Jacksontown Food Pantry. Come give thanks, or find a service near you, but the Lakewood Area Ministerial Association will do a great job with theirs!
It has been a pleasure to be associated with this steadily growing community worship event the last five Thanksgivings, with this the fourth year at the new high school as we get closer to filling even that auditorium. The middle school and high school youth from many different area churches have brought a whole new vitality to the style of worship and music shared there, along with traditional tunes from bell choirs and younger childrens’ choruses.
They are also pleased to have again a group from the Lakewood High School choirs led by Judith Rauch, which always brings a strong sense of community in concert to the service.
I will miss being with them, but I’m also looking forward to sharing a weekend with my dad at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While July 1, 2, and 3 are the key dates in 1863 for the battle fought there at the hinge of the Civil War, Nov. 19, 1863 is also a key date in their history.
On that date, some four months after Pickett’s Charge and the long, slow retreat back into Virginia by Robert E. Lee, the Union set up their first National Cemetery at Gettysburg, and asked the finest speaker in America to deliver an address for the dedication.
Oh, and late in the planning, the committee thought they probably ought to invite the president to come and offer a few remarks at the end.
So Senator Edward Everett of Massachusetts gave a two and a half hour oration praised mightily at the time, but try even with Google to find a text of it. And President Abraham Lincoln spoke for less than two minutes, including one great error in that little time.
He said, “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” There Honest Abe was wrong.
Yet he was speaking to the ages when he went on to say of the Army of the Potomac, “. . .but it can never forget what they did here.”
So I go to remember, and to give thanks.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher around central Ohio and Licking County. If you have news or notes to share for the knapsack, e-mail him at

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 11-14-04
By Jeff Gill
“So, What Next?”

Getting ready for my transition from being a voice for the “Hebron Crossroads” to a wider view in “Notes From My Knapsack,” I wanted to look back and ahead.
Regular readers know my taste for history, and history does offer a useful guide for the future . . . in the old saw, “history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme!”
The strength of these crossroads has been in being ahead of the curve. What curve, asks the driver on the National Road? Right, our roads don’t tend to ramble ‘round here like they do across Flint Ridge or the Welsh Hills, but the trend line of growth and development has always followed us, even when we were a ways out ahead and out of sight.
In the first phase of growth at Licking Summit, soon to be renamed Hebron by some unknown early settler who was well versed in their Bible, this was a hub for the service industry. Hostelries, distilleries, and all and sundry for the traveler was where we grew in our first few decades. Hotels, bars, and shops catering to the wagoneer or pioneer made our historic crossroads swell to bursting (see the muddy but well-traveled street in the picture down at Kroger).
Then the railroads passed us by, and times looked tough; but while agriculture’s future was seen as heading west and to the Great Plains, local farmers developed cutting edge approaches to draining swamps, ploughing fields, rotating crops, and increasing yields.
Leisure, not even an industry by anyone’s standards at the turn of the 1900’s, was quietly working down from the upper classes into the middle classes, and Buckeye Lake positioned itself for that huge market, even as the Interurban laid rails across central Ohio, connecting Zanesville to Indianapolis through Hebron. Our downtown may have burned in 1901, but the economy caught fire in the next few decades when we got ahead of even the automobile.
Cars gave new life to US 40, and the 1920’s brought gas stations, auto dealers, and trucking companies to the mix with the boom years of the Crystal Ballroom, the Lake Breeze Hotel, and Buckeye Lake Park, well before the US became an automotive nation from coast to coast.
“The Park” gave up the ghost before the federal interstate system might have given it a fresh start, but the arrival of I-70 paralleling US 40 took some energy out of the Hebron crossroads, but gave a boost that took a few years to discern around the edges. With the elimination of heavy through traffic, “Main Street” could start becoming just that again, with recent developments extending from the far east edge of the village where bulldozers are at work on a new retail strip, west past the upper edge of what will be some 180 or more homes in Lake Forest, on through downtown and Carlos Brezina’s restored Hebron Mill to the field just before the new municipal complex, which looks to be professional and retail development soon right across from the always bustling Creative Catering/Hometown Deli campus.
We have health/medical offices going in to our north behind the still-new McDonald’s, and just before and beyond Enterprise Drive are new businesses in our area, with new construction at the long empty WaterWorks warehouse and atop the Alford Drive hill. We were a distribution center across half a continent long before “just in time” inventory was a watchword, and we’ve been global for almost as long, with native speakers of Japanese, Hindi, and New Jersey finding a home in our town.
So, what next? There is always a little anxiety in such a question, and folks can justly feel a bit of concern over prospective vacancies in downtown with Coughlin Chevrolet heading for Pataskala or empty spots like Anchor Pharmacy selling out to Kroger.
But the history of this area has always been to be out ahead of the curve, anticipating the next big thing before anyone else even knows what it will be. Why would that change now?
What I’ve seen in the last few years is a renewed commitment to investment in community, in the creation of a new community around the framework of the old ways and means, just as the canal built on the pike’s traditions; the interurban supplanted, but ultimately accented the roadways; the interstate drained some businesses of life but pumped new energy into others.
The old model, that every one is still talking about, but may well be played out, is the bedroom community. Many are concerned about Hebron becoming a ghost town from 7 am to 6 pm weekdays as commuters head to Franklin and Delaware Counties, and equally empty on weekends as those same “rootless” folk drive back the same routes for their shopping and even worshiping.
Being ahead of the curve, and where I see our area going, is to pioneer again on the suburban frontier. What I hear people looking for is local community, with florists and coffee shops and auto mechanics and good pizza right at hand. They want to be part of a community where they and their families can belong and feel at home, and spend less time in their cars, not more.
True, the kind of business and church and club they want to participate in and join doesn’t always look exactly the way we’ve been used to, but the homogenous, bland bedroom community isn’t what they want to make of Hebron, either.
They want to order by fax and e-mail, pay by swipe card, and hear music that isn’t even always to my taste (but I’m over 40, so who cares?), but they love our school building in a residential neighborhood, they like even the 60’s shopping plaza ambiance as “sort of retro”, and you should see some of the ideas for across the street at the old Bowman’s.
These families may prefer soccer to baseball (horrors!), but they’ll come and cheer and even help out (hooray!). They may order their DVD rental on-line shipped by UPS from California, but they want to invite a real live neighbor over to watch it with, after grilling meat they bought locally (Spirits?)and that, better yet, may have even been raised locally (Cable Farms?).
Crossroads of Hebron Floral, Sunrise Café, the new Bee Dubs Pizza, the amazingly renovated Clay’s Café with paved parking no less: these are the new community centers. Let’s see who our new neighbors are, and work with them to make the next Hebron, as folks have at these crossroads since 1827.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher; if you have a story to share, e-mail him at

