Thursday, May 10, 2007


"If the novel has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people able to come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those who go under...? I only know that the survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about the people who had gumption and the people who didn't." Margaret Mitchell @ Macmillan 1936

This old Southern belle has traveled this week to the city of Margaret Mitchell's lore--Atlanta, Georgia. And although I didn't have time to do much except take in a Braves game and take in a couple of nice meals, I was able to confirm that the South has not lost its reputation for hospitality and quiet gentility. People are friendly, genuine, and accommodating. And yes, Virginia, there are still gentlemen who open doors for ladies.

Yet even under the beautiful skylight of Atlanta, there is a sad truth. There are people struggling to survive in her streets. Beggars lined the walkway into Turner Field. Homeless men spread their blankets out in droves in the doorway and on the steps of churches downtown. And somewhere in the darker alleyways I'm sure there were those who sold their bodies in order to survive. It makes one pause to wonder, what on earth happened to these unfortunate souls to cause them to lose, in Mitchell's words, their "gumption?"

It was hard not to throw money at each of the beggars lining the street. I averted my eyes and walked a little faster, clutching my purse to my side. I could not help them all. And in the world in which we live today, I suppose I was a bit too frightened to get within arm's reach. My dear Southern husband pulled me closer to his side and a couple steps farther from them. I think he even tossed some money into one elderly man's plate who was playing the harmonica for his supper. It was a wake up call to me. I live a sheltered life. And there for the grace of God, go I. And it made me appreciate some of the things I am blessed to have.

Like family and good friends. Like the ability to feed and clothe my child and send him to a good school. Like being able to sleep in a bed under a roof of a very nice home. Like having not one, but three nice vehicles and not having to walk everywhere I go. We take these luxuries for granted. And yet, life has no guarantees. One tragedy, and it could all disappear.

Maybe it is what Margaret Mitchell deemed to be "gumption," but I'm not so naive to realize that what I have in life is not because of anything really that I have done. There is a bigger force that comes into play. I don't deserve all I have. I am not better than anyone else. I am blessed beyond measure with unmerited favor. All Americans are afforded some measure of this--here in the land and lap of luxury. And although some might like to call it gumption or even fate, I know deep down it's neither. It's called "grace."


Dawn said...

Just came back from Georgia, but only saw the airport in Atlanta. I know what you mean, though - the homeless presence in Washington D.C. is unbelievable!

Cool Mama said...

Hi! I'm not always posting comments, but I do drop in and read...loved your post. Does make one stop and think...and be thankful for what 'unmerited' favor, doesn't it?? I know too, after taking a walk thru the streets around here, with one of our local police - that the stories from those on the street, are often heartbreaking...but what saddens me most, is not the ones who are there because of bad choices, but the ones who are there because they chose to! They've lost the concept of anythign better being within rreach, or they've settled for what they have. I think I get more nervous around them, becuase I hope that kind of despair never comes to my door!

Gretchen said...

Good post.
I have noticed a shrinking of the middle class lately that's been nagging at me a lot. I'm like you. I am a bit sheltered too so I can appreciate your post.
God bless you.
Gretchen Lavender

C. H. Green said...

Thanks for stopping by girls. I appreciate the thought-provoking comments.