Archives for the month of: August, 2014

A trip to Alaska has been on my bucket list for a long time. I have finally done it. It was worth the wait.

Breathtaking is not an adequate word to describe the scenery. At one point a fellow traveler said, “God really got it right,” as he stared at the awesome panorama.

Mt. McKinley (native name, Denali) is the highest peak in North America at 20,237 feet.

It was a clear morning as we drove north from Anchorage and we were able to see the mountain from the base to the peak. It was amazingly beautiful. Our guide told us that weather conditions allow only 30% of people who visit Alaska to get even a glimpse of this majestic peak.

A visit to the Mendenhall Glacier just a few miles outside Juneau was an incredible experience. We also got a close up view of the Hubbard Glacier. It is 76 miles long, 7 miles wide, and 600 feet tall at its terminal face. 350 feet is exposed above the waterline. As we viewed this magnificent site you could hear repeated “thunder” as parts of the glacier broke off (calved) and fell into the water of the Russell Fjord.

We got a little taste of Alaska’s state sport as we took a sled ride pulled by a team of Alaskan Huskies at one of the dog sledding summer training camps near Skagway. Our musher, Wade Mars, finished 16th in the 1100 mile Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race this past spring. After the ride he took time to introduce us to each of his 16 dog team and told us about the personality and strengths of each dog.

It is hard to describe the rugged beauty of the 6 million acre Denali National Park. Its landscape is a mix of forest at the lowest elevations. It also is home to tundra at middle elevations, and glaciers, rock, snow at the highest elevations, and wide variety of wildlife. Add in the quaint town of Talkeetna, the ski resort of Alyeska,  and the glass domed train ride back to Anchorage for an unforgettable experience. But to say I have been to Alaska is like saying I have been to the Atlantic Ocean. You can see and touch only tiny fraction of its vastness and beauty.

In addition to enjoying the scenery I learned a lot about the 49th state. Anchorage is the largest city with just under 300,000 people. Fairbanks and Juneau are about the same with a population of slightly more than 30,000 each. And something interesting about the state capitol- you cannot drive to Juneau. There are no roads into the city. It is accessible only by air and water. Or by foot I guess if you could make it over the rugged mountains and ice field.

One interesting story was about the state flag. In 1927 a contest was conducted for children in grades seven through twelve to design a flag for the territory. Benny Benson, a 13 year-old boy won the competition. With his entry he submitted this description of his simple design: “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper  is for the Great Bear—symbolizing strength.” The flag was later adopted as the State Flag.

Alaska is big- more than 1/5 the size of the “lower 48.” You could fit Georgia into Alaska  11 times. It is 4 times larger than California and twice as big as Texas. More than 50% of  the coastline of the United States is in Alaska. Although its land mass is huge the state is very sparsely populated. Georgia has 148 times more people per square mile. If Georgia’s   population density were the same as Alaska’s, only 58,752 people would live in Georgia rather than the approximately 10 million current residents. Put another way- if Manhattan had the same population density as Alaska, there would be only 14 people in Manhattan.

Alaska really does have the feel of the last frontier. Rugged terrain, vast distances between cities and towns, limited connections between communities, cold and long winters. It is a great place to visit but I don’t want to live there.

As the plane touched down at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, in my head I could hear Ray Charles singing: “Other arms reach out to me. Other eyes smile tenderly. Still in peaceful dreams I see the roads lead back to you, Georgia!”

Jamie Jenkins

 

He made so many people laugh and now millions cry for him. The news of Robin Williams’ death on August 11 made me very sad. Here was a man who “had everything to live for” but took his own life. This tragedy is another reminder that life can be hard even when it seems that a person has everything going for them. It also reminds us that we can never know the depth of any person’s struggles.

Robin Williams burst into the public eye on the Mork and Mindy television series in 1978. His character Mork, an extraterrestrial alien from the planet Ork, quickly became a favorite of millions. In 1997, the episode “Mork’s Mixed Emotions” was viewed by 61 million people and is ranked 94 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

This manic comic brought much joy and laughter to millions of people with the multitude of voices and characters that he could call forth at the drop of a hat. In an article for Time Magazine Dick Cavett recalls an occasion years ago when Williams came off stage at a small club with the audience cheering wildly. This wacky comedian said to Cavett, “Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people, but not to myself.”

