Category Archives: Personal

I have seen the Promised Land

I've been to the mountaintop... and I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 3, 1968

It’s hard to explain. We call it a funk, or depression, or a million other things. And often times, we think we deserve it. We think it is a punishment. We are told it’s because our walk with God is weak, or because we are out from under authority.

Mental health is one of those things that’s not talked about, especially in the church community. But it is very real, and yes it affects Christians. If David, a man after God’s own heart, could write, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1-2), how are we to say that it is because we are out of fellowship? 

It is a serious thing. It is a dark and lonely thing. But while you pour yourself into the scriptures, fill your heart with songs and spiritual songs, and pray without ceasing, it is still okay to ask for help.

So here it is. I am on medications for depression and anxiety. I meet with a therapist on a regular basis. I have a wife who is understanding and supportive. And I have friends that encourage me. And I encourage them as well. You see, we all experience it. It is a part of life. It is not something we should be ashamed about.

I’ve not been suicidal, but I’ve been close before. Most people assume it started with the cancer, but it’s been around for years before that. It just took me until recent years to get to the place where I would ask for help. And I am so glad I did.

It gets better. It may get worse again after that, but the hope of it getting better is what can keep you going. I have seen the Promised Land. There are two of them: one that will last for eternity and one mortal one that can be life after cancer, depression, whatever you’re going through.  And I know that I will be there again one day. I decided long ago to keep pushing for the good days. There are good days and they are my (mortal) promised land. When the valley is deep and the shadows long, I remember the mountain and the beauty of the promised land. When I have an allergic reaction to the meds and my skin burns like fire, I think about the promised land. When I’m facing down a syringe that I know will cause my body to ache for days, I remember the mountain, and I think of the promised land.

We all work for something. A cure. Being able to go back to work. Being able to start a family. That vision is your promised land. Focus on your promised land. But like the civil rights movement from which I borrow the quote, you’re not going to get there overnight. It’s even more difficult alone. So if you need help, ask for it.

Talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends. Talk to your religious leader. Use the contact page and talk to me. As a friend posted earlier, “If you need help, look for it. It’s there. People want to help you, myself included. You ARE important. You DO matter. This time WILL pass. Depression isn’t a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly.” You’re not alone. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Waiting on the LORD

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

This was done for me by my good friend and multi-talented Claire Sanders Calligraphy.

Isaiah 40:31 has long been my favorite verse. From the eagle imagery to the promise we can run and not be weary and walk and not faint, has always spoken and ministered to me. But these promises come with a condition. I can’t go out, register for a marathon, and then claim that I will not grow weary and take off running. Continue reading

On history, memories, and things you’d rather forget

I’ve undertaken a project of late: digitizing and tagging my parents’ old photo albums. Part of it is quite the walk down memory lane. But with all the smiles, laughter, and fond recollections, some of them have a dark shadow too. We live in an era of omnipresent selfies, snapshots, and video streams. These images are curated and often manipulated into a false perception of reality for public consumption. The outtakes are deleted, leaving the illusion of perfection. But perfect was a bit more fleeting during the days of film. You had to wait and see what you had, and hope some of them were worth sharing. Continue reading

Traditions, tiny hamburgers, and a drive through the country

Many years ago, a Dublin Irish football player would leave practice to head downtown for some 10¢ hamburgers. I’ve never been told how many teammates accompanied him, but I can’t imagine there were many. There simply isn’t room in the establishment. These burgers, what we would today call sliders, were as small as the building that begat them. But these are not normal sliders, burgers, or even as some have called them  knock off Krystals. This delicacy of steamed beef and bread evolved from a snack for a hungry high schooler to become inextricably linked to what it means to be a part of my family. Continue reading

D-Day + Two Years

Diagnosis day, it’s here again. Some days reach the level you don’t even have to say what it is. Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. But not all of those anniversaries are good things. Some of them are reminders of the world turning upside down. Realizing that nothing would ever be the same. A total change in your perspective, in your life. Continue reading

Thoughts on Charlottesville

It has taken me a while to write this. My heart hurts with what has happened, and it is difficult for me to find words. However, I know I cannot be silent.

I am a Christian. I am male. I am southern. I am descended from ancestors who were primarily Anglican and Celtic. I am proud to be each of these, and I should be. They are who I am. They are what made me.

