Little White Crosses

This morning, I came across a unique work of journalism in my local newspaper. Hannah Strong of The Sun News wrote a piece titled “Horry’s Crosses to Bear.” The front page feature told the stories of various crosses and memorials that motorists pass by while driving on Horry County roads.

A partial look at today’s front page of The Sun News. The article is titled “Horry’s Crosses to Bear” and it is written by Hannah Strong.

Strong carefully detailed numerous memorials around the Myrtle Beach area, describing what they are constructed of, who they are constructed for, and the relief they give to loved ones who visit them. She also recounted the tragedies that led to existence of each one. Many vibrant photos are also included in the story – but you will have to follow the link to the story because I don’t want to steal the images taken by The Sun News. Overall, it was a very informative piece but also very sad.

When I was younger, I remember driving around with someone in a big city. This certain area had homemade memorials on the side of the road seemingly every couple of miles. When we would pass one, whether it be a white cross or something more elaborate, the driver would say in a more amused than sympathetic tone, “Oh, look, someone must have died.”

All around the country you can find white crosses like these, or other more elaborate displays, on roadsides marking where people have died in automobile accidents.

It didn’t take me long to realize that these memorials deserved much more respect than that. However, what does this respect look like? To be honest, for the last several years, aside from not mocking them, I don’t think I have really given much thought or reverence when speeding by.

In Strong’s article, some insight is given on how to allow ourselves to take roadside memorials to heart. The Horry County coroner challenges motorists when passing one to reflect on why it is there. Further, the coroner advises, remember that we are all mortal and the same tragedy can happen to us or our family members. It is important to always drive carefully.

Perhaps even more powerful was testimony given by a father still stinging from the motorcycle fatality of his son. He told Strong that the roadside memorial he visits is sacred ground to him because it was the last place his loved one was alive.

I think the concept of “sacred ground” is what we need to keep in mind when we drive by a location where someone has perished. Whenever we enter a church or cemetery, even if it is a church we don’t belong to or a cemetery where a loved one is not buried, we still give it respect. We need to keep this attitude when we pass by roadside memorial sites.

If we challenge ourselves to say a quick prayer for the person or make the sign of the cross when driving by, I think this will at least help us to reflect on the life that was lost. How would we want someone to react if the cross on the side of the road was meant to memorialize one of our loved ones? Don’t Blink.

Not Completely Sold on Casinos

On the front page of this morning’s The Sun News, the primary newspaper of Myrtle Beach, appeared a story about casinos. The state of South Carolina is looking to improve its roads and in order to accomplish this, funding is needed. An idea that has been proposed to raise the necessary money is to build casinos.

Of course, the proposal has supporters and critics. The article in the newspaper did a nice job reporting on both sides of the argument. It basically boils down to this: Gaming is an extremely effective way to generate revenue. In fact, it works so well that 40 states in this country already have casinos. On the other side of the coin, casinos can lead to irresponsible behavior and crime. Many lives are destroyed by gambling addicitons and bad decisions.

I always hate not taking a side, but I have a tough time throwing my full support behind either the pro-casino or anti-casino stance. At the core, the arguments made by both camps are valid. Casinos are a gold mine for the economy but of course there is a price, the non-monetary kind, that comes with them.

The moment I turned 18, my friends and I hit the Vegas style gaming that was available to Washington state residents. Fueled by the poker craze that overtook the country a couple years before I became a legal adult, I was ecstatic to finally leave the basements of my friends and enter the big boy gambling establishments. It was an absolute rush and we all had a lot of fun…initially.

However, it didn’t take me long to figure out that gambling was not profitable. I lost much more than I won but I continued to go with my friends. We were heading to the casino multiple times a week. Thankfully, my casino days ended when I went off to college in a different state. When living in Montana, the poker machines and slots didn’t call my name like the Vegas style tables in Washington. My thirst for Blackjack, Paigow, and live poker tables slowly went away.

The same can’t be said for everyone else in my circle who I gambled with. Many ended up throwing thousands of dollars away and had to admit that they had a real problem. It wasn’t pretty.

These days, I consider myself a responsible gambler. When I go home to Spokane, I love going out to Northern Quest, a gambling resort, with my family. Because I can hardly stand to lose any money, I will gamble away $20 and call it good. While I am at Quest, I will spend money on food and drink and basically support the economy through other means besides gambling. For pro-casino folks, they would probably point at me now and say “This is the type of person we are targeting. The responsible, laid back guy who knows his limits and enjoys the atmosphere.”

But I wasn’t always this guy and that is why I understand the anti-casino stance. Then again, I also can concede that just because I was vulnerable when I became of age doesn’t mean that other people will be as well.

Basically I think we have to ask this: Will the dollars that will undoubtedly flow in from casinos justify the lives that will be ruined? It is a tough question and I can’t answer it. Don’t Blink.