Tag Archives: Inkspots

The Doctors’ Street…

The following article was written following a recent fieldtrip taken by the Goldston United Methodist Church’s writers’ group, “The InkSpots”. We were blessed to have had the unique opportunity to tour the Street family homestead and to hear the stories of healing and faith. We found a treasure trove of inspiration from which to write and hope that someday, this precious gem of history will be preserved for generations to come to visit and be likewise inspired. Thanks to our hosts, Al Simmons and Paul Paschal whom without, this journey would not have 5049398450_bd137a0d54_zbeen possible.


We turned off the main road onto the lane that led past a small pond to the homestead of the Street family. The structures were weathered and gray as one might expect from buildings that were over 100 years old. We were not there to learn as much about the buildings as we were to hear about the people that made them come alive with hope and relief. The family that lived here were as much about the spirituality of living as they were the physicality. The Streets, as they were named, would become known far and wide for their care and perseverance for their patients; this was the homestead of the Doctors’ Street.

2013-08-02 15.17.21Considering the age of the buildings, they were all in very good shape. There had evidently been many hands over the years that had maintained these aged edifices as well as preserving the story of the families that made them the historical structures for which they were known. Large oaks and cedars surrounded the buildings providing shade in areas of the fresh mown lawn. Here, often at the first light of dawn, the doctor would find the yard filled with wagons and in later years, cars, which had parked waiting for the good doctor to awaken. In other words, the grounds surrounding the office and home became the waiting room for patients who made the long trek during the night, being too ill to wait for morning.

The original structure of the doctor’s office was built in the late 1700s and used as a law office of a former governor of North Carolina. The law office would later be used by the first Doctor, Richard Street. The Richard returned from the civil war and took up medicine, practicing initially only in the former law office, and then eventually expanding the building adding on a back structure, shaped as a “T”, that would house additional rooms for examination, pharmaceuticals and an administrative office. It was not known if Richard had practiced medicine in the civil war, but there was an old medical saddle bag on display which was very worn that could have easily have been used on those ancient battlefields. What motivated the young Mr. Street to become a doctor one can only speculate. Having lived through the horrors of war, there were likely more than enough traumatic battlefield scenes which could have easily been the impetus for his lifelong pursuit.

Throughout the doctor’s office, there were large brown bottles of chemicals and compounds used to make medicines2013-08-02 15.02.27 that the doctor would administer to his patients. Likewise, there were volumes of ledgers, medical manuals and various reference materials. I quickly got the feel that Dr. Street was a beacon of hope in the darkness in a landscape of medical poverty. He not only applied his craft but continually strove to further his abilities to do so. When we read the signs outside of most modern medical facilities we read the term, “Medical Practice of…”. In the case of the late Dr. Street, this was not only a statement, but a fact made obvious by his self-imposed continuing education. He was not only the doctor, but also the pharmacist, specialist, surgeon and even eventual caretaker. From the act of bringing life into the world to the act of consoling the families of those patients that he could not save, the dust on the books of memories belied the stories within that a painful heart would have been driven to pursue excellence beyond the weathered walls in which he inhabited. We were made aware that often, his patients would stay for extended periods of time in his home either to recover or to prepare for eventual medical needs like giving birth. As I stood in one of the upstairs rooms of the home, I could almost sense the lives that entered and passed to and from this world in that room comforted by the man they called Doc.

In addition to continuing his self-education, Dr. Street also strove to educate his fellow medical peers by speaking and writing about the need for more “Diagnostic Medicine”. He felt that too many young doctors were coming out of medical school and going into specialized surgery rather than focusing on the diagnostic medical practice. More than once our host and descendent, Al Simmons, found reference in letters to the doctor of how his diagnosis of some rare ailment or disease would sometimes years later be confirmed. In other words, when Doc Street told you that you were sick, you could count on it.

Dr. Richard StreetIn the book cases filled with countless medical volumes, there were also several worn Bibles. My interest was piqued since I knew that many times the family genealogy would have been preserved in the “Family Bible”. Upon inspection of the Bibles on hand, I didn’t find any genealogy information but I did find line after line of scripture references, obviously favorites that someone had written for easy access, either for future reference or when a spiritual chord was struck. I was moved to find that the Street’s were as known for their strong Christian faith as they were for their medical practice. A local church even began in one of the front rooms of the house. This only confirmed my belief that this place was a haven of recovery and health for the whole being; an Eden in the wilderness.