But, I am also angry. No, I am outraged. How DARE these perversions of everything I hold dear openly proclaim the direct antithesis of these values while claiming to operate under their banner?

My faith tells me God created all things, and all of humankind is in his likeness. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Scripture never mentions race. It talks about tribes and nations, but those are political and cultural differences.

More than being a man, I strive to be a gentleman. This means I treat everyone with civility and respect regardless of background, social standing, and or potential benefit to me. Even more than that, I am a southern gentleman. I say y’all, sir, and ma’am. I can brew the best sweet tea you have ever tasted and put away fried chicken with the best of them.

As I research my ancestors, I find men who fought with honor. Unfortunately, through the lens of history we see that their causes all had blemishes. Slavery during the Civil War is at the forefront, but the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, treatment of the Native-Americans during the westward expansion, and the allowance of slavery in the first place are all dark blemishes on our collective past. But, as painful as reminders of these can be, it is important to keep them at the forefront of our memory.

The memory of this nation is short. We need the reminders. We need to be shocked. We need to experience the pain of what we have done. Only through that will be always be on our guard to never let it happen again.

We cannot rewrite history. We must celebrate the accomplishments of the past while recognizing the failures of the same men we herald. There is no historical figure who was perfect, and neither are we. It is up to us to do the very best we can to strive towards the ideal of liberty and equality espoused in our founding documents. We will never be perfect, but we can be better. We must be better. We will be better.

That being said, there is no place in the political conversation for those who wish to eliminate or segregate all those who disagree with them. The foundation of our political system is discourse, not violence. Until we return to civility with each other, the nature of our republic itself is in jeopardy.

Violence has no place in the discussion, from either side. If you feel the need to resort to violence, you should re-evaluate your argument. White supremacists who defend your arguments with scripture, try reading it for yourself for a change. Don’t call yourself Christian until you start behaving like a follower of Christ. Don’t claim your racism represents southern heritage until you embrace how many aspects of southern culture came from Africa.

We are one nation. This nation was built on the idea that ALL men (and women) are created equal. They share the same rights, responsibilities, and struggles. We are all in it together. Let’s act like it.

Collegiate Recruiting: Finding the Next Generation

I had submitted this to QST for review, but apparently SueAnne Griffith’s piece (August 2017) was already in the pipeline ahead of mine. Granted, that assumption also requires that my submission was worthy of publication, but… I’m going to embrace the hubris that it was. 🙂

So, to keep it from going to waste, I am posting it here for your consideration.


Collegiate Recruiting:
Finding the Next Generation

Through the years, I have been involved with many aspects of student organizations, both as member, officer, and now advisor looking to revitalize the club at my alma mater.  Because of this, I have experienced many different styles of recruiting with varying levels of effectiveness. Now, I want to share my experiences in hopes of aiding the growth of other clubs as well.

Becoming known

Every campus has a special place where students gather. For my campus (Go Bobcats!), it was by “the fountain.” For others it may be the quad, student center, or tailgates. But the simple fact is, most institutions will not be willing to allocate a permanent space, and definitely not funding, to a group with only a few members. So recruitment must become a priority.

The Collegiate Amateur Radio Forum at Orlando Hamcation provided some great ideas, but more can be done. Here are some tried and true methods that have been proven effective time and again.

Effective Tabeling

Information tables are a college tradition, but most fall short of perfection. There are elements that will make your effort standout from the crowd. First, it needs to be catchy. Have a well designed banner so people know who you are – they can readily be found online for less than $50.  Have plenty of brochures and handouts as a takeaway item. Many are available from the ARRL, but it is also quite easy to adopt them to your campus.

Approach your local radio club for start-up assistance. See if they can provide go-kits for a demonstration on the table. A portable antenna will certainly be an eyecatcher among other groups who are tabling as well. They may even be willing to provide some funding for handouts and giveaways, which leads to the number one method of getting a college student’s attention: freebies!

Students love free food. It could be pizza, candy, or bags of chips or crackers. The one caveat to this, especially if you are in the south, is to avoid chocolate. It can quickly make a mess if left in sunlight or high temperatures. You can also consider koozies, frisbees, or flash drives (pre-loaded with some club fliers and information, of course).