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 11-07-04
By Jeff Gill

For years the pre-dawn November gloom of Election Day has retreated outside of the sudden brightness of our polling place, the American Legion Hall on Basin Street.
(We interrupt this narrative to note that on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, the Legion will host a 10:30 am program that Thursday before a VFW program at 11, all at the Veteran’s Memorial at Evans Park on Refugee Road. Your correspondent will share a brief message on “The Oath of Enlistment”; we’ll see you there!)
Inside, along with Irene and Betty and Betty and the whole pollworker gang, I’m used to seeing Mayor Mason and Dave Porter, faithful bus driver for Lakewood, vie for the title of first voter. Me, I’m happy to be third or fourth, no problem.
6:22 am on Election Day 2004: I arrive to see almost 20 people in line already. Dave Porter took the crown this year, having arrived at 5:30 with his newspaper, read right down to the classified ads by 6:35, when the doors opened to a line now 50 some people long.
After attempting to challenge Richard Hoskinson’s vote (it seemed the thing to do, from the TV news chatter), I cast my ballot, chad-checked, and left stickered up as a certified Voter . . . passing a line some 75 folks long and growing.
Through the day I passed polling places in Heath, Newark, and Granville, where a line poured out the front door of the Presbyterian Church as if waiting for Easter service seating. The rain was now pouring down with malicious intent, but even those without umbrellas looked patient and resolute.
Democracy in America looked pretty secure on November 2; thanks to all who took the time and braved the soggy lines to vote. Some said partisanship led to more committed voter behavior this year, but I think that many of us have taken more to heart the sights and stories of how folks in Afghanistan and Indonesia risk drive-by shooting or suicide bombing to wait in three hour long lines, and put our own privilege to vote in perspective. Either way, and whoever won (as of this writing, I have not the faintest idea), it was a good day.
Something else I like seeing each national Election Day is that subtle reminder of how we are still the country we try to be in many more ways than not.
The presidential candidates, incumbent and challenger, usually both resident in well-heeled or unique locales (this year, Fox Chapel PA, Boston MA in Beacon Hill, and Crawford TX were on view), are shown early and often in election coverage going to cast their votes. Even an ex-president was shown (Chappaqua NY, but you knew that) along with their family casting a single vote like everyone else.
But that’s not what I like . . . well, I do like the idea that we each have our one vote and not per share of stock or allocated by how many acres we own . . . anyhow.
I really appreciate the sight of the polling places John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry and George and Laura Bush and even the Clintons vote at. They are neighborhood schools and firehouses and Legion Halls. Kids’ art and fire drill posters and concrete block brightly painted around a familiar room of folding tables and ranks of voting machines.
Here we are even more equal than in the singularity of our vote, in those public spaces and watched by pollworkers who could be residents of these Hebron Crossroads, even as they cast a watchful eye while the leader or would-be leader of the mostly-free world casts their ballot.
In the end, it comes down to a simple common experience. Yes, there’s a human factor in the counting and maneuvering of the totaling and the projecting and the conceding (or not conceding), and the human factor can be quite unpretty at times, but that is truly the exception, not the rule.
The rule is seen in the steady stream of election judges parking around County Administration Buildings, the candidates and their friends and supporters cramming into a stuffy room downstairs, and the eager looks at clerks and officials entering the room with sheaves of preliminary results. No goon squads or armed guards, no harsh words or brutal acts. Just the work of democracy, done for conviction as much if not more than for pay, done by people who live down the street and around the corner.
And if you don’t believe me? Fine, because you can go and see it all happen for yourself. Anyone can, and many do. As Howard Dean said here in Licking County a few weeks ago, if you aren’t happy at certain influences in the electoral process, then you have the power to influence it yourself.
Even if it’s just by competing to be the first voter each year, as dawn breaks.

