Today, Sarah and I enthusiastically voted – after standing in line for a mere hour and a half. I’m sure there are plenty of other people in this nation who waited much longer than that today. It was drizzling and a little cold, but it went by fast, especially since we had one another’s company. We met some of the candidates for the office of mayor and school board here in Richmond. We are a “swing district”, so the candidates wanted to catch us as we stood in our long lines. I asked two of the mayoral candidates the same question – “What makes you different than the people you are running against?” I asked that question because most of my research on the candidates showed that they all pretty much said the same thing – “We need better schools.” “We need to be responsible with the city’s finances.” “We need to make sure we develop the city and think about the needs of the people at the same time.” “We need this, we need that, blah, blah, blah.” I got to hear them try to distinguish themselves while they were talking face-to-face with me. One of the candidates impressed me more than the other in his answer, so I voted for that guy.
Anyway, I really want to share about my week of juggling at school assemblies in Mississippi last week. A church in Northern Mississippi sponsored me to come in and teach about “perseverance” with my juggling show to the local public schools in their area. The church also had me perform at some events at their own church. It was a great time with some great southern hospitality. In fact, one of the best parts of my meals was the option to have tea flavored sugar (others call it sweet tea). A few things about the culture in Mississippi surprised me. First of all, the county in which I stayed was a completely “dry” county. Not only were alcohol sales banned, but you could not even possess alcohol in your homes. They are voting today on whether to allow liquor to be sold in the county. Secondly, and more surprising to me, was the “wooden paddle.” As I was setting up for my juggling assembly at one of the public elementary schools, a teacher about my age walked in with her class – with a wooden paddle in her hand. Yes, they still paddle the kids in parts of America. This paddle was a bit bigger than a ping pong paddle yet smaller than a racquetball racquet. It was made of wood and had tape wrapped around the middle that was flapping off a little bit. I almost could not believe my own eyes. My friend told me that when he was in High School, the High School shop class would make the paddles for the elementary school. Wow. Now parents do have to sign a waiver allowing the child to be paddled if necessary. Apparently, most of the parents are cool with it.
All in all, I had a great time. And I hope to visit my friends again in the great state of Mississippi.