Thirty-six years ago, Democratic President Jimmy Carter unexpectedly lost a heart-rending election and a few months later, he and Rosalyn went home to Plains, Georgia. At a Veteran’s Day celebration in Plains, a couple of weeks ago, he told those assembled, “I called president elect Trump to congratulate him and I called Secretary Hillary Clinton to offer my sympathies. I am uniquely qualified to speak with both of them because I’ve been in both of those positions.” Beforehand, he strolled around Plains, taking in a local car show, visiting and shaking hands with friends and neighbors and except for the presence of a couple of discreet but ever present Secret Service agents, appeared to be no different than any other thin, elderly gent in an Atlanta Braves ball cap and blue jeans. Appearances, as they say, can be deceiving.
Plains, Georgia is a tiny hamlet of 600 that supports a downtown section, barely two blocks long that was built in the 1890s. Made up of a café, a tiny inn, antique and souvenir shops, one of which boldly offers delicious peanut butter flavored ice cream, they openly and lovingly surround their Number #1 industry, their 92 year old native son, the 39th president of the United States. What a nurturing place this must have been, for Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter to return to, after the scathing years they had endured in Washington D.C. It was, likewise, a good place for this Democrat to spend a couple of days after another election that continues to rankle with many.
The town’s original high school has been made over into a museum of the president’s and First Lady’s life before the White House, including a comment from their school principal…”one of you may grow up to be president one day!” President Carter’s childhood home, a farm located a few miles outside of Plains, like the high school, now belongs to the National Park Service, and tours are conducted daily in both places.
President Carter has commented that his four years as president of the United States, opened doors that have allowed him to accomplish so much more than those four years in the more than three decades that have transpired since he left Washington. His work with Habitat for Humanity, headquartered just 10 miles up the highway in Americus, Georgia is well-known but perhaps less known but far more dramatic and far-reaching is his and his wife’s work through the Carter Center of Atlanta. The Center’s motto is simple, Wage Peace, Fight Disease, Build Hope and includes activities from fighting for human rights, monitoring elections worldwide, and sponsoring health and wellness programs, including attacking and even eradicating parasitic and other basic diseases from numerous Third World countries. The Carters’ home remains in Plains, on a compound where they will one day be buried. Their family members are buried in area family cemeteries, but as a former president, their plots will not join those of their families in the future.
Meanwhile, each and every Sunday he is in Plains, President Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School at the Maranatha Baptist Church. The service is open to the public, free of charge, and the only requirement is plan to go early. Our van was in the parking lot at 6:30 am for a 10 am Sunday School class and we were vehicle #21. Each visitor is checked out by the Secret Service before entering the church. President Carter entered the sanctuary as the class was to begin with a hearty ‘Good Morning’ and a question for each of the three pew sections, where are you from? The full sanctuary held approximately 30 church members and over 200 visitors and does so each Sunday. President Carter shared a message from the Book of Revelation. A part of his lesson mentioned how John wrote as he did in a sort of code for the Christians who felt as if they were experiencing the end of the world, and indeed, in a way they were. Certainly it was the end of the world as they knew it. He also made note of the fact that he or she who chooses to follow this new way of life, also gives his whole life over to it forever. It occurred to me that Jimmy Carter (and other modern day presidents) also give their lives over to America and never really get them back, even when they come home, to a healing place like Plains. And at age 92, President Carter continues to share his life, knowledge and many resources with America and the whole world. God bless Jimmy Carter and all of us as we move forward as a nation.
Laura L. Valenti, author
The Heart of the Spring,
The Heart of the Spring Lives On,
The Heart of the Spring Comes Home,
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting,
Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice, and
Between the Star and the Cross: The Election
We know that Jesus had 33 years Between the Star at his birth
And the Cross at his death. We each have a time between our
star and our cross. We just don’t know how long that might be.
The real question is “what will you do with yours?” Blessings, LV