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A Stone's throw: In history's footsteps


Betty Stone



I have been away for a while, and I have to say coming home in time for the recent Fourth of July takes on special meaning. I have walked (staggered arthritically, to be precise) the streets of the country that gave us democracy, as well as enjoyed its beautiful Greek Islands. I have sat in the piazzas of Rome, the seat of an empire that once ruled most of the known world and imposed a peace known as the "Pax Romana," an order that must at least be respected, although many found it burdensome. I have seen ruins of temples that pagans erected to gods and goddesses they made up in an effort to explain the vagaries of nature, to appease the forces that seemed to control what they could not. 


I have recalled some of the myths and legends that still color our literature today. I have been in spots made nearly holy by history. 


I feel incredibly blessed to have had that opportunity. I hardly would have dared to dream, back when my grandfather was telling us children his version of the Greek and Roman myths as bedtime stories, that I might someday stand on that same soil. 


I have visited Ephesus from where St. Paul wrote so many letters and where Mary, the Mother of Christ, is reputed to have lived after, from the cross, Jesus commissioned John to care for her. 


The truth of much of this is shrouded by time, of course, but it is enough to make even the non-scholar revere history. 


I have felt a kind of sympathy for the pagans of those places and their times. Even today when life assails us, we ask why. We believe we live in more enlightened times, but there is still so much we do not understand. I can hardly comprehend the mechanism by which a light turns on when I flip a switch. How can I possible explain why good people suffer? 


Living in even more primitive times than ours, people must have found it difficult, if not impossible, to make sense of anything. A tsunami wipes out a fishing village. (Theirs is a very earthquake-prone region.) Poseidon must be mad. A hero has a run of bad luck. Powerful Zeus is on a rampage. And, it seems, Zeus did a lot of rampaging in one way or another. 


With all the confusions of life, those people who had just begun history as we know it had an awful lot of explaining to attempt. I feel for them. Like most of us, they just did the best they could. 


We just did the best we could, too. I probably should not have attempted the trip, but in our group was my strong, strapping, football-playing grandson, John. He made many things possible for me. I mean he can jump flat-footed from the ground to the top of a concrete picnic table or bench press my suitcase which was perilously close to being overweight. (Make no comments about people, please.) It did not seem too much to ask him to push my rented wheelchair occasionally. He obliged with good cheer, and I am grateful. It is, nevertheless, a humbling experience, but for some of us the wanderlust is very powerful. 


My main point, however, is that it is always good to get home. After wandering in foreign places, I thought the USA looked mighty good. It is especially good to be able to call this place home. To come home in time to celebrate this great nation's birthday is a poignant experience. 


It is trite, to be sure, to boast about how lucky we are to live here; but things become trite because they are true. Citizens of the USA are really blessed. When we sing "God Bless America," we need to remember that He has. When we quote, "Stand beside her and guide her," we need to be aware of what we are asking. As a citizenry we simply must be responsible, reliable, informed, fair and strong. 


Travel makes one appreciate other countries and cultures, and there are many that are great. But travel can also make one appreciate his own home as well, and we live in a great nation whose virtues we should always be vigilant to protect, and whose flaws we should be wise enough to correct. 


There, now, do I sound tritely patriotic? Let us hope all of us truly are just that. After all, it is a birthday well worth celebrating.


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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