Here I found the true meaning of “Practice”, with regard to medicine. Over the years, through countless struggles to preserve the health of those terminally ill, through tomes of medical literature the good doctor would pour until he had exhausted all known medical knowledge; he then would turn to the Almighty for prayer. Each painful loss only fueled his drive, his passion to prevent it from happening again. Each time, he would become better at what he did, continually striving to better himself, not only as a doctor, but also as a Christian. In essence, he practiced what he preached, and strove to become a better man while here on this earth for it.

As I watched my children observe, listen and record this visit to an underappreciated historical treasure and landmark, I could only hope that in some far away recess of their minds a spark was lit to pursue life in the same manner in which the good doctors had done.  Dr. Richard Street had made such an impact on his community and family that eventually not only his son, but his grandson would likewise follow in his footsteps, practicing medicine and making the world a better place. In life, we often struggle and toil in the moment, sometimes losing focus for what matters most. When our livelihood entails life itself, our perspective changes and suddenly the reality of mortality changes us making us either better or worse for it, depending upon our character. It was obvious from the archives and treasures left behind by the family of doctors that they had all been better for it, and so were we.

What began as a casual conversation with Paul Paschal and I before Christmas of last year turned out to be a discovery of healing and faith. I saw a lady in her seventies turn into a little girl once more and saw teenagers enthralled by the antiquity of a medical practice almost unheard of in today’s fast paced world. God leads us in paths we never can imagine, and last Friday was one such day I’ll not soon forget.


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What We Least Expect Sometimes is the Greatest Reward…

ToddNC2Most of the time I feel like the least of the writers in our writing group, the Inkspot’s of GUMC, not that I expect to be great from being the least, as Jesus was saying in the scripture of Luke. Rather, I feel like the least qualified to be writing in a room filled with such wonderful authors.

This past week we took turns reading from our recent writings and everyone seemed to be absolutely wonderful, save for mine.

Thomas read from two book reviews he is doing as part of his PhD studies. Both of the books he was required to read, “Pastoral Theology” and “Open Secrets,” he had the good fortune of having the authors as professors while attending Duke Divinity College. I was impressed to hear as he read aloud at the depth of knowledge he had acquired over time both from not only constantly reading and studying the Word of God, but also from his literary skills as a writer. More than once I had to take notes from what I heard. We learned of the pressures of the daily grind of pastoral work which was exemplified by the statement when he labored over being human when he was supposed to appear as he put it, “Cloaked in a mystery of divinity.” We also learned of Wesley’s Quadrilateral philosophy of scripture, tradition, experience and reason. Wesley believed scripture was the most important but as Thomas pointed out, today we are finding people more inclined to use experience as their base instead of scripture. In all, it was very enlightening and educational.
Next, Sherry Thornburg read from a story she had written about living in Todd, NC. I believe she called it, “The House Across the Creek.” It was quite a heart-warming story, which took you back in time. At first hearing the name of the story I was taken to Cross Creek Florida, but then that is another story.
Sherry told the story of how she grew up in a four room house in Todd next to Elk Creek. As she read her story, I closed my eyes and could see myself growing up alongside her there in Todd. She talked of how they played house, play acted and even performed on the foot log that spanned Elk creek from their home side to the general store side of the creek. The bridge was their stage and the creek was their audience. A large buckeye tree anchored one side of the foot bridge with a log chain, which kept it from washing away when the creek would get up. Sitting there listening to her read her story I was taken back in time growing up in New Harmony, Indiana at my grandma Tron’s house. There, we too played in the yard and around the farm in similar fashion. We never had a beautiful rushing stream flowing by our front porch as did Sherry, but we had lush green pastures rolling by instead, against the backdrop of the hills that made up the vast forest that bordered the Wabash river which ran past our little town of New Harmony.

Although we were worlds apart in distance, we shared the similar experience of a Spartan existence in our rural lives, cherishing the fond memories of a time gone by when life moved at a different pace, one we too often fail to recognize in our hurriedly rushing lives today.

