Roy Exum: A Return To The Good

Thursday, October 21, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The email from a pal in Atlanta read “Five Beautiful Stories” but, no, these are instead five beautiful Life Lessons. As I share them, I realize these were written in an earlier time, when a UT football fan wouldn’t dare hurl a hot dog – still in the bun – onto the field after a referee’s call that has gone the other way. I mourn for Lane Kiffin, a former Tennessee coach who returned to Neyland Stadium to face the wrath of the Big Orange last Saturday with an Ole Miss team that won. 31-26.

I remember it all, especially the guy who wanted to pay $2,500 to have a new sewage disposal center the Knoxville Utility District had just built to bear Lane’s name.

That was funny, all in fun.

But where my heart bleeds is that most of the debris and trash that was hurled from the Neyland Stadium stands was from the student section, from people who were maybe 8 and 9-years-old when Kiffin left Tennessee for Southern Cal. They have almost no recollection of what actually happened – they didn’t even have acne yet – but somehow those children were taught to hate. How did that happen, and where is the lesson?

I hope they’ll read these five lessons, sent to me from Atlanta, and return to the basics. We must revere what is good:

* * *

LESSON NO. 1 – THE CLEANING LADY

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:  "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely, " said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people.  All are significant...They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

* * *

STORY NO. 2 – PICKUP DURING THE RAIN

One night at 11:30 p.m., an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.  A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.  It read:  "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along.  because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husbands' bedside just before he passed away... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

* * *

STORY NO. 3 – ALWAYS REMEMBER THOSE WHO SERVE

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.

 "Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

 The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

 "Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

 By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

 "Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

 The little boy again counted his coins.

 "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.  When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

* * *

LESSON NO. 4 – THE OBSTACLE IN OUR PATH.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

 Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand.

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

* * *

LESSON NO. 5 – GIVING WHEN IT COUNTS …

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease.  Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.  The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.

 I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it … if it will save her."  As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

 He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?"

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

* * *

Live with no regrets. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt, and dance like you do when nobody's watching.

royexum@aol.com


The High Cost Of The Unnecessary County District Expansion

Roy Exum: Albom On Oxford

Senator Dole's Secret Kindness To My Dying Dad


The cost of redistricting to 11 County Commission seats, and potentially 11 school board members, should have been disclosed to the public prior to approval. Now that the redistricting plan is ... (click for more)

I never got to know Mitch Albom back in my sports writer days. We covered some of the same events but other than an occasional “How ya doin’?” the only thing we had in common was he worked at ... (click for more)

Senator Dole asked me to keep this story low key, and I have honored his wishes until his passing this week. My 85-year-old dad lay dying in a hospital bed here in Chattanooga, never to ... (click for more)



Opinion

The High Cost Of The Unnecessary County District Expansion

The cost of redistricting to 11 County Commission seats, and potentially 11 school board members, should have been disclosed to the public prior to approval. Now that the redistricting plan is approved, the public is learning about the real costs. The redistricting plan for Hamilton County turned out to be much more costly than the public was aware of, and, to add insult to injury, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Albom On Oxford

I never got to know Mitch Albom back in my sports writer days. We covered some of the same events but other than an occasional “How ya doin’?” the only thing we had in common was he worked at the Detroit Free Press and I was at the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Then Mitch entered our hearts in 1967 with the wonderful book, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” and, man, he was off to the races. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

City Council Approves Ordinance That Gives City More Leeway On Removing Homeless Camps

The City Council on Tuesday approved on second reading an ordinance designed to give the city more leeway in removing homeless camps or individuals camping out on city property. The ordinance says: "It shall be unlawful for any person to obstruct, vandalize, place or cause to be placed any buildings, erections, depositories, fires, or other obstructions, for private use, benefit ... (click for more)

8 Apartments Damaged And 17 Residents Displaced After Fire At Waterford Place Apartments Tuesday Evening

Eight apartments were damaged and 17 residents have been displaced after a fire Tuesday evening. Residents knocked on doors to make sure their neighbors safely escaped their burning apartment building. At 6:49 p.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department was called to the Waterford Place Apartments at 6220 Shallowford Road. The first company on the scene advised that heavy smoke ... (click for more)

Sports

UTC Men Rout Lipscomb 85-64

The Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team survived a second-half swing in momentum and continued its winning ways on the road following an 85-64 rout over Lipscomb inside Allen Arena on Sunday evening in Nashville, Tennessee. Chattanooga has now won its last 10 non-conference road games dating back to 2019 and improves its season mark to 7-1 following the victory. Lipscomb ... (click for more)

Randy Smith: Vols Heading Back To Music City

The Tennessee Volunteers will be seeking their fifth straight bowl game win on December 30th as they take on Big Ten power Purdue in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. The Music City Bowl is nothing new to the Big Orange as the Vols will be making their third appearance in Nashville in their last six bowl contests. The Vols under Derek Dooley lost to North Carolina in 2010, 30-27, ... (click for more)