Clay Gunter – Once Upon a Time . . .

What began as  a personal blogging hiatus, there has been such a positive response to the  to the Guest Blogging Crew, I am making this a regular feature on my blog. It is my intention to expose new/different voices to a larger audience so if you are interested in submitting an idea, please feel fill out this form. Today I welcome Clay Gunter and his post on our collective “Fairy Tale.” Clay Gunter is a public school technology teacher in Cherokee County Georgia. He is a ruling elder at Heritage Presbyterian Church (USA). He is married to his college sweetheart Laura and they have two daughters.

[photo by pasukaru76]

“Once Upon a Time . . .”

It is how all good stories start. Now usually these stories are for children and usually they are called fairy tales. However, I have learned that the things we call fairy tales were in fact based at least initially on truth. And that although they were told to children the lessons were really intended for the adults reading them to their kids as bedtime stories.

For example, Cinderella’s step-family should have shown kindness and perhaps they would have ended up with her in the castle . . . The Emperor with his fancy new clothes that were not really there would have been less, shall we say, exposed had his vanity about outward appearances not consumed him . . . and perhaps lives would have been saved if the Boy who Cried Wolf had only done so when it was really true . . .

Good lessons all . . .

We even have American fairy tales . . .”Once Upon a Time” George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and valiantly told his father… a lesson about honesty for American society.

I am scared however that we are now embarking on a new era of fairy tales that are less happy and certainly won’t end with they lived happily ever after that I may have to share with my grandkids . . . now I’m not anywhere ready for those Grandkids yet . . . I am far far to young a man but someday perhaps some kids I could spoil and send back home to terrorize their parents would be fun . . .

But what about those new fairy tales I am discussing…what will follow the line “Once Upon a Time . . .”

Well Once Upon a Time we had a county and a community that valued the common good while protecting and caring for individual needs . . .

Once Upon a Time we had statesmen called to public service . . . not politicians called by special interests…

Once Upon a Time community leaders asked how they could help We the People not simply how they can help themselves or their narrow clique.

Once Upon a Time people valued open eyed listening over blind screaming.

Once Upon a Time we appreciated words as paragraphs and stories not simply as sound bites that school across the bottom of CNN or Fox.

Once Upon a Time we learned about and we wanted neighbors. In fact, we asked you to Please Be Our Neighbor. (And we did so via a very spiffy little tune!)

Once upon a time my parents made hate an outlawed word. I could dislike all I wanted but not hate. Now bumper stickers proclaim hate as a virtue and a first grader I work with told me his Mom said it was fine to hate his teacher.

Once Upon a Time we thought that service to community, public safety and education was important and that even though we would never pay cops or teachers or firefighters enough we could at least value them with our respect…not devalue them as non-humans that get paid too much from MY taxes.

Once upon a time the idea of philosophy was prized. We treasured this love of wisdom. Einstein was both a scientist and a truth-seeker. Ben Franklin was a writer and an electrician. Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, George Washington Carver and Margret Mead to name but a few all sought insight and understanding from an eclectic range of ideas and skills. They didn’t just focus on just that which would make them the most money or help them acquire the greatest fame. And We the People appreciated this acquisition of a smorgasbord of knowledge and understanding – we wanted more than for folks than just grabbing a value menu McNugget of an education.

Once Upon a Time we shared lives our lives with one another while respecting the need for privacy…We didn’t value privacy above all and see no need in sharing anything beyond our personal status on Facebook.

Once Upon a Time we both taught the importance of accepting responsibility for mistakes. We found those who choose to assign blame reprehensible. Today those who make the best excuses are certainly not ridiculed and are often now seemingly celebrated.

Once Upon a Time priorities were different . . .

Once Upon a Time we felt pride in the building of our roads and parks, our schools, courthouses and hospitals…WE THE PEOPLE did that . . . and we did not say well if I don’t use that road or park or if I don’t have kids why should I contribute. WE were community.

Once Upon a Time we sat on front porches and waved, we didn’t hide on back decks behind fences…

“Once Upon a Time . . .”

Now I am not saying it was all perfect . . . I imagine Cinderella could be a whiney teenager who certainly shouldn’t have always gotten her way and might have needed to get grounded on occasion from the party . . .

And even I who am anything BUT a Project Runway participant I have taken a second look in the mirror when I looked particularly dapper.

I even doubt that George Washington the father of our country was always truthful.

And certainly there has always been evil. Tax dollars were misused. Bad people, bad teachers, bad cops all existed and needed to be confronted.

BUT Once Upon a Time the question was how can I help, not how can I get, and then get even more.

Once Upon a Time we really tried to follow the concept of blessing others being more important than just getting mine.

And most importantly Once Upon a Time it started with the leaders . . .

And then I realized that in the midst of my complaining that those leaders are us . . . damn it.

If you and I don’t want these things to that were once so highly valued to become “Once Upon a Time Fairy Tales” of a time gone by then you . . . I . . . need to step up and step out.

Now I know Once Upon a Time it seemed we had more time . . . we had less pressure . . . more money . . . but those are all excuses . . .

Seems times were tough in the American Revolution, Civil War, Reconstruction, During the Great Depression, Some World Wars, Civil Rights, even during the Disco era . . .

Life is full of pressure . . . it always has been . . .

We can blame our current situation on the breakdown of our churches or schools or political parties or government or any other institution or simply society as a whole but (damn it) WE make up all of those things.

The question is will we step up for what those once upon a time forefathers called the common good. It’s not even a case of can we…Because in all reality it really comes down only to a matter of our personal and collective will. It’s a matter of choice. It’s a matter of a desire to take a first step and then another and another and all the while getting others to take those steps with us . . .

Will it be easy . . . no . . . but attaining that which has value never is easy.

Will it always be successful . . . no . . .but if you recall even our American Constitution was a “do-over” from the Articles of Confederation . . .

BUT can it be done…can we replace pessimism, anger, and disdain with hope, joy and compassion . . .

We can…It only takes the will. As Margaret Mead reminds us all, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It’s time to step up and step out…To get rid of panic and begin to organize. I hope someday that this will be the Once Upon a Time story I can share . . .

“Once Upon a Time in some dark days the Vision seemed to be fading but together We the People would not let the darkness over take the light and instead it once again raised her statues torch light to be a beacon of hope for the world to see.”

May it be so!

2 comments

  • Awc100  

    Brother I could not have said it any better. We have the divine responsibility to affect the people’s lives we encounter for the better, and especially to teach our children hope, love, and accountability of their actions.

  • Steve Puster  

    To quote the indominatable Pogo “We have met the enemy and they is us”.  We often complain that “they” should do this and “they should do that.  Clay rightly points out that WE are “they”.  And nothing is lost as long as WE work to keep it.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Have these blog posts delivered right to your inbox! SUBSCRIBE
Get your eCopy of ORDER NOW