Lesson Learned (January 27)


“Day by day, oh dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”

This song came to mind Election Day, January 15, 2022, when our mountaintop community in the central Appalachians voted not to build a new career technical Buckhannon-Upshur High School. I remember the Broadway musical “Godspell” which contains the song “Day by Day.” From a deep, deep memory welling up into consciousness, I am comforted by the faithful words and the pure melody.

My ancestry is Scots-Irish. When our ancestors sailed the Atlantic Ocean from the rocky and rugged islands making up Scotland and Ireland, they made their way from the broad plains of the Virginia Piedmont into the western mountains, seeking independence and freedom in splendid isolation. I know that I still have a strong backbone and a cautious nature, probably from my heritage.

My Lesson Learned today is summed up nicely in this song that is a simple prayer to God: “To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”

The vote appears a lopsided and resounding defeat for a new high school: 30% of 10,000 registered voters cast their ballot, 20% favored and 80% opposed. Folks that I respect, after a heap of living in our “Almost Heaven” home, have spoken.

While I am not cynical, I do recall Winston Churchill, who once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others that have been tried.” His cynicism was perhaps justified after the British people voted him out of his position as Prime Minister within months of winning World War II.

Fortunately, the hard knock life that makes us tough grants us the ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way. After hearing the vote, our Board of Education indicated plans to regroup. We still have a Mission to accomplish, including helping our students gain employability: “The Mission for Upshur County Schools is to provide academic preparation, social responsibility, employability, and a desire for lifelong learning.”

Curious about my Godspell memory, I did the 21st century search by Googling “What does the word ‘Godspell’ mean?” Matching my ancestry, I learn the Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” means “good story.”

After nearly 50 years of doctoring in the hills, I recollect many patient stories. One hero of fighting America’s wars came to my trauma clinic at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the mountain village of Parsons, WV. He had served three tours in the jungles of Vietnam, finally being totally overwhelmed psychiatrically. The Army gave him a military discharge, awarding 100% disability for the rest of his life. He was told to go back to his home among the hills of West Virginia and spend the rest of his days hunting and fishing. However, traumatic memories haunted him day and night. In that day his request to me as his doctor was simplistic: “Doc, I need Jesus, the Great Physician, to touch me. I pray to God ‘to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly.’ I will give Uncle Sam my pension back if I can have my health back!”

We both cried because he was asking for a miracle. I did enroll him in our Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Rehabilitation program, where he learned that he could create fishing lures. By focusing down to one task—making the best bass lure possible—he could quiet the sound and fury of war raging in his head. Learning an employable trade brought him a measure of peace and purpose.

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