Good memories and the promise of more!

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Stetson University in DeLand, FL
Stetson University in DeLand, FL

“Share of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you!” – Deuteronomy 15

Wednesday in Central Florida was a day for good memories. Not nostalgia, but gratitude. Nostalgia tends to be a slanted, paralyzing mythology that does disservice to both the past and the present; good memories are simply grateful.

with Linda (Parson) Davis
with Linda (Parson) Davis

So, after a morning of writing in the library, I met our great friend Linda Davis for lunch. Linda, who has served Stetson in many capacities – including vice-president – is now “Special adviser to the president for philanthropy.” And, when the special adviser to the president for philanthropy goes to lunch with someone who is in no position to write a big check to the university, then you know you’re a real friend!

Linda is the one who first introduced me to Stetson, back in 1976; and her wonderful parents, Harold and Rabel Parson, let me treat their place – Echo Ranch – like my second home.

Both in their early 90’s, and both under the care of hospice, Harold and Rabel are nearing the end of their pilgrimage here on Earth. Rebekah and I swung by for a visit, and we were delighted to find them talkative and in good spirits. There’s a line from the original Star Wars movie that can’t be improved on when it comes to explaining the effect their passing will have (not only the community of DeLand but the world): “There has been a disruption in The Force…”

with Rebekah at Echo Ranch
with Rebekah at Echo Ranch

From Echo Ranch we drove over to Orlando to see Rebekah’s step-mother, Myrt Alexander, before driving into Winter Park to enjoy a relaxed reprise of our favorite dating activity from the late 1970’s.

We parked, then walked the streets around Park Avenue. We window-shopped; we wandered around boutiques we could never afford and still can’t; we wondered at the proliferation of exotic cars; we tried on ridiculously priced clothing and wondered if the Rollins College students shopped there (probably); we read the menus outside the French bistros; we watched Amtrack trains pull into the station, and imagined jumping on to explore America by rail; we stood outside the Park Avenue Plaza hotel (a place we did, eventually, check into August 18, 1979); we smooched at various street corners; we finished the complete loop; and then we walked around again.

This time, however, rather than grab coffee and a fresh-fruit milkshake at the East India Company, we wrapped up our date with a long dinner at the Italian restaurant across from the train station. It was a good evening.

On Park Avenue in Winter Park
On Park Avenue in Winter Park

At the beginning of this post I mentioned the difference between good memories and nostalgia. It’s an important distinction, I believe, because nostalgia can be a paralyzing force in politics, in the church, and in our lives and relationships. Nostalgia leverages a false, or contrived narrative of the past, to conjure an emotional response in the present, that seeks to manipulate decisions regarding the future. Good memories, on the other hand, simply say “thank-you” to the experiences we have shared in the past; they are building blocks for more good memories today, and lead us to look forward to more good memories in the future.

This week I’ve been so pleased to see that, fond as our memories are, the Stetson University of today is more beautiful, more accomplished, and offers more for the future than the Stetson we attended almost four decades ago. Winter Park, too, has moved into a present that is far beyond the Park Avenue of our memories.

at the soccer field this morning
at the soccer field this morning

It’s like that at our faith community too. Wake Forest Presbyterian Church has some spectacular history, as well some difficult years; but – as Carly Simon sang so eloquently – “These are the good old days!” And, because of that, tomorrow has every opportunity to be brighter still!

In hope, in gratitude, and in promise – DEREK



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