UI – Part 477 – Who Am I (Identity)
Identity is what we all seek. Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Why do we exist? You need to discover for yourself. Here is a short assessment about me.
Who I am
I am an American, proud of our nation and the freedoms we enjoy and the protections our Constitution offers. I am a Christian having faith in Christ who died on the cross as punishment for my transgressions, according to the Bible. He was buried and three days later rose from the dead, according to Scripture. Having been forgiven, following Christ’s example provides the foundational principles for living a life filled with hope, joy, and loving others. My purpose is to live my life for God, as he purposed me to do, as an example in my work, my play, my family, and my friends.
By loving God, having faith in Christ, I can love our Country and my fellow Americans. I am a Balderston also, having grown up in a loving family who introduced me to my faith, provided a framework to obey authority while at the same time exploring my independence to learn on my own, for myself, how my family, community, church, ministers and congregants, and government performs. I was encouraged to ask questions. Tolerance of others in a pluralistic society is a necessity to maintain calm, to observe and gain insight from others, whether in accord or not, to maintain objectivity and to shape and foresee a future that benefits my family, community and Nation.
My mothers parents worked, her father a baker, her mother a housekeeper, her own and others. My mother loved words, knowledge and education. She encouraged learning, not just in school, but after school, throughout life. History was of critical importance and much that happened in the past can and has been repeated. A foundation of understanding of prior events can prevent repeating mistakes and provide insight into decisions to be made. We must embrace evidence from prior times, architectural remnants, witness testimony and recorded documents. She also loved the Bible and the answers it had for everyday. It shined light on the truth that gave her comfort and a future to look forward too. She shared her feelings.
We were not wealthy. I never had a piece of sports equipment that I owned as working, as a paper boy or delivering groceries, or selling Christmas trees and cutting lawns was more my daily non-school activity. My brother’s too. With other children in the neighborhood there was step-ball, hose and stick ball, as well as roller skating on the asphalt narrow street, chalk lined with pathways and obstacles, before our row house. The metal skates were strapped onto our shoes or sneakers. We had to step aside when cars approached as the road, when cars were parked on both sides, was just slightly more than a single lane. Our TV was small, black & white, when we got a TV. You needed to be close to the device if you wanted to see it properly and certainly to change the channels (no remote, and just 3 channels). I remember seeing my first color TV on display in the picture window of a bar lounge, the TV on and facing the street, that was on the way to my high school. It was made by RCA. In our row house there was one bathroom and one telephone. The coal fired furnace had been modified to take oil, the bin for the coal when delivered still in evidence in the basement. The basement was not my favorite place unless my father was there where he plied his woodworking hobby. It was dark with the light switch at the bottom of the stairs. The basement had a door that led to a rear alley and our one car garage, accessed from outside only. The kitchen looked over the alley. My Mom could hear horse and carriage clomping down the alley with produce for sale, or a small truck beeping with the tools to sharpen knives and scissors, and other vendors, to include egg and milk delivery wagons.
Besides my brother and parents, my mother’s father lived with us. There was no Sega, games played were board games that required other participants. Card games filled many evenings and weekends when most if not all of us were together, as family and with close friends. Penny poker was most popular. Grandpop would sit in his cushioned chair in the front left corner of the living room, by the piano, which only my mother played (my brother and I just could not get into it), his snuff box near, and just observe what we were all doing.
There was no welfare. We lived on what we earned and could share with cousins and neighbors. There were church suppers that provided a buffet at least weekly that gave Mom a break from making 3 meals each day and the clean up after, sans dishwasher. We did help, but did not do the job as well as Mom preferred. Dad made Sunday dinner as my brother and me went to church with Mom. The pews were oak, hard and the sermons seemed way too long. I remember Truman and Ike. As to WWII I only remember visiting downtown on a day when troops were returning. I was holding my father’s hand and an American flag as uniformed soldiers disembarked from Navy vessels to cheers from the crowds. On occasions, few, when we visited an uncle at the beach, I recall avoiding oil globs that would stick and be most difficult to remove, except with alcohol. When Kennedy was shot I was in the army.
My grandfather paid for my college credits. I needed to provide for my housing and meals. I joined ROTC and worked in a fraternity. It worked. I was not the best student as the new found freedoms I experienced at school where too tempting and far exceeded in time consumed that which was necessary for studies. I met many people whose background and status was very different, who did not need to work to attend. They were good people and some became friends. In time I was invited to join the fraternity.
As a member of the military I realized very quickly the need for cooperation and teamwork along with people from all corners of our Nation, of all colors, religions and persuasions. I was there to defend our freedoms and our Constitution. I was their to protect our borders and keep America safe. I saw a greater beauty to the stew that is America. We should all serve. The experience was invaluable. Those that serve gain respect for self and Country as a result.
After my service I had a greater appreciation for education and study. I worked and attended night school, incurring no college debt. Applying myself properly to the courses offered I began to discover more about myself and my direction. I found what I was learning exciting and enlightening. I remembered how much my mother encouraged us to learn and saw the light. This time I was self-motivated. Work was never a trial as the weekly pay check was always a reward greater than expected. Showing up on time, or ahead of time, and staying after the end of the day, and making myself available to others when my assignment was complete expanded my view of the array of opportunities and needs of my employers. As a result I was given extra tasks and more than not extra compensation.
From my military service I realized differences can and should be embraced. We are all the same under the skin. Coupled with a more conscientious school experience, discussions, debate, compromise and an open-minded approach (ears to listen before mouth to speak) became the requisite to create a balance that keeps life’s teeter-totter working, as it cannot just have one end heavy-laden sitting on the ground with the other resting high above. That would make it difficult for either end to jump down or rise up. A balance is needed where both ends have their feet on the ground.
Yes, I am all that which the above enabled, my cultural identity began at home but evolved. It was influenced by others outside my family circle, during my college years, my service to Country, my various jobs, and visiting churches and listening to the message. In time my wife and her family and friends provided new insights, my neighbors and then my children. I have also become more conservative in my thinking. I am not privileged. I am white. I am heterosexual. I love God. God loves me. I do think there is hope for this world. There is certainly joy. There is chaos also, most of which I cannot fully understand. It seems to me the chaos arises from a lack of tolerance, knowledge, understanding and loving of all of humanity. Bitterness and hatred towards third parties, without a clear understanding or refusal to become more aware, is embraced by far too many whom I feel have been neglected in some ways and suffer greatly from their own insecurities, thus needing a target upon which to focus their frustrations. They lack relationships, especially a relationship with God. We can have preferences, I know I do. But we can also respect others and give them the space they need to express themselves without being shouted down or bombed with eggs, stones or military might. They need to respond in kind.
There is more. I wrote a book, my testimony. Titled: Wake Up! Wake Up! The Testimony of a Layman. Message me (incl an address) via Twitter (@TomBalderston) and the first 30 will receive an autographed copy.
There is so much more I can say about what shaped who I am, but enough is enough. Now you have a better idea of the source from which my thinking, my writing and my blogging is founded. I feel blessed and am most thankful to the Lord our God.
Grace and Peace