Gordon Mercer and Marcia Mercer Global Digital Post

The Law of the Everyday Hero: One Step More

Notes on Quotes: “I have known a life of sorrow, I have borne a heavy load,…Soon the hill will be ascended; It is only One Step More.” Jere Hoar, Body Parts, New York Times Book Review Notable Book


Oxford, MS -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/20/2010 -- This quote is taken from the short story, My Father’s Voice, Lifting by Jere Hoar from his book, Body Parts. Body Parts is a collection of short stories by Hoar and was selected as a New York Times, “Notable Book of the Year.” Hoar also received the nation-wide Silver Em for his contributions to journalism. He was Professor of Journalism for 38 years at the University of Mississippi and has been honored by being named professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Mississippi.

Life sometimes turns on who you call on for advice. Jere had been helpful when Gordon needed advice while teaching at the University of Mississippi.

“Gordon I need to talk with you,” A voice over the phone said, sternly (it was 1973); “meet me for coffee!” It was Jere firmly advising Gordon that in that stage of his career he should publish more extensively. Publications followed and Gordon’s career advanced successfully. We have also gotten advice from Jere on our column.

Sometimes the right person advising means advice you don’t want to follow. The right person will say what we need to hear, not flatter us with what we want to hear.

My Father’s Voice, Lifting is set during the depression and tells the story of a tenant farmer and his family. The family is poor and struggling and the wife writes a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt asking for help. In the letter she begs for clothing for her new baby and sends her wedding rings as reimbursement. Help does not arrive and soon the family is deeply in debt to the plantation store. The plantation owner dies and a new manager takes over. The new manager has no heart for charity. He sells the family’s possessions to pay their debt and throws them off the plantation.

With the children starving, the father hunts birds to feed his family. Using his hands and the few tools left, he builds a wagon. They leave in the wagon to start a new life, father and daughter singing, “One Step More! One Step More!” as the mules pick up the pace.

We visited with the author on his farm, while we were in Oxford, Mississippi. As we left Jere gave us an autographed copy of his book. We liked the story; it reminded us of Faulkner’s novel Sanctuary. As in Sanctuary, there are no punches pulled to protect the reader from pain and real life. These were hard times where people lost their jobs, homes and farms and often had their meager possessions sold.

Why do we like to read stories where the heroes are doomed to fail, their fate much against them? Perhaps we like being reminded of the strength of the creative and resourceful human spirit. We feel that if they persevered against such odds, maybe we can handle our own situation. These are hard stories, but they make us feel stronger.

Today, the words of the song, ‘one step at a time’ are fitting. Washington is not likely to help us with an effective jobs program, as was the case when the wife asked for help. We have to depend on our own resources and skills and our perseverance. As the story ends, hope returns, as the wagon pulled by mules makes its way up the road. As long as we retain hope and optimism, traveling our own road one step at a time, we cannot be stopped.

Gordon Mercer is international president of Pi Gamma Mu international honor society and a professor at Western Carolina University. Marcia Mercer is a writer and columnist. Go to http://9955.hostednr.com to get to our Notes on Quotes Press Room. Views expressed in this column are the views of the authors and do not reflect the views of other organizations. The authors of this column write a column for the Franklin Press in Franklin, North Carolina.