Have volunteers rotate between talking on the radio and talking to passers by. Some should be in front of the table so it appears friendly and engaging. Be prepared to talk to students in all of the programs offered by the institution, not just STEM. Criminal justice and government majors will likely be attracted to the emergency communication and public service aspects. Journalism, marketing, and communication students will likely be interested in how it ties into the technology used for broadcasting. And yes, STEM students will be interested in the technology and maker aspects.

Keep in mind diversity at your table. Volunteers from your local club are great, but they are just a start. Do your best to also have college age volunteers. Get the YLs involved. If someone’s grandchild is popular in Greek Life or athletics, offer him a lunch to spend an hour with you.

Follow-Up

Outreach is only the first step. You can have a table with dozens of people surrounding it the entire time period, and it still be a failure. Don’t just give out cards, have people sign-up for an email list. You could even include a drawing for a gift card to a local restaurant or the campus bookstore. Then use that information.

Send out an email to everyone who stopped by thanking them for their time and inviting them to follow your club on social media.  Let them know about upcoming events and talks, or license classes. Remember, just because they may not be interested in getting licensed right now, they still may show up for discussions specific to their interest.

Conclusion

Overall, remember to make it fun. College students have enough serious topics to face on a day to day basis. Set up the demonstrations like a mini-Field Day or special event. This is the generation of the smartphone, so instant communication will not impress them. Show them how amateur radio is different, fun, and experiential. It truly is a hobby with something for everyone. It’s just a matter of helping students find something that sparks their interest.

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Daniel R. Simpson, K4DRS was first licensed at 11 years old and was active in amateur radio and other student groups in college and graduate school. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1882, Milledgeville, Georgia 31059 or at k4drs@arrl.net.


 

A Year Like No Other

This time last year, I was being admitted to ORMC and being prepped for surgery for an “abscess.” Twenty-one days later, most of which I had spent barely conscious at ORMC and then Emory Midtown, I had been diagnosed with Sweet’s Syndrome. It was yet another condition I, my family, and most of my medical team had never heard of. Thankfully, we were at a hospital where someone had seen it before (which is a huge feat given only a few hundred cases have ever been documented). Even after I made it home, I faced the worst depression I’ve ever endured, being unable to walk or care for myself, and continuing pain. Eventually I graduated from the wheelchair to a cane. I was able to drive again. And now I’m able to walk unassisted again.
 

Me with my wife and parents following dinner on the one year anniversary of my hospitalization leading to a diagnosis of Sweet’s Syndrome.

It has been an incredibly long year, but I am grateful for how it has brought me together with my caregivers (especially Nikki). I am grateful for caring nurses that went to extraordinary lengths (including learning the Charleston) to assist in my recovery. I never want to go through it again. But I am glad for the things I learned through the process.
 
Tonight, I went to dinner with Nikki, Mom, and Dad. We had fun. I drove us there. I walked in by myself. I ate something other than grits (which was basically the only thing I ate from August through October). And I am humbled by how blessed I am.

Oh, what a weekend…

To say that this past weekend was involved would be an understatement. Really, it was the entire week. It started, for me at least, on Tuesday with the Relay for Life Survivor Dinner. Wednesday, I started the Survive and Thrive program at Georgia College. Then on Friday, things really got crazy.

The day started with the Georgia College Celebration of Excellence. I hadn’t been on campus much since having to give up my job, so it was great to be able to see old friends and coworkers. But the highlight of the ceremony was getting to see my wife receive the inaugural Eve Puckett Community Service Award. Nikki worked hard to earn that honor, and it was well deserved. She’s worked with student groups, Relay for Life as a team captain, event leadership, and finally event lead, not to mention her tireless devotion to her students. But, that was just the beginning of the day.

Friday night was Relay. As soon as she smiled for the pictures following the award, Nikki had headed straight to the event site. She worked all day setting things up and making sure things went perfectly. She worked her heart out for it, and it was perfect. It was an amazing night, and she did wonderfully. It was well into Saturday morning when everything wrapped up and we made it home, but mixed with the exhaustion was a great sense of satisfaction. WordPress isn’t letting me upload photos for some reason, but I have all them posted in a Facebook album.

I am incredibly proud of Nikki. In the past year, she’s become a supervisor at work, was selected as the Relay event lead, received the award, and has been a great caretaker. She has accomplished a lot, and I look forward to what the upcoming year will bring.