Robin Williams was more than an extraordinary comedian. He was also a talented serious actor. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. He received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.

It is no secret that this much beloved and talented comedian/actor struggled with substance abuse, anxiety and depression. He openly talked about his struggles and often incorporated them into his comic routines. And it was revealed after his death that he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

Former child actor Mara Wilson who played William’s daughter in the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, remembers him as “warm, gentle, expressive, nurturing, and brilliant.”

The circumstances of his death help us to realize that depression is what the late award-winning writer William Styron in an essay for Newsweek (April 18, 1994) called “an interior pain that is all but indescribable.” He said, “People don’t think rich, famous, funny people can suffer from depression. But they can. I know from experience that sometimes the ones who seem like they have the most going for them can be holding on by the slimmest threads.”

In a Huffington Post blog, sixteen year old Ally Del Monte recently wrote: “Depression doesn’t discriminate. It knows no boundaries. Young, old, rich, poor, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly, popular, nerd, loved, lonely- depression doesn’t see a difference and affects all kinds of people.”

It is estimated that 19 million American adults are living with major depression. The National Institute of Mental Health says many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medication, psychotherapy, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.

Depression has been called “the worst agony devised for man” but it is an illness and it can be treated. Unfortunately many people treat depression as something to be ashamed of or a sign of weakness instead of an illness just like cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Any illness, physical or mental, if untreated can do great harm. But with proper diagnosis, medication, and other forms of treatment health can be restored.

If you are depressed, seek treatment. If you know someone who is depressed, encourage them to get help. See a medical doctor, a mental health specialist, or your pastor. There can be life after depression. Don’t settle for anything else.

Jamie Jenkins

Southern Accent Reduction Class? Are you kidding me? People are actually teaching folks how to talk like they are not from the South?

Yep, that’s right. There are some people who see a southern accent as a liability. Can you imagine?

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory was fixin’ to offer classes to help folks lose their Southern accent. They had employed “a nationally certified speech pathologist and accent reduction trainer” to teach people to speak “with a more neutral accent.”

I agree with Sam Massell, former Atlanta mayor and current president of the Buckhead Coalition. He asked, “Why would anyone want to give up the advantage that comes with the warmth and hospitable persona that accompanies a Southern accent?” Why indeed?

After receiving complaints, Oak Ridge cancelled the classes. Boy howdy! I reckon they got the message.

When I moved to New York in the mid-60s people would ask me to repeat words that we southerners drag out. I worked at J. C. Penney’s and customers liked to hear the long “I” when I told them the price of the item was ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. The company should have paid me extra commission because of the sales that were made because of my “charming” southern accent.

According to Scientific American, “Studies have shown that whether you are from the North or South, a Southern twang pegs the speaker as comparatively dimwitted, but also likely to be a nicer person than folks who speak like a Yankee.” While I resent being considered “dimwitted” because of my accent (or for any reason), I am happy to be thought of as a “nicer person.”

According to a press release, Cupid.com surveyed 2,000 men and women and determined that 36.5 percent of respondents voted the Southern accent the most attractive. That was far more than any other regional accent. The survey by the dating site also concluded that the Southern accent is the country’s sexiest. At my age “sexiest” doesn’t carry much weight but I am glad to know that people consider the southern accent “attractive.”

The Apostle Paul said “there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.” He was writing to the Christian community but I imagine he would agree that one’s religion, ethnicity, culture, or language should not diminish the value of any individual.

In the New Testament Peter, James, and Paul- all leaders of the Early Church- expressed the same opinion about God’s attitude toward people. Each of them stated clearly that God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34, James 2:1, Romans 2:11).

We are all special creations of God, “formed in God’s own image,” reflecting God’s own nature. We may have different skin pigment. Our traditions and customs may vary. The languages we speak and our accents are many. But I suspect that those factors endear us to God.

I think those different qualities, and many more, are priceless. Just as many colors are needed to form a rainbow, our dress, the foods we eat, our mannerisms, and our accents are treasures that should be retained and not destroyed.

That’s my opinion. Do y’all agree?

Jamie Jenkins