gary's blog pictureIn the calm and everyday occurrences of life occasionally an event happens that is so heartwarming you must share with other people.  In the day of social media, individuals rush to post these events on Facebook. Others telephone or text a friend or go to the coffee shop where they can sit and share the event.  For someone who likes to write, you write.  Many times the writing goes to file 13 (trash can.) In any event  these processes, in the proper perspective, are healthy and provide a mental release.  So it is with this writing.

The Sound of laughter

In preparation for our traditional Thanksgiving gathering of the ‘Coker clan’,  June received a text from Kyle, our middle son, informing us that he and Natalie would be bringing two small children, Bryan (age 3, special needs child) and sister, Yari (age 4) with them along with Claire our 14 year old granddaughter.  Kyle and Natalie are active volunteers with the Agape of Georgia organization which provides faith- based foster placement for displaced children.  On an earlier occasion they had both of these children in their home while the mother was receiving intervention for drug abuse.

June and I began immediately trying to rearrange our lodging situation for the two little ones when the telephone buzzed a second time with another text from Kyle :  “Add two more to the dinner list.”  Children and Family services had removed four siblings from the home due to a relapse of the mother, with whom the children could no longer stay. In an effort to keep the brothers and sisters together, Kyle and Natalie graciously agreed to take the children for the holidays.  Lucy (age 7) and Uriel (age 10) joined Bryan and Yari for Thanksgiving with the Cokers.  An immediate transformation of bedrooms into multiple sleeping quarters was the order of the day.

Silent Sewing Machine 001

June and Yari

Joining our family were four children of mixed ethnicity who were coming from a dysfunctional family. Not exactly the Thanksgiving we had envisioned.  But it was here in the midst of these young children who were so appreciative of what they were experiencing, it was here in the midst of these children who watched after and cared for each other, it was here in the midst of the laughter of sleeping on the floor, it was here that we saw the joy of life and thanksgiving. We were blessed and are thankful for this experience.

A Revealing Party

When the activities of Thanksgiving Day subsided and the immediate family had left, a second event involving Kris, our oldest son, and his wife Rebecca occurred in Gallatin, Tennessee a few days later—-  ‘A gender- revealing party.’  I hasten to add; I had not attended nor heard of a party to reveal the gender of a new baby.   The pomp and circumstances of the event took on a grandness worthy of notice.  Kris and Rebecca had made arrangements for June, (someone who truly enjoys cake making and decorating), to be contacted by the technician from the physician’s office to give her the gender of the child after Rebecca’s ultrasound.  Under no circumstance should this information be revealed to anyone, including, Kris, Rebecca and me.  Obviously, as the saying goes, I began throwing bread (metaphor or hints) in the water (everyday behavior) to ascertain the sex of this upcoming event.   All to no avail.

A social gathering brought grandparents, parents, immediate family and friends together for the grand event.  The cake with its entire splendor was center stage.  The social hour prior to the main event was filled with excitement including several myths as to how to tell the gender of a child prior to birth.  This only added to the excitement  leading to the cutting of the cake by Kris and Rebecca.

The cake  was decorated with blue and pink icing made in the shape img_1820of  ‘diaper pins’, ‘baby rattles’, ‘booties’, and other items indicative of babies with a verse in the middle that read, “For I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”,  Psalm 139:14.

Crescendo, drum roll, voices became quite as Kris welcomed everyone by adding humor, “I am 45 and this is our first child and when I am 51 I will be the oldest father at the PTA meeting.”

It was time for the cake cutting and Rebecca cut the first slice revealing blue icing  in between the layers.  The announcement quickly followed for Kristian Luke Coker to arrive April 12, 2014

And all of God’s people said……………………………………..





gary's blog pictureWith Thanksgiving fast approaching, gratitude will once again take its place at the center of our tables, nestled somewhere between the mashed potatoes and cranberry relish.  Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday and memories of the family coming together to share a meal in the midst of fun and laughter brings cherished thoughts to my mind.  Invariable at these gatherings gratitude became a topic of our family traditions and/or spiritual practices.

How does one acquire and “attitude of gratitude” Is it something that can be taught?  Why do some people exude gratitude while others appear not to have the word in their vocabulary and certainly not in their lifestyle?

I am thankful for the ‘world at my fingertips.’  When you  really become curious about a topic,   unlike days of old where you were dependent upon the nightly 30 minute news broadcast or if you were really industrious you could go to the public library where you would be dependent upon the Dewey Decimal system  or you would search,  search and search.  Today through the internet, exploration of the archives and topics of research can be attained instantaneously. In a moment of curiosity a review of the word gratitude and its implications revealed some astonishing results.

Studies show that grateful youth have higher GPAs; experience more positive emotions, and ultimately, go on to live more meaningful lives.  In addition, gratitude among young high school students foster an increased sense of hope and trust in others and fuel a desire to give back to their community.  Most of the research in this area comes from Giacomo Bono, professor at California State University.  Equally impressive information comes from the American Psychological Association suggesting that practicing gratitude at a young age promotes later development of self-control and self-regulation, ingredients for lifelong success.  One piece of research indicates exercising gratitude in the home helps children feel more connected to their parents and community.

An article that I have used on many occasions was written by a teenager and is entitled “Love me when I am most unlovable”. In order to achieve a teachable moment when you are trying to love in an unlovable moment, is to first ‘Praise” in other words show gratitude.  Secondly “Prompt” give the proper behavior and thirdly ‘Leave” don’t nag or shout but leave the situation.  The first part of this approach is most important. The more a teacher/ parent can practice gratitude in his or her own life the more it will become a part of who they are. Consequently, parents who practice an attitude of gratitude will create a bond that is never going to be undone.

Here is a challenge for you the reader.  Think back over your years when you were in school or at your place of employment, what one attribute caused you to be more productive, have a positive attitude and in general have a ‘good’ feeling about yourself?  Was it an ‘Attitude of Gratitude?”

Keep the light burning.