In our search for excellence, whether it be the excellence that can be found when we look for entertainment, music, travel, literature, art, culture, education, recreation, or simply even food and water, we are often willing to travel considerable distances and spend a considerable amount of time and money to find that excellent experience that we crave. Often in our search for excellence we overlook more than we find because we don’t see or know what is right in our own back yard. Today I will expound on some good examples of often overlooked local and regional excellence.

If you really like music, especially country music, this week marked the beginning of Ken Burn’s long awaited documentary, “Country Music.” In the first episode “Country Music,” and I quote, “takes us back to the early days, and into the 1920s, when radio stations broadcast live performances by country artists, a trend that picked up steam as listeners far and wide began tuning in and which, at times, closely parallels plot points in ‘O, Brother, Where Art Thou?,’ the Coen brothers’ tribute to old-time music.” Excellent examples of this old-time music can still be found today at the The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. If you save your money and are able to spend the time, tour packages are available to go there…or…you could have gone to the Old Time Music camp and concerts at the Stephen Foster State Park last weekend and experienced old time musical excellence for as little as 10 bucks, but you probably overlooked it.

If you really like to read, you’ve probably read some excellent books by some excellent authors, perhaps the likes of John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Truman Capote, Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, all well worth reading! But in your search for excellence you may have overlooked Sudye Cauthen, Tracy Woodard, Virginia Daniel and Buddy Camp, Johnny Bullard and, most notably, Lillian Smith. Yes, there are strong literary contributions by excellent local authors, writing about life very close to home, right here in your own back yard, but you probably overlooked it.

If you really like to travel, you’ve probably gone to Disney World, taken a cruise to the Caribbean or perhaps even explored other countries and continents; the world is, after all, a wondrous place to see. But in searching for excellence, did you consider that Florida’s springs and rivers have long been known as one of the world’s premiere natural vacation destinations? A world of natural wonders awaits you in your own back yard, but you probably overlooked it.

Sometimes we overlook excellence in an arrogant, neglectful way. Excellent local schools are closed in the name of “fiscal responsibility” and the local people suffer from the neglect of a greater responsibility, community responsibility. Excellent students are bullied or ridiculed for daring to try to excel in academics. Excellent teachers are underpaid and under-appreciated until we lose them. Excellent public servants are sacrificed to petty personal and political agendas and are lost, to the detriment of the community that they so bravely serve. If you’ve been paying any attention at all you must have seen this happening, but you probably overlooked it.

And so it goes, with all that I have mentioned and also with art and food and “culture” too. Many of us search far and wide for excellence, failing to recognize or cultivate the overlooked excellence in our own back yard.

But the glass is half full and opportunities exist to fill it completely! Do your homework and stay informed. Read your newspaper for crying out loud! You won’t like everything you read or discover, but if you keep looking you’ll find it, right here in your own back yard … Excellence!

LOST YOUR LIBRARY CARD? The White Springs Library will replace it for free Sept. 1-30 during National Library Card Sign-up Month at your library! Sept. 22-28 is banned books week. I dare you. Celebrate your right to read. Borrow banned books from your library!

Well, once again I’ve said enough, perhaps more than enough, but, as always, I do want to remind you that if you have news you want to share, you should let “Life in White Springs” help. We’re always glad to hear about goings on in the community and will be glad to share anything that is appropriate for this column. I am thankful that we can depend on each other, and I hope that we can continue to feel proud of who we are and where we’re headed, and that we all appreciate how White Springs and its surrounding region is a very special place, to be honored and protected. As always, I look forward to seeing you out and about, enjoying your community and your life in White Springs.

Walter McKenzie


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