Jeff Gill is a registered voter who hasn’t missed a day at the polls that they were open since he was 18; if you want to tell your story of a day at the ballot box, e-mail him at

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 10-31-04
By Jeff Gill

Set your clock back? Good. Changed your smoke alarm batteries? Smart. Ate all the left-over candy from Beggar’s Night? Ooooo. . .Pepto-time.
At our corner of the Hebron Crossroads, such temptation is non-existent. We scrape the root cellar and give out cough lozenges one at a time towards the end of the evening, some 300 kids later, and still have to go lights-out at 7 pm (village council, take note!) when the laggard goblins come ‘round the streetlight.
Tuesday morning, 6:30 am, the Legion Hall will be lit and busy as Election Day 2004 opens up, with balloting to 7:30 pm. Say thank you to the pollworkers, many of whom put in 15 hour days and more to keep democracy ready for you to choose.
And choose who? (Or rather, whom; thank you, Mrs. Froberg.) For county commissioner, Phelps and Bubb are the obvious choices for experience and proven competence; with the new domestic court judge, we are fortunate to have five very qualified candidates amongst whom we cannot lose, but knowing Mrs. Green, I have to go with familiarity first! Dave Daubenmire has shown that he knows education and how to take a hit, both in athletics and the court of public opinion, and deserves his turn on the state board of education. State Supreme Court is tougher, but Chief Justice Moyer and Justice O’Donnell have presided over the mangling of the DeRolph school funding case, which leaves me thinking “anyone but him.”
Hallelujah and Lakewood has no levies on the ballot; for our friends and readers far and abroad, may the Newark and Granville taxes pass with vigor . . . we need strong educational systems in efficient buildings all around Licking County for economic development, so even Flint Ridge Road or the Northbank Drive have an interest in seeing other districts pass needed levies.
Countywide, the Senior levy and the Children’s Services levy are equally well-proven to be public interests that are needed, well-run, and beneficial even to those who never come into direct contact with their work.
One way community members can enjoy the benefits of our local educational system is to come to the Lakewood Band Highlights concerts, Friday and Saturday nights Nov. 5 & 6 at 8 pm. The $5 tickets almost always sell out before the performances (which the band also does for the elementary and middle schools), which you can get from band members, or by calling the Performing Arts hotline at 928-4496.
Speaking of which, congrats to Martha Fickle and the Lakewood Drama program for a section front picture and article in a (ahem) publication dispatched from Columbus. This is credit and plaudits long overdue for a real credit to our community right up there with baseball and band.
Back in town, Hebron Elementary School, built in 1914 and significantly added to and modified four times, has more students in it as a K-3 building (approaching 400) than it did for most of the years it was a twelve grade facility.
We have a marvelous piece of both history and community focus here, and some are concerned that the future might lead to closing this building, or selling it as was done in Jacksontown.
For all the charm and heritage our Hebron School has, with steps to nowhere and halls askew, 90 years weigh heavy on the prospects for flexibility and adaptation. Its very solidity will work against it as upgrades and connections are needed within the walls.
I was thinking about this as I read an e-mail from my mom about the end of the Kansas Bulldogs, a school in east-central Illinois which began as a comprehensive of grades 1 through 8, added to 12, and then shrank down to lower grades even as kindergarten was added. A recent consolidation in this declining, rural area left it unnecessary. My Grandfather Walton was a teacher, principal, and finally superintendent for the Kansas School, coaching basketball and, most cruelly, teaching algebra to my mother (who thinks still there should be laws about having your own children in class, especially math).
Mom went on to teach herself, following the example of Grandpa’s two sisters, who began when marriage was outlawed for teachers (so they never did), and though she was allowed to be married and teach in 1960, she had to hide my coming into the world until her pregnancy was too obvious, as she would be – and was – fired upon the principal’s awareness of the same.
Times have changed. I listened to one of our Hebron teachers talk to two moms in the hall about her early pregnancy, without fear that administration would hear. Unlike Kansas, Illinois, these Hebron, Ohio crossroads are growing and vital, lending an ongoing lease on life to these lovingly renovated halls.
And while the signs outside and students within might change, I will long treasure the sight of a lost corridor, half sealed into a closet in a corner behind a chamber, where a stretch of 1914 stenciling above antique wainscoting can be seen today, unchanged from when the first students saw it. . .probably on their way to Hygiene class. History is right around the corner, if you know where to look and take the time for it.