As she closed, the words she spoke from the pages she had written brought forth emotions, the heart strings that make us who we are. The stories within when spoken often become stronger than we had imagined without forming the words through our lips to be spoken. Once their sounds escape and come back to us through our own ears, we sometimes are overwhelmed with the magnification of feelings previously thought insignificant.
After Sherry read it was Laverne’s turn. He never ceases to impress us with stories from his past, all bringing forth similar recollections as did Sherry’s story; taking us all back in time. However, unlike usual, Laverne had written a poem. It wasn’t limerick in nature, rather, more of a prose, but the story it told was so rich with imagery it couldn’t help but touch your heart.

Laverne talked about past loves and a large Sycamore tree under which he had spent many hours as a youth. Being small in size, he often had prayed for God to either make him large or to give him courage. The latter, he found, was eventually how he was blessed. Over time, sitting under his Sycamore tree there in the middle of the pasture, he had carved the names of many a girlfriend while spending hours looking up at the heavens wondering how his life would someday turn out. Recently when recovering from heart surgery, he was lying in the hospital bed and reflecting back on his life and somewhat bothered about how it might all end. He realized he was becoming agitated, so he tried to find a way to calm himself. His Sycamore tree came to mind and the shade of the great labyrinth of limb and leaf began to shelter him once more. In his mind he was once more seeing the great trunk of the tree, the carved names, the beauty of the place he knew so well, comforting him and relaxing him to the point he realized he had nothing to worry about; it was all in God’s hands. I can imagine sitting under Laverne’s tree, which is no longer there, looking out at the fields spreading away from you, reaching to the tree-lined horizon. There is a certain calming affect one can take away from such a place; a refuge, a place to reflect and gather oneself before marching boldly off into the future. Yes, God gave Laverne courage, but it was not the only gift the good Lord had bestowed upon my dear friend; humility of spirit and love of life are some of his greater gifts.

Cindy went next, reading from a story she had written about the birth of her recent grandson. She called her story, “It’s alright I’ve got this”. She shared with us a touching story of a young woman expecting her third child and deciding to have a “water birth”. The eventuality of the story that struck me most was how as parents we sometimes have to let go and allow our children to be themselves, as was the case in this story. Her daughter was evidently determined to have the birth her way, but in the end, it was as God had intended, and yet in a way she was still able to be proud of; a home birth. In the end, mother and daughter came to a deeper understanding and respect for one another, each finding a strength from the other formed by the bond of unconditional love.

After Cindy, then her daughter Savannah shared with us her ideas for an upcoming novel she would like to write. I won’t share those thoughts at this time for sake of her privacy of subject matter, but suffice it to say, we have a wide spectrum of age in our talented group, one which might help us continue long into the future. To hear Savannah talk it was refreshing to hear the youth of our time alive and excited to create stories. We have much to be thankful for.

Finally, after I had read, the leader of our writer’s group, Sims Poindexter, took her turn. She read from emails she had sent out over Christmas. Sims had spent several days in the hospital, some of which was humorous, but sitting there listen to her tell her story, it was obvious to me, we are very blessed to still have her with us after all she had been through. The feeling of thankfulness was soon rewarded with a revealing story she shared in her final email. It was one she wrote after returning home after her hospital stay, and after all the family had left to return to their own homes following their Christmas visit. She told of simply looking around the room and the moving stories behind each little nuance or reminder left behind by those who would have no idea they had left their impression, albeit from a rock left on the piano, to an overturned ornament under the tree. She had seen or could tell the story behind every essence of actuality which had transpired. Her love for all was revealed in her appreciation for them, even down to the touch of inanimate object remaining long after they were gone.

Each story, each prose I heard that evening was so thought provoking, that in a matter of two hours, we got up to leave feeling as if we had just arrived. Personally, I felt left behind after all I had heard. My story seemed to pale in comparison, at least in my own mind. What I was able to take away was a feeling of being blessed to be in the company of people willing to openly share and support one another in something that is, in most instances, from the heart.
Yes, I feel I am the least with regard to my writing when compared to the others, but I feel most grateful in the reward of being blessed by such wonderful acquaintances and friends, such that it makes my appreciation far beyond the least; for this I am greatly blessed.

“and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”
– Luke 9:48

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