Sunday, August 23, 2015
Jimmy Carter for Cancer Survivor
My husband, George, and I learned early on in our life that you shouldn’t put off today what you may never get to do again. We call these “Janis Joplin” opportunities. In July 1970, George and I spent his R & R from Viet Nam in Honolulu. We learned that our all-time favorite rock singer, Janis Joplin, was appearing at the International Center Arena during our stay. We stood in line at a local record shop to buy tickets. At the very last moment, we decided our time on the Island was short and that, “we’d have plenty of other opportunities to see Janis.” So, we walked away. Three months later we realized we squandered an opportunity to make a lasting memory due to her untimely death.
On Monday, I learned of Georgia’s very own, former President Jimmy Carter’s battle with Cancer and I knew George and I were faced with a Janis Joplin opportunity. We had discussed going to Plains to hear the President teach Sunday School for quite some time, but never made the trip. Unaware of the thousands of other people with the same feelings, I made motel reservations in Americus for Saturday night.
On Saturday morning, accompanied by another couple, we set off on our adventure to southwest Georgia. Plains is a mere 100 miles from High Falls but the contrast is notable. Farm after farm. Field after field of dried up corn stalks. Field after field of green plants we could only guess was peanuts or cotton. Something new on the landscape was a field of solar panels. The most significant difference is that we were BELOW the gnat line. The gnats were so bad, we had to cut holes in the seat of our britches to keep the gnats out of our eyes.
Instead of going to straight to our motel in Americus, we decided to do a reconnaissance trip to Plains so we would know where the church was located for our Sunday School visit with President Carter. Uh, Oh. The half-street town was bustling! All roads leading to, and in and around the town, were flanked with signs reminiscent of Carter’s political signs. At the top, with a black background it reads, Jimmy Carter. Below that, with a green background, it reads, for Cancer Survivor. I approached a police officer and asked, “Where can I get one of those signs?” He directed us to the Plains Historic Antiques and Inn, “last building on the left” and said to ask for Miss Jan. I later learned this was Jan Williams, a close Carter family friend, and we labeled her the “gate-keeper” for all things Jimmy in Plains.
As we entered the door to the shop, a lady was standing by a few of the Jimmy Carter for Cancer Survivor yard signs. I knew this was the right place. We introduced ourselves and she said she was Jill Stuckey. George and I looked at each other with that brain-spinning look. Years ago, we were actually acquaintances of her late husband, had even been to their house, and met their prized companion, a Jack Russell Terrier. Small world. Jill is the Chairman of the Board of Friends of Jimmy Carter Historic Site.
I asked Jill to tell me the origin of the signs. She related that on Monday, Mike Luckovich, the two-time Pulitzer prize recipient, editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, featured the sign in his cartoon. She called the AJC and got permission to use his creation for the signs. The vision was to display the signs in the town to show support to Jimmy when he returned from his first chemo treatment on Thursday. A huge rush ensued to get the signs designed, printed, and in the ground. The signs achieved their purpose because Jimmy was said to be very happy and appreciative. Jill says not only has the demand gone world-wide, President Carter asked her to order more. If you want your own yard sign, contact Friends of Jimmy Carter Historic Site (FJCHS). They are a tad pricey at $25 each, but the proceeds go to cancer charities and FJCHS.
Now I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we opted not to attempt to go to Sunday School due to Ms. Jan warning us of the low odds of getting a seat. Turns out that was a good decision. People spent the night in sleeping bags.
The good news is that we were able to attend Rosalynn’s birthday celebration that featured the amazing St. Genevieve High School Jazz Band and Chorus from Los Angeles, California. It was hard not to dance in the aisle. It was held in the small high school auditorium that is now an historic site. Jimmy’s smile lit up the room as he sat with Rosalynn and many of their family members and friends. We felt blessed to be there and we didn’t have to sleep on the ground.
Remember, if there is something that you want to do, go ahead and do it! Don’t let a Janis Joplin opportunity pass you by.