Jeff Gill is a local historian, archaeologist, and writer with a taste for irony and the unexpected; if you have news or tales of local interest, e-mail him at
Notes From My Knapsack -- November 2004 "The Church Window"

Not so very long ago (as stories nowadays seem to start), most everybody had jobs from 9 to 5 somewhere nearby, had dinner at 6, watched their news at 6:30, and on Sunday went to church past closed stores at 10 or 10:30, where all the cars on the streets were going.

And now today: work schedules vary from week to week, shift to shift, food on the fly, news on demand 24/7, and church . . .

These have been interesting times to serve as a parish pastor. Even shut-ins are often out, let alone finding families together. Ministry has always been an on-call calling, but for all of us in congregational leadership, from home communion by the elders, trying to catch new visitors at home, to when to hold women’s fellowship meetings -- the needs, demands, and expectations of church scheduling have expanded far beyond even 24/7. This is not a Hebron thing, it is an everywhere thing.

With my service as pastor coming to an end shortly, I leave knowing that we have navigated the turbulent waters of a time of change very well in some ways. Bright spots include the clearing out and opening up and better use of the lower level of the main building, and expansion of Sunday school into the old parsonage, with the improvement of the office space there as well; the vitality of the summer early service; the capital campaign securing the property to our east and the organ campaign for our sanctuary, plus pew Bibles. Lenten efforts to deepen faith through reading the Bible and sharing “The Purpose Driven Life” were well received, and our youth continue to be an example for all of us in witness and service, on 5th Sundays and beyond. Darker spots, but a valley of shadow we must all travel through, have been the many, many funerals we have shared together, looking to the Light that guides us. There is work that is unfinished in strengthening marriages and combating addictions of many sorts that will, that must continue.

Less successful has been our work together in reforming and renewing our policies and procedures for shaping congregational leadership and life for the new day already dawned around us. Much remains to be done. The “Emergent Church” movement has much to show us about what worship and mission will look like when our hearts are open to God’s activity in the world for which “He gave His only begotten Son.”

Many kind folks have said to me “I’m not happy that you’re leaving!” C.S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, says in the movie “Shadowlands,” “I'm not sure God particularly wants us to be happy. He wants us to be able to love, and be loved. He wants us to grow up. We think our childish toys bring us all the happiness there is, and our nursery is whole wide world. But something must drive us out of the nursery, to the world of others. And that something is suffering.”

We have wrestled with Scripture together, and puzzled over the writings of Rick Warren and Herb Miller; you’ve been patient (mostly!) with my confidence that our elders and leaders can handle Lesslie Newbigin and Alasdair MacIntyre in chunks, too. As I step back from parish ministry for a time, I’ve posted some reflections at for those who have the patience for poetry.

For everyone, Joyce and Chris and I will be at 120 Bantry St., Granville OH 43023 after Christmas, and our vocations – mine and Hebron Christian’s – will intersect again, either around this historic crossroads, or at the foot of the Cross.

In Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jeff

Monday, October 18, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 10-24-04
By Jeff Gill

