Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 7-18-04
By Jeff Gill

Mandatory; zero tolerance; banned; across the board; no exceptions.
Y’all were quite tolerant of my rant a few weeks back about the trend to social developments like smoking bans in all public spaces or mandatory sentencing guidelines in criminal cases. To repeat: I loathe cigarette smoke, physically and personally, and think court judgments should be swift, certain, consistent, and grim. But without human judgment, however flawed, we pre-empt common sense anywhere by penalizing folks for not using common sense everywhere.
But an interesting question was raised with me about something like “universal service.” What did I think about that?
Actually, the interesting dilemma I have here is that I think it would be great if absolutely everyone did it, and the best way to ruin universal service is to. . .yep, make it mandatory.
For instance, a public service requirement for high school graduation has been popular in some areas recently. May I say that spending time on a work trip, mission experience with a church, or service project at home or away is one of the most life expanding, uplifting and enlightening things a young person (or old: remember Miz Lillian in the Peace Corps in her 80’s?) can do.
But making it an obligation for absolutely everyone carries the seeds of decay for the entire ideal. First off, the sense that one chooses to do something they don’t have to do is lost. Remember how you felt when you went to the closet to get out the vacuum unasked and use it, and a voice comes around the corner “Oh, would you run the sweeper while you’re in there?” You have this crestfallen moment of losing that chance to be seen as doing something “over and above.”
And not everyone serves usefully in the same context. The match of one’s gifts to need can be a tricky recipe to cook up; universal service programs, of necessity due to the scale of numbers and projects, tend to lapse into a “hole and peg” kind of mentality. Putting someone to work in a context they regret and resent can create the opposite of what voluntary service does in a person’s heart, narrowing and embittering their view of others in the world.
Many folks with very good intentions have said that the country and our young would be well served by requiring a term of mandatory service, a year or two in the military, in urban or rural teaching, in medical assistance with hospitals or trail clearing and repair in our parks. My own view is that we should have such a program, for Ohio or nationally, to promote and facilitate such service, and could add meaningful incentives without making it paid make-work as opposed to volunteerism.
But mandatory? No. Ask any sergeant about the differences between a draftee army (bless ‘em all!) and the all volunteer services of today. I’ve supervised work crews of volunteers who had some sad sacks (usually drug along unwillingly by a friend) and a crew of court-ordered public servers which had a participant who loved the work and stayed late: but generally, mandatory makes for mopes and malcontents.
Do I wish everyone wanted to volunteer to help others? Sure do. Let’s encourage that, not require it, and set the first example ourselves.

Next week, a few VBS notes in Jacksontown and Hebron (I’ll bet they still need some volunteers!) and some updates on the Hartford Fair (Aug. 8, starting late this year), band camp (same day), and the dreaded words “Back To School.” Well, dreaded by some, anyway.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and does a little volunteering himself; if you have service opportunities to promote or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail
Hebron Crossroads 7-11-04
By Jeff Gill

Next Saturday, July 17, Licking Baptist Church on Beaver Run Road will hold a “Summer Fun Festival” for the community. From 9 am to 5 pm they plan games, music, food, door prizes, and activities for all ages at their new worship center west of Canyon Road on the south side of Beaver Run Road.
A craft show will be part of the event, says Mark King, and you can call him at 928-4618 for more info. Lonnie Aleshire is pastor, and I’ll bet he’d love to see you at church on Sunday, too! But this “Summer Fun Festival” is simply an event open to all for fun and fellowship.
As you drive out to Licking Baptist, it’s time for my annual note about “corn corners” in the Hebron Crossroads area. “Knee high by the Fourth of July” long ago became a bit of an anachronism in this modern age of hybrids and early planting; knee high on a giraffe, maybe. As high as an elephant’s eye? You got it now, and not just in Oklahoma.
For all of us, farmers and non-farmers particularly, this means that some stretches of road and a number of intersections will suddenly undergo a dramatic change in visual terrain. A spot where you could see for miles can be a blind spot, screened by a thick curtain of corn stalks, even as our mind still thinks “bump the brake and floor the gas.”
Since it happens just a few weeks a year, most of us don’t remember well how this can shape our landscape. Keep it in mind, and be careful out there, OK?

Recuperating from my combo elbow fracture/surgery/ghastly flu bug, coffee has spent some time off my list, an experience normally restricted to alternate Lenten seasons.
What my stomach has more happily tolerated is tea, and Earl Grey in particular has hit what little spot I still had. Twinings Earl Grey (I’m sure the brand Jean-Luc Picard drinks on the Enterprise, lo these many centuries ahead) is still in the dull yellow and dark brown trimmed box I first saw in a college care package decades ago. There was some measure of comfort just in seeing that yellow rectangle and particular typeface.
It got me to thinking about colors and packaging and food, and how we’ve gone from making our mental food associations with particular strong individual colors – rich green corn stalks, deep blue blueberries, bright red tomatoes – to packaging choices of more elaborate color schemes.
Brown wrapping with orange accents says Heath bar from across a room, and makes my tongue think of toffee. Honey yellow and bright yellow on a tall box says Cheerios, and you can almost taste the oats before you open the box, but white background with red says to me, anyhow, Special K.
Particular color pairings have been so effectively conditioned into some of us that. . .well, it doesn’t matter if the ad meant something else or if I’m looking into a toy box for blocks, but if I see turquoise and orange, I think fried clams at HoJo’s: don’t you?
Do you have color/food associations? Is this a quirk of the Gill hardwiring, or do certain flavors leap to mind when you see certain color combos? Zip off your thoughts to, and we’ll print a few.

This Sunday night, on PBS, “A Thief of Time” airs on Mystery. It marks the third time an attempt has been made to film a Tony Hillerman novel. Proof that movie making is an art, not a science, the wonderful mysteries Hillerman has written set in some of America’s most beautiful landscapes, the desert Southwest, and with a central role to two Navajo Tribal Police officers giving a natural conflict between modern and traditional life, have been in their first two movie versions. . .awful. “The Dark Wind” was almost unwatchable, and “Skinwalkers” had to be inexplicable to someone who hadn’t read the book.
The trailer on WOSU looks good, but we’ve all been burned by those, haven’t we? I recommend giving it a chance, though, since the material – book and setting – is so rich and marvelous, and the actors starting with Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn look well cast and intriguing.
Better yet, if you haven’t built up a backlog on your summer reading pile yet, may I recommend a few Tony Hillerman mysteries? If you’ve never read any, I envy your ability to read them for the first time; I can assure you that they reward re-reading, too.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and would love to visit the Colorado Plateau again; if you have other books to recommend as substitutes for vacations away or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail