My Goal to Grow

When you’re throwing dirt, you’re losing ground,’’ Rocky Bridges, former manager of the Prince William Cannons of the Carolina League.

Through the first half-century or so of my life, I was the measuring stick for being six-feet tall.

If I looked up to you, literally, not figuratively – necessarily — you were taller than six-feet.

If I looked down on you, again, not for any reason other than physical dimensions, you were shorter than six-feet.

Imagine then my consternation a few years back when on a visit to the doctor I was measured at 5-11.

No way. Can’t be. I’m six-feet tall. Have been since I was 16.

Then came my most recent visit, when I was braced for the result when measured. The nurse’s read was 70 inches.

And 70 inches, as even my public school education taught me, is 5-10.

Talk about being brought up short.

My physicians assistant I’ve grown to like and trust bucked me up, so to speak, when I bellyached about the measurement. Other patients have found fault as well. The measurement is off. The scales need to be recalibrated.

Maybe. I’ve heard folks lose height with age, but I wonder could it really be that dramatic?

Maybe. Yet, what a comedown, in more ways than one.

What I’ve also heard – and too often witnessed – is that folks also grow smaller in other, far more significant ways the older they get. They get more judgmental. They’re quicker to impose their morals and belief systems on others. They demand conformity, whatever conformity happens to be at the time.

They become Old Fogies.

And if I can’t do anything about growing shorter in physical stature – other than maybe hooking myself up that spine-stretching contraption Barney Fife resorted to in The Andy Griffith Show – then I’ve made a vow to grow bigger in all the ways that really matter.

Instead of being quick to find fault, I’ll be slower. Instead of holding everyone to my standards, I’ll at least attempt to recognize there’s always an alternative viewpoint to any and every opinion.

And in those instances where we can’t find common ground – i.e., on the merits, or shall we say, demerits of our current President – I’ll endeavor to never call those with whom I disagree nasty, sarcastic, juvenile names.

Rocky Bridges, the manager-savant I was lucky enough to meet during my decades of covering Carolina League baseball for the Winston-Salem Journal, got it right. When you’re throwing dirt, you’re losing ground.

Our history, in many ways, makes us who we are. I came of age in Franklin, N.C., tucked away in the folds of the Smoky Mountains, and Franklin is as rock-ribbed Republican as just about any place you’ll find.

I know those who support and go to war – again figuratively, if not literally – for our current President. I grew up around them. Most, like me, are of Scots-Irish descent, and their heads, like mine, are as hard as mountain granite.

And what they won’t abide is to be looked down upon. Their forebears were looked down upon, dating all the way back to William Wallace of Braveheart fame. Or at least that’s how James Webb explains it in his illuminating book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.

We Scots-Irish develop a keen sense of smell from birth, one that can smell condescension from time zones away. I’ll go to my grave believing that condescension, or at least the implied whiff of it, was what kept Hillary Clinton from becoming our nation’s first female President.

I recognize that Macon County, my home county, will probably never in my lifetime vote for a Democrat for President. But our country is changing inexorably, and given shifting migratory and demographic patterns, the day may come when a Democrat can get from Macon County more than the 28 percent Clinton received in 2016.

But, the way I see it, ridiculing and mocking and even vilifying those who voted for Donald Trump, is no way to hasten that day. To disagree is important. I, personally, feel it’s imperative. But there are ways to disagree without resorting to derision or contempt.

Think of it this way. Donald Trump needs 69 percent of the vote of Macon County to be elected president. If it’s 59 percent in that mountain county, there’s no way he takes the White House.

So not only is name-calling sophomoric and condescending, it’s destructive.

I’ve come to realize that with almost every decision of my life, I can go one of two ways. I can be big about it, or I can be small.

And a person can’t be smaller than when they’re running another person down.

The older I get, the bigger I want to be – regardless of what those infernal scales at the doctor’s office might say.