Take a cup of kindness yet


The hands on the big grandfather clock approached midnight in our living room as Brenda and I tipped our glasses, and listened to the melodic chimes strike twelve.

Years ago, a parent of a former classmate told me of an old custom celebrated on New Year’s Eve. I mentioned it to Brenda and we nodded in agreement. “This might be the year to do it,” she said.

We walked to our entrance and opened the front door of the house at the last stroke of midnight “to allow the old year out and the New Year in.”

We appreciated the chance to be quiet and thoughtful as the year drew to a soft close. We thought about the hardships, family illness, employment concerns, and the other challenges we faced in 2016. The list seemed longer than usual for us.

Our gesture was symbolic, of course. We pictured the old year tumbling out of the house, past the bushes, and down the hill past the sidewalk and shrubs.

We talked about the challenges we have faced, and some we continue to face as the New Year dawns. We don’t whine and complain. Some suffer more than we do. As we looked back, with humility, we felt thankful to have weathered our trials so far.

As we closed the front door and turned the lock, I thought about how just three weeks earlier, someone pounded on our door in the early morning hours when no one is expected to be at our door. The knocking woke both Brenda and me, and we threw on our robes as we stumbled down the stairs.

I took three steps and stopped. My heart was pounding. I could see the wide-brimmed trooper hat sitting atop the head of the law enforcement officer. My thoughts raced. Son Greg works in Kentucky and his job requires him being on call and frequently traveling in the middle of the night.

“Oh, Lord, please let Greg be safe,” I prayed to myself as I jumped down the remaining steps and opened the door to the Clinton County Deputy Sheriff.

“Is everything OK, Officer?” I stammered the words locked in my throat.

“Yes, sir,” he answered. “There have been some vandals in the neighborhood, and I wanted to check to see if you had anything missing from your vehicles.”

For the first time in several minutes, I took a deep breath. He looked at me funny as I smiled. I was relieved.

After the deputy departed, Brenda and I sat on the couch and collected our thoughts. We talked about the scary feeling of an unexpected visit in the night by law enforcement personnel. She told me when she was 13 years old a highway patrolman had come in the night bearing the tragic news her brother, Dan, only 19, had been fatally injured in a car accident after leaving the Clinton County Fair earlier in the evening.

I then shared how as sheriff, I had to deliver death notices to families that had experienced the passing of a loved one. Those messages usually came in the middle of the night or early morning. I told her how I would wait in the cruiser as long as possible, because I understood that night could be the last night they ever experienced a peaceful sleep, maybe for the rest of their lives.

Our conversation drifted to another knock at a person’s door. Several years ago, friends Bruce and Vanessa McKee received an unwanted knock at their door.

“Your son Nehemiah has been in an accident. You will need to go to the hospital,” the officer told them.

Bruce and Vanessa McKee have been friends for many years. I have known Bruce all my life or so it seems. I hired Vanessa as a radio dispatcher at the Sheriff’s Office 30 years ago. Our hearts truly ached for them.

The words of the officer started a long, unknown and heartbreaking journey for the McKee family. Nehemiah had suffered a severe head injury and his medical status was unknown for a very long time.

The sense of grief and loss changes many families. They become lost. They become broken. Not the McKees. They are people of faith. Nehemiah still has a long journey in front of him, but as 2017 comes and 2016 departs, we all start fresh.

It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves at times. It’s a natural human emotion. There are always those who face greater challenge than we do.

For our friends the McKees and all others who have faced difficult life changing events in 2016, now is the time to look forward to better days to come, to a day when our prayers are answered.

“For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne,” we sing.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.


Pat Haley

Contributing Columnist

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