Thursday night is region-wide “Trick-or-Treat,” with 5:30 to 7:30 pm the designated times around the Hebron Crossroads. Remember that if the lights are out, the occupants aren’t playing this year.
Some of the village side streets get crowded, and the Hebron Police Department does a good job of trying to manage the congested spots (does our small village have traffic congestion? Sometimes, yes!), but keep a sharp eye out, everyone, around those hours on Oct. 28.
Do you remember the aurora borealis during Beggars’ Night? Could we be so lucky again . . .
Speaking of beggin’, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee of the Lakewood Board of Education is making a series of calls around the area to evaluate our delivery of educational services with a phone survey. We aren’t telemarketers, and we aren’t looking for money, only input.
Many of us making the calls to get surveys filled out have received hang-ups early on in the process; please know this is a legitimate effort on behalf of your Lakewood School District. With the millage rolled back (keeping the total collected in property tax the same even as more housing is added and values increase), the growth of the district will put stresses fiscal and demographic on our system. We need to hear your priorities as we build the school system of tomorrow . . . not a science fiction tomorrow, but the day after next tomorrow, which will be almost as strange and different.
The day after Nov. 2 will be a very different day than most Wednesdays. Assuming the election will be concluded by midnight, which is looking very 2000 right now (is Tim Russert polishing up his dry erase board?), in which case we won’t have “the day after the election” for possibly weeks. Sigh.
Lakewood got an unquestioned win against Columbus Academy last week, which is more than Ohio State or my beloved Boilermakers had in the victory column over the weekend. Way to believe in yourselves, team!
The Lakewood Marching Band is gearing up for their Highlights concerts to close the season November 5 and 6; if you want those hard-to-get tickets, see a band member NOW, not tomorrow.
Before then, “Club 180” is open to all youth after the Lakewood home games on Fridays Oct. 22 and 29, from 9 pm to Midnight at the former Licking Baptist Church building on Beaver Run, north and east of the Canyon Road intersection. This Christian ministry, spearheaded by Licking Baptist, is supported by many area church folk who want our young people to have a fun and safe Fifth Quarter experience such as Licking Valley has enjoyed for many years.
And on the other end of the Lakewood district, Jacksontown United Methodist is well along on their exciting building renovation to enhance their worship space, improve access to the sanctuary, and expand the basement “fellowship hall” area, which means more seating for the first Saturday breakfasts! Does it mean more entrees on Nov. 6? Probably not that soon, but stay tuned, or just go eat at 7 am that day or any other first Saturday, which is how they paid for the construction work.
This is the last week for the “Coats For Kids” drive at Hebron Christian Church by their active youth group, led by the McNichols who have a unique way of adding to the number at meetings (welcome, Joshua Michael!), and the United Methodist Church of Hebron is working their way through “The Purpose Driven Life” this fall. And New Life Community, renting at Lakewood Middle School’s auditorium Sunday mornings, is notching over 120 in worship, reaching many unchurched folk with contemporary praise music.
Whatever church you attend in the Lakewood region, don’t forget that Oct. 31 is “Time Change Morning,” setting our clocks back one hour. Otherwise, you may find yourself at Sunday School whether you intended it or not. On the other hand, there are worse mistakes you could make!

Jeff Gill has been known to teach Sunday school; on the other hand, so did Hugh Hefner, so don’t assume too much from that. If you have curriculum notes about Abraham and Sarah or Isaac and Rebecca to share, or news of local interest, send it to

Friday, October 08, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 10-17-04
By Jeff Gill

Poison ivy is beautiful. Have you looked at it lately? From a distance, yes, but look around at the fall foliage and some of the deepest, richest, most multi-hued leaves are from a vine coiled around old tree trunks, gnarled fence posts, and along the backs of sheds and outbuildings around these Hebron Crossroads.
For those with severe allergies to the oil, the sap of these common growths in our region, poison ivy is no joke; especially when brush piles alight on early autumn evenings contain the vine, the stalks, or even the leaves of the more modest ground cover variety. Yes, even the smoke from burning poison ivy can carry substance enough to trigger those highly sensitive to it. The red berries, the crimson, maroon, golden, pink, saffron colored leaves, the vines growing as thick as my wrist, is all uniquely lovely and still problematic.
Harvesters on the main roads, grain trucks spilling a golden trickle on corners, whether soybeans or corn, headlights in trackless fields by night tracing their humming square dance, all telling us that it is time to bring in the full and fulfilled growth of the long summer season now past. Be patient if you’re behind one, as the farmers have had to be patient since spring planting. (And be patient with the Lakewood football team, too; they’re not quitting in the third quarter, and that’s a victory all it’s own.)
Hallowe’en is always October 31, the eve of All Hallows, or All Saints Day Nov. 1, but official “Trick or Treat Night” for the village of Hebron is set for Thursday, Oct. 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Most areas around are using the same night, but times may vary, so check our fellow columnists here or see the list in our sister publication, “The Advocate.”
Geese have been flocking and vee’ing and honking their flapping way overhead, heading (generally) south. Saturday morning at Evans Park sees a steadily growing mass of vehicles jockey for parking spaces as if it were Polaris on Christmas Eve, dropping off or picking up either soccer players or flag footballers, or for some lucky families (!) both. Jackets get progressively heavier each weekend, as the chill sets in earlier each evening.
School pictures, soccer pictures, senior pictures, wedding pictures; fall is a favorite time for adding to our digital stash of memorabilia, with Mother Nature providing spectacular backdrops for free – the key chain picture, however, will cost $8 extra with or without foliage.
It’s a season full of memories, both those being made right now and those the smells and sights and sounds evoke. Perhaps a distant ancestral need to sharply etch on our gray cells where the final food stashes went is why this time of year carves so deep a mark.
Making this fall memorable for our family is that we will be leaving Hebron soon. We will not forget -- in fact, we won’t even be going very far from here -- but we will move shortly to a house closer to the Lovely Wife’s job at Denison and to set a new pace of home life for the Little Guy.
My five and a half years in Hebron have been wonderful, and we know that we were “meant” to be here; we also know that our plans as a family have always been that we would do whatever we had to not to have both of us in full-time, extra hours, professionally demanding careers.
When after a dozen years of forgetting even about our child care plans the Little Guy made his dramatic appearance, for a time we thought I might be the one staying and working from home on a part-time basis. Then the Hebron possibility turned that equation on its head, and the Lovely Wife worked off a laptop and the kitchen table for six years.
Now it’s my turn! I’m going to step back from full-time parish ministry and the 24/7 expectations (internal and external), but our editors tell me they may still have a place for my weekly scribblings – off of a laptop and on the kitchen table. We’ve kicked around “Out Centerville Street” or “Notes From My Knapsack,” but I most assuredly plan to keep writing, even if no one wants to publish it.
Through Dec. 31 I’ll still be preaching Sundays, and will continue passing along this weekly printed nod from those sitting by these growing, thriving, and memorable crossroads.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church (for a few more months!) and still plays Stone Soup’s “October Nights” every year at this time. If you have seasonal news or notes to share, call 928-4066 or e-mail

