My latest destination was in Grafton, West Virginia to visit with my sister's family. This is the first time I've come to this part of the country and was well received with giant flag in tow. It has been an especially enlightening visit because my sister, Michelle, and her husband Dayton, are both civil servants. In years past, our family holidays have been filled with opposing views because of the nature of our respective professions. But this whole trip is about sharing those opposing views and their perspective comes from a distinct position. Especially Lieutenant Dayton Mayle of the Taylor Country Sheriff Department.
My sis coordinated a great location for the flag right on Main Street out side Gallery 62 West where I left the flag for three days. Grafton, mind you, has a population of about 5000 people, and I was quite impressed with gallery and the artists I met there. Sis & I posted up, ready to get the patriotic feelings of small town West Virginia. My giant flag may not have wowed too many people as Grafton has American flags everywhere. There is a strong tradition of military service in Grafton, and Dayton and Michelle both served in the Army. Plots with pictures of lost family members to foreign wars reside at various prominent intersections throughout the community. This is small town USA and everyone knows everyone else, especially my sis. Her promotional efforts brought out many people to write on the flag and even scored me a TV interview on the local news channel. Just as other stops on the tour, Grafton had a mix of peoples' responses: love, peace, Trump. One couple came out specifically to share their thoughts with the Mrs. proceeding to exclaim the rights of women in the USA. Her gratitude was certainly informed by world travel and confirmed by her husband's tag "If you don't like American, try living somewhere else!" Another couple approached, simultaneously and independently wrote on the flag "Be Kind to one another", a total coincidence, but a telling truth of their shared lives and values. This was an art event in Grafton and many people came to see what was going on. I cannot thank my sister enough for sharing her home and community with me. Now i know why she likes it here so much.
Since the flag was posted for three days in one spot, it opened up my schedule and I had time to spend with my extended WVa family. Almost instantly Dayton said, "Hop in the Jeep, we're going for a ride." I knew what I was in for. After a quick tour of town, Dayton proceeded to tell me about the ills of society, from a police officer's perspective. We discussed it all: Black Lives Matter, welfare, drugs, crime, education, poverty, racism, presidential politics, guns. Not quite Frazier vs Ali, but it was a debate that battled between his real life experiences with humanity and my more humanitarian perspective. I heard stories of him being shot at, the disgusting investigations he's preformed, the ills of our national government and his honed perception for human deception. You might think that Lieutenant Mayle is a hard ass, which you are right, but he carries himself professionally with honor and objectivity.
My role in our discussions, aside from Devil's Advocate, was to push the discussion out from Dayton's very informed, up-close perspective to a wider context. What are the cause of the ills? What what can be done? Who should be responsible and can we as Americans have respect for one another, despite our diversity. The answers that came from Dayton were telling. Fear. Fear is what he protects us from. Fear is not part of his constitution. Fear is how "they are controlling us". Fear is an instinctual, base motivator for behavior. I countered with "what is the opposite, balancing force?" He replied, "I am". There is some truth to that, but I proceeded to posit that it is Love that balances fear. Love is the antidote when people are scared. Love and acceptance are what wash insecurity away. Love is the power that dissolves fear. Dayton could not contest this, as he knows in many of his on duty calls, the presences of love in someone's life might have influenced different outcomes. Outcomes where he's not involved as Lieutenant Mayle.
Michelle and Dayton, despite their fervent opinions, know that love is the key. My sister shared stories of her years working to help disadvantaged kids get christmas gifts. When her sons friends have difficulty, they can always come to the Mayle household and eat, sleep, and talk if they need to. The city of Grafton needed a daytime volunteer firefighter, so she trained and filled the need. She did that because she loves her community and she loves helping her community. My nephews, Clinton, Dalton, & Zachary teenage boys, all carry themselves in a way that looks out to help other people. Despite all the ills Dayton deals with on a daily basis, their family has a wide open door for those in need and I couldn't be more proud to be related to the Mayles of Grafton, West Virginia.