Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest just pure lovely or of good report, think on these things.
- Philippians 4:8
Amid the Afghan and Iraqi wars; new waves of terrorism in London, Egypt, and around the world; missing children in the U.S. and Aruba; and fast-forwarding through the alphabet with this year's crop of tropical storms, I was taken aback by the following headline on the Internet: Are your pancakes runny? Click here to see our recipe for the perfect pancake breakfast.
It's not that I have anything against perfect pancakes, or culinary advice. But the runny pancake headline was too much. Most of us spend a great deal of time on things like pancake consistency and other trivia, when we could be thinking about subjects that just might be more important.
James Edward Oglethorpe, philanthropist, member of the British Parliament, and founder of the Colony of Georgia, had many things on his mind during the 18th-century decade he spent in America: where to locate the first settlement, how to adapt 114 strangers to their new surroundings and each other; and, most important, how to form a white man's colony on a red man's land.
Much has been written about those who occupied this country before the explorers and pioneers came. Romantic stories about an Indian princess saving the life of one John Smith, or cheerful clans sharing Thanksgiving with their new white friends, make up only a small part of the record. Often, after a generation or two passed, friendships gave way to suspicion and mistrust, and the stories weren't so romantic anymore.
Bloodshed, brutality and other tales filled letters, prejudicing future immigrants against natives they soon feared to live among.
Now add another credential to Oglethorpe's resume: diplomat. That the Georgia founder went out of his way to be fair and friendly with the people he found here is the unanimous record of history. But the reason for his success is revealed in his own words. In a letter to the Rev. Sam Wesley on Christmas Day, 1734, Oglethorpe summarized his opinion of the American Indians like this:
They are greedy of knowledge, and having plenty of all things merely necessary they desire nothing more. Not being pressed by poverty nor clogged by luxury they often dwell under the shade of oak, laurel or pine. Instead of beds they lie on skins of beasts their houses are covered with barks of trees, their floors of clay, their windows not glazed, and their doors without iron hinges. In these mansions they live much more contented than our great men in palaces.
Whilst one has food, they never let another want. They think the English very unwise who waste life in care and anxiety merely to heap up wealth. They do not conceive how people can be in debt, for they say that if a man does not want a thing he ought to give it to him who does. (From Indians on the Savannah River by Dixon Hollingsworth)
Oglethorpe, born into a well-to-do English home, could have scoffed at the lifestyle of the lowly red man, coerced him into adopting the white man's ways or treated him with disdain, but he didn't. Instead, he recognized the superior thinking of the Indians. Then he followed the advice given centuries earlier by the Apostle Paul who said, If there be any virtue, of there be any praise think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
Of all the negative things Oglethorpe could have said about the Indian; of all the luxuries the Indian could have wished he had; of all the battles they could have sparked against each other without the respect that right thinking caused; of all the negatives or missing frills we could complain about today,. including runny pancakes:
For a happier, more contented life, if there is no virtue, if there is no praise, don't think on these things.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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