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Press Release -- Interfaith Prayer Circle
Sun., Oct. 31, 2 pm

Octagon State Memorial, off West Main at 33rd St., is the site of an interfaith prayer circle led by Friends of the Mounds October 31 at 2:00 pm.

Sunday, October 31 and Monday, November 1 are "golf-free days" at Octagon State Memorial, which also contains a leased golf course. Members of many Native American spiritual traditions, along with those of immigrant traditions including Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist have been formally gathering once or twice each year since 2000 for a time of prayer.

Participants are invited to come join the prayer circle and speak or not in turn, as you are moved, according to your own sacred traditions. We join our spoken, sung, and silent prayers together at this ancient and significant site, noted as one of the "70 Wonders of the Ancient World" along with Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Athens' Parthenon, and only Chaco Canyon and Cahokia in North America.
The Scouter -- Simon Kenton Council – Nov/Dec 2004

Licking District Trailmarkers

September had the traditional United Way campaign kick-off with a parade through our county seat, Newark.

That’s not unusual (tho’ many counties long ago gave up on a UW parade, and Licking County is still going strong!), but what was unusually wonderful was their choice of Grand Marshall, our District Chairman, Trevor Gamble. Trig was the first recipient of the Ken Johnston Volunteer of the Year award last spring, and for his work with Scouting, at Denison during and after his retirement, in his community and church, the folks with the United Way put him right at the head of the parade!

Along the route, Scouting was represented in a number of ways, with Packs and Troops involved, and Pack 75 winning an award for “Best Interpretation of the Theme” and Pack 22 for “Best Unit Float.” Good job, Cub Scouts!

This fall – and beyond – we need to remind our Licking County friends and neighbors who work in Franklin and Delaware Counties to designate their United Way giving to Licking County. Out of county workers are accounting for a growing percentage (approaching 25%) of Licking Co. UW funds, and we need to put those charitable dollars to work in their home community. Some folks think this happens automatically: wrong!

Remember, the $10 registration each Scout and scouter pays goes to the national background check and record keeping system – none of it stays with Simon Kenton Council. United Way dollars and Popcorn sales, along with Friends of Scouting (FOS) is what keeps Scouting paid for at $110 per child per year locally. What a great buy those dollars are!

Please support your Popcorn Sale and local United Way work . . . and for units, remember that scheduling your unit’s family FOS presentation through Larry Lorance is part of what it takes to get free advancement materials.

If you have post-Jan. 15, 2005 info or announcements to share, send it to

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Charters Make Scouting Go!

Unit charters went out to unit commissioners Oct. 23; Nov. 16 is our first charter turn-in day, at the Newark 5th St. Red Cross building from 7 to 8:30 pm. Nov. 27 is the final sweep, from 9 to 11 am at Central Christian Church on Mt. Vernon Rd. in Newark. Questions? Come to the Roundtables in Nov. or Dec.; Nov. 2 at 7:15 pm in Central Christian Church, or there again on Dec. 7, always the first Tuesday at &:15 pm.

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Popcorn Pick-up

Sat., Nov. 20 (aka Beat Michigan Day) from 8 am to Noon at the Alltel Bldg. on Hopewell Dr. in Heath is Popcorn Pick-up. Bring checks dated to Dec. 6 made out to SKC/BSA from your unit treasury. We’ll be done in plenty of time to get home and fire up the grill.

