Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 7, 2004


Reading remains high on list of priorities


          People my age, who were born before the age of television, were blessed by our deprivation. We learned to read without the temptation to waste time watching the boob tube.

          My parents had different agendas for their children. Dad wanted us to learn the value of hard work. “It never killed anyone,” Dad said.

          Mamma wanted us to learn to read. Though money was scarce, Mamma always found enough to buy a few interesting books. We did not have a nice set of encyclopedias, but we did have several of the series about the Rover Boys and the Bobbsey Twins.

          Memories remain vivid of those childhood days when Mamma helped us to learn how to read about Dick and Jane. Some parents even today use the Bible to teach their children to read. The first words they learn are “In the beginning God. . . .”

          The Bible was valued by our parents but the first words I learned to recognize and pronounce were “See Dick, See Dick run.” Believe it or not, Dick and Jane Readers are still available and remain popular as tools for teaching children to read.

          Across the years books have been among my most precious gifts. As you might expect, Mamma gave me more books than any other person has. She gave me a book or two every year for more than 60 years.

          My gift books are especially valuable because they remind me of the friends who gave them. Even more precious are the books given by friends who walk with me no more. An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter is in that category. It was a gift from my dear friend Thomas Samford. Carter wrote about a time of life that Thomas and I remembered well.

          Daily devotional books have been important to me. No book other than the Bible has influenced me more than My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I have read it often for more than 40 years. Thomas Carruth gave me my first copy. The one I read now, the updated edition, was a gift from my son Tim, who also values this devotional book.

          Another great influence in my life has been Charles H. Spurgeon. There is no telling how many sermons have been spawned in my mind by reading Morning By Morning, a book of daily readings from Spurgeon’s writings. Thanks to my great staff at Trinity Methodist Church in Opelika, I have a beautiful new copy of this book, given me on the occasion of my last birthday before retiring. No doubt it was Earl Ballard’s idea to select this Spurgeon classic.

          Earl and I have given each other gift books for many years. Each one is a treasure, as are those given me by Jimmy Allen, Scott Kaak, Norm Brunelle, and others with whom I have worked.

          Friends have introduced me to books I knew nothing about. One of the best of those surprises was the book by Leif Enger, Peace Like a River. I loved it, and want to read more of Enger’s books. Mike and Linda Spain, special friends, gave me this book upon my retirement two years ago.

          Since retirement, I have discovered several authors whose work I enjoy. One is David McCullough who wrote John Adams, one of the finest books I have ever read.  This summer I finished another good book by McCullough, Mornings On Horseback, a splendid account of the early life of Theodore Roosevelt.

          Currently I am reading another book by my favorite historian, Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage, a fascinating account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Ambrose is well known for Band of Brothers and D-Day, as well as major books on Nixon and Eisenhower.

          When I finish this volume by Ambrose, I want to ride the Mississippi again, and other rivers, retracing some of the steps of Lewis and Clark. This book prompted my Oklahoma friend, Joe McClendon, to take such a cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers recently with his wife, Carole. Joe’s account makes me want to take this journey soon.

          The best book I am reading now is, of course, the Bible. Not surprisingly, it was a gift from my wife, Dean. Somehow she always knows what I need. When I wear this Bible out, I plan to give it to one of my sons, as I have done already with some of my Bibles. One day, perhaps, a grandson may say to his son, “This is a Bible your great granddaddy used to read.”

          Reading remains one of my highest priorities. Most of what is available on television these days is no match for a good book. + + + +