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District Elections

January 2005 will see the next round of elections for district positions; Judge Tom Marcelain has agreed to serve as Nominating Committee chairman, a position he has well served in the past. All chartered organization representatives are voters for the leadership positions in Licking District, along with at-large members. If you have suggestions for nominations, bring them to Roundtable!

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Klondike Derby at Camp Falling Rock

January 22 is the annual Klondike Derby for our district; smoke rising from historic Franklin Lodge, feet thundering across the covered bridge, ice on Lake PeeWee and icicles off the cliffs are all part of the “can’t miss” experience in Scouting that is Klondike. Unit leaders will receive a mailing on this event shortly, and the lead article on January’s “The Scouter” (our next issue) will cover the snow forecast (it’s gonna!) and plans for having fun (you will!) at the Rock.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 10-10-04 By Jeff Gill
Are You Financially Disabled?
Friends and folk about the Hebron Crossroads, we are less than 90 days out from that great festival of consumerism and self-indulgence called “the Holiday Season.”
Actually, all of the 90 days ahead are part of that new social construct, “the Holiday Season,” starting with costumed extravagance and culminating in a brief nod by some of us to a manger and the Child found under a star. But by the time we reach that evening to honor the Prince of Peace by candlelight, many more of us will have committed financial sins aplenty by stark fluorescent light in stores and malls and businesses near and (online) afar.
We're now up to over $8000 in average household credit card debt in America, and that's before gift giving and self-indulging this year potentially adds to the pile of financial burden. Jean Chatzky points out that we can make that go away in three years by just cutting an average of $10 a day of spending. . .but you've gotta put that $300 a month to paying off high-interest debt, not just shift it around to other outlays.
Now is the time, not in our 2005 resolutions, to stop and assess our personal and family financial fitness. Indeed, many of us who work with families in the Lakewood area – and far beyond – fear that there are many who are financially impaired, “disabled” in a manner of speaking, with no few even qualifying as “shopaholics.” Are you one? Well . . .
If you’ve held a yard sale because you had too much stuff and too little cash, and then went right out to buy stuff with the proceeds, you might be a shopaholic.
If you are unsure how many credit cards you have active currently, you might be a shopaholic.
If you can’t answer within $20 what your *unpaid* balance on credit cards is right now, you might be a shopaholic.
If you have your children (or grandchildren) answer the phone in case bill collectors may be calling, you might be a shopaholic.
If you have a closet, room, or garage full of packages mailed to you that are as yet unopened even though you bought them online or by phone with great anticipation, you might be a shopaholic.
If you got a home equity loan and spent it on stuff (clothes, computers, CDs, DVDs, sports equipment, or even eating out), you might be a shopaholic.
If you have declared bankruptcy once already, and are starting to build up consumer debt of any sort, you might be a shopaholic.
Somewhat less drastically, you may just be “financially disabled”: for instance, if you don’t know what percentage of your income goes to housing (rent/mortgage, utilities, annual upkeep costs), or what percent of your income goes to transportation (car payments, gas, annual maintenance like oil, brakes, tires), you might be financially disabled.. In fact, if over a third of your income goes to housing costs, you might be severely financially disabled.
Actually, if you don’t even know what your annual/monthly income actually is, you might be *very* severely financially disabled. Not “oh, I just don’t make enough to pay my bills!” OK, I understand, but how much do you bring in? Can’t make a budget until you know that number for the bottom of the page. No budget? You might be financially disabled.
If you don’t know what percent of your monthly income goes to paying off credit cards, you might be financially disabled.
If you don’t have three months living expenses put away where you won’t just spend it, but can get at it if necessary (so retirement funds don’t count), you might be financially disabled.
If you don’t have a budget figure for vacations (hey, I didn’t say this was a no-fun zone), you might be financially disabled. After all, if you don’t budget it, you’ll spend whatever is at hand, even if it was money that you had a “plan” for last month . . . like the money to pay off the credit card.
If you don’t have a budget figure for giving to causes you believe in – if only to remind ourselves that our money, no matter how hard-earned, is just a gift that we’re given for a brief time to use in making the world a better place -- you might be financially disabled.
So what do we do if we’ve honestly answered these questions, and have seen ourselves in a mirror?
First, ask yourself: can I stop on my own? If you’ve never done yourself the courtesy of asking that question, try it, and see what you say.
Second, ask a friend to help: always a good idea (we aren’t made to be alone, in problems or in celebrations), unless our friends all have the same problems . . . in which case you may want to branch out a bit.
Third, check in with a minister, counselor, or person you respect in your circle of activities. Trust this pastor: they won’t be shocked, and they will have heard it all before. Really. They may suggest a few non-fun ideas like slowing or stopping a $20 a week smoking habit (times 52, makes over $1000 a year!) or cutting out the daily latte ($3.50 times 250 makes $875!) but they will understand, and have constructive ideas to help.
And fourth, those same folk may suggest Consumer Credit Counseling, available in both Licking and Franklin Counties. They can take the big wads o’ debt and roll them up into a smaller ball that can be juggled successfully. They’re at 349-7066, and are ready to be of service to you now, let alone after “the holidays.”
Or check in with your local bankers. You may think bankers are all about getting your money, but they actually profit more from helping you keep your cash together than letting it be spread to the four winds. I happen to think well of Betty Green and her 50-plus years of experience in the Hebron area with Park National, but whoever your banker is, stop by and ask their counsel.
Whatever steps you take, you will find that your enjoyment of the holidays is much deeper and wider when your worries over finances are smaller and manageable. Let your memories be rich and your worries be poor when 2005 rolls around!
Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and an advocate for financial literacy at all ages. If you have holiday savings tips or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail
Hebron Crossroads 10-03b-04
By Jeff Gill

Fall makes me think of dinner; actually, there’s very little that doesn’t make me think of mealtime. Cooler temperatures and an early sunset turns our hearts . . . and stomachs . . . to a filling, hearty supper.
The United Methodist Church of Hebron is having their Fall Baked Steak Dinner next Saturday, Oct. 9, from 4:30 to 7 o’clock or so. $5.50 for adults, $2 for children, and carryouts are available. Call the church office at 928-2471 for more information. They’re right on East Main Street, the name our old National Road, US 40 takes as it goes through the Hebron Crossroads from coast to (nearly) coast.
To the west, down US 40 out of town past Sunset Hill, Devine Farms is having their Fall Festival this weekend, next, and on until Sunday, Oct. 31. Ralph and Charla have their grounds open from 10 am to 6 pm Saturdays and Noon to 6 pm Sundays, with no admission fee or parking charge, and most activities still $1.00. Oh, and you can buy pumpkins, too! And gourds, and honey, and cornstalks, and pumpkin butter.
The Little Guy is already psyched for the barrel train (but how much longer will he fit?) and the corn maze.
Honor system straw and squirrel or indian corn available right through the week; just stick your hand in the pumpkin’s mouth (go and read the signs, you’ll see). Questions? Call 928-8320 or just visit on-line at
New Life Community Church has a website, too: They are now worshiping weekly in the space they’re renting at Lakewood Middle School facing . . . yep, US 40, east of Hebron. Brian Harkness, their pastor, reports about 90 in worship with them after a launch service with over 150.
Well, we’ve got to get off of 40 for a bit, anyhow. Let’s turn north at Luray and go up Ohio 37 to Infirmary Mound Park, where Rich Niccum is organizing the Licking Park District “Autumn gathering and Harvest Moon
Rendezvous” on October 9 and 10. He tells us that “we are in dire need of scarecrow entries. The contest is simple. All you need to do is create a scarecrow. It can be any size and in any form from traditional to contemporary. The scarecrows are then judged by public voting at the
event and then ribbons are handed out just like an old-fashioned country fair. The winner will then be displayed at The Works the following week during their fall festival.”
Sound interesting? Give Rich a holler at 323-0520 if your group would like to (quickly) put together a scarecrow for the show.
Or just mark those days on your calendar to drop by and see who got stuffed . . .
Our Medicare program at the Municipal Complex was attended by a few dozen interested seniors and friends; thanks again to Alice Gordon from Licking County Aging Program and her volunteer aide, Mary Ann Draa.
She also brought one Larry Fugate (you were expecting two? Get out of my column, Larry) who spoke about the upcoming Senior Levy on the Nov. 2 ballot; this and the Children’s Services Levies are a small but vital part of our local tax base that have clearly earned our support and continuance.
Hubert Humphrey talked about the need of a good society to care for those in the sunrise of life, the sunset of life, and in the shadows of life: good foster care and child abuse response in the Children’s Levy, subsidized programs like Meals on Wheels and local feeding programs through the Senior Levy, and all the work through the United Way for the hungry and the homeless answer that call.
As to the Medicare issues, we did learn that while anyone who is on Social Security qualifies for some drug discount through a prescription discount card, those who have an income under around $12,500 for a single retired person or $16,800 for a couple can get $600 credit on this year, and again for next year, as things currently stand.
After the fall elections, who knows . . . you did know there was an election coming up, right?
Larry also mentioned that we are heading to a record year for Licking County registrations (something around 105,000) with expectations for over 80,000 voting on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
And then we’ll get our more familiar annoying commercials back . . .

Jeff Gill is pastor at Hebron Christian Church and a registered voter; if you have questions about registration, absentee voting, or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail