Tribute to Reverend Antonio “Tony” Christian

       Reverend Antonio “Tony” Christian (1957-2014) passed away on Valentine’s Day from stomach cancer. Reverend Tony was a prominent member of the Tyler community in a variety of ways. He was the Youth Minister for North Star Missionary Baptist Church where his funeral service was held before a large crowd on Saturday the 22nd. Reverend Tony owned Christian Carpet Cleaning; maybe you’ve seen his van. He was also the social worker for Highway 80 Rescue Mission. Previously, Rev. had been the chaplain for East Texas Rescue Mission before that facility closed–the present and past Tyler branches of a facility based in Longview. The last time I saw Rev. Tony was about a month ago at that Highway 80 Rescue Mission facility on Beckham near La Michoacana.

Annually, Rev. Tony worked at the buffalo burger/vanilla custard booth for his older sister, Debra. I can still hear Rev. Tony’s rapid-fire sales voice. Meanwhile, I used to work in the candied apple/cotton candy booth for her as well. Rev. Tony’s father developed the vanilla custard recipe many years ago.

Rev. Tony volunteered as chaplain for the Disabled Veterans Auxiliary (DAVA). I was personally touched by the video presentation:  Three group pictures included me with Tony during the era when I was the DAVA adjutant/event recorder. The song and saxophone by Booker T. (a retired accountant) was another high point in the service for me. Rev. Christian even had the expertise and empathy to find Tyler’s homeless living in the wilderness and bring them sack lunches. As you can see, Tony Christian was a jack of all trades and master of all of them too.

            Rev. Tony was always a nice guy, but let’s just say he had a wild and crazy past before his conversion. A couple of hints leaked out during the service, such as the Biblical term, Prodigal Son being applied to him. A mutual controversial acquaintance of ours expressed how proud Tony made him for changing, despite the other guy remaining a neighborhood issue.   

             I vouched for Reverend Christian’s preaching ability in my article, “Taste of North Star at Baptist Church (March 2011)” for KLTV in your community.  Reverend Tony preached before the annual buffet at North Star. He opened with a song, “Falling in Love with Jesus.” Then he analyzed the Lord’s Prayer. Typically we want forgiveness more than we want to give it; furthermore, we should avoid situations that lead to an unforgiving attitude. Rev. Tony added what is easy for him to improve upon may not be so easy for you, and visa-versa. This insight reminded me of the Call for Fairness persuasive strategy in the Developmental English textbook that I wrote. 

          To conclude, I wanted to write a tribute for Reverend Tony Christian that didn’t endeavor to be a rerun of an obituary I couldn’t find until the second revision, nor a summary of the the service that was so well attended anyway. Frankly, I wanted to celebrate his example of a real conversion. Too often I’ve heard jailbirds babble about Jesus as a prelude to assault or theft, much like the drunken Spanish sailor who bragged to the Japanese that “First we send the missionaries then the soldiers,” in reference to their conquest of The Philippines. That led to essentially the end of trade with the West for 250 years and making Christianity an illegal religion in Japan. Others include religion in their madness. I’ve learned to avoid studying such people, but I’ll miss you, Reverend Tony.  


Reasons for Community Attachment, Happiness, & Well-Being: Thoughts from Richard Florida, Forbes, & Gallup-Healthways.

Introduction: Three Domains of Community Attachment, according to Richard Florida
In “Soul of the City,” Dr. Richard Florida examined the reasons people have for attachment to their communities, and the top three are openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. This article was a result of a giant survey called “Soul of the Community” through a partnership between the Gallup Organization and Knight Foundation.

The other seven domains are infrastructure, the economy, safety, leadership, education, civic involvement, and social capital. While the economic crisis is the number one concern of Americans, it does not have as major an effect on community attachment as openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. Recall the 4T’s of creating a good environment for economic development, according to Dr. Florida: talent, tolerance, technology, and territorial assets.

Happiness according to Forbes Magazine
Now that we’ve examined the features of a good environment, let’s look at the main reasons for an individual’s happiness: free of pain, rested, respected, and intellectually engaged. These four categories came from “The World’s Happiest Countries,” by Francesca Levy. Between 2005 and 2009, the Gallup World Poll surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries, in order to measure two types of well-being: overall life evaluation and how you felt the previous day, according to those four categories. Then the researchers classified people as either thriving or struggling. Importantly, the researchers point out that how we evaluate our happiness–overall and recently—affects our decision-making.

Let’s look at the term “intellectually engaged.” What if you can’t read? Researchers need to integrate findings from throughout social science and education. The Texas A&M Department of Education and Human Development report that 19% of adult Texans can’t read a newspaper. The statistics get far worse near the Rio Grande Valley. Smith County, where Tyler is the county seat, beats the state average with only 13% illiteracy. What if you don’t want to be intellectually engaged? Many feel that desegregation inadvertently led to African American underachievement in the schools, particularly among those who stayed in Black communities. Suddenly, doing well in school meant one was “acting White,” and the crafty street toughs became the new role models. On the other hand, the previously all-White suburbs experienced an influx of Black professionals while the Black communities lost many of their middle-class role models and plenty of neighborhood businesses too.

The Scandinavian Countries are the happiest: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden take the top four places. The Netherlands is number five. Making a good salary accounts for a good deal of these countries’ happiness but not all of it. Denmark had a per-capita GDP of $36,000 in 2009, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. That’s higher than 196 of the 227 countries for which the CIA collects statistics.” Still that means Denmark is only #31 in average yearly income. Costa Rica is the happiest country in the Americas at number six world wide, because of tight social networks that provide social and psychological prosperity, according to the Gallup World Poll. That Central American country finished ahead of the wealthier United States on the happiness measures.

However, a survey reported by the British news website, The Guardian, rated Costa Rica as #1 by “combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens.” The New Economics Foundation (NEF) developed the Happy Planet Index (HPI) The Netherlands was the highest rated Western country by NEF. The Dutch levels of life satisfaction are about the same as the US, and the Dutch live one year longer than Americans. Yet the Dutch “per capita ecological footprint is less than half the size” of Americans. “The Netherlands is therefore over twice as environmentally efficient at achieving good lives as the US,” according to NEF.

Relaxed and Fit
Let’s look at a study of the most relaxed cities in the US since two of the four happiness measures are “rested” and “free of pain.” “High unemployment, heavy traffic and long working hours” lead to stress. On the other hand, access to health care and self-ratings of health lead to a relaxed state of mind. Minneapolis-St. Paul and Milwaukee are the top two relaxed American cities. A city with a culture of exercise has less stress and more relaxation. “Four cities that make the list are known for residents who love the outdoors” and have higher than average exercise rates: 4. Portland, OR, 6. Denver, CO, 7.Seattle, WA, and 10. San Jose, CA.

Tyler, Texas has won regional recognition for its Fit City Challenge based on better nutrition, exercise, stricter smoking ordinances, and more. Northeast Texas Public Health received a grant in March 2012 of roughly $3/4 million, largely through the Fit City efforts.

Gallup-Healthways Domains of Well-Being
Gallup developed another measure of well-being with six domains that it used from 2008-13
•Life Evaluation: Present and Prediction of five years from now–different from overall and yesterday.
•Emotional Health: includes respect and learning/doing something interesting, amount of smiling and laughter.
•Physical Health: includes well-rested, sick days in the last month, and chronic problems that get in the way of daily activity.
•Healthy Behavior: exercise, healthy diet, not smoking.
•Work Environment–All Four–Job satisfaction, Ability to use one’s strengths at work, Supervisor’s treatment (more like a boss or a partner), and Supervisor creates an open and trusting work environment.
•Basic Access: the largest category with 13 categories, such as enough money for food, shelter, and health care; satisfaction with the community, area getting better, access to health insurance and more.
In 2014, Gallup-Healthways developed a new five-point index The updated Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index includes five elements of well-being, each with its own score on a 0-10 scale:
•Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
•Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
•Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
•Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
•Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

My suggestions for future research in happiness and well-being point toward feelings about government at the national, state, and local level through the following additional questions: (1a) Do you have confidence in your government at the national, state, and local level? (1b) How strongly do you feel about these opinions. {Not everyone watches the news constantly}. (2) Do you feel that extremists present a danger to your country? This is just the beginning.

To conclude, researchers today have developed excellent categories for analyzing community attachment, happiness and well-being, as well as their opposites. Richard Florida showed that openness, social offerings, and aesthetics bring community attachment. Happiness as being free of pain, rested, respected, and intellectually engaged came from “The World’s Happiest Countries,” by Francesca Levy. Importantly, these studies have been conducted in countries throughout the world and in cities throughout the US. Forbes magazine has been a major source. One can see how the categories can interlock also. Finally Gallup-Healthways have developed two domains for assessing well-being. Physical health is a recurring theme in all of these systems. Are you happy? If you’re unhappy, you should be able to identify the reasons more easily than before this research was conducted.

College Composition Topics–Give Regional a Chance, an Issue of Sustainability–You Matter

Sustainability in composition marks the biggest paradigm shift in curriculum and instruction for composition since the multicultural revolution. Yet rather than supplant multiculturalism, sustainability links it to other movements, such as environmentalism–but with a broader meaning than is traditional. This op-ed will look at sustainability as concern for the students’ immediate environment. This means students and book authors can write about what matters to them in their environment; the “too regional” critique would no longer have merit. Note the subtitle, “Give Regional a Chance.” Yes, that’s a take-off of John Lennon’s famous song, “Give Peace a Chance.” Edited student essays can catch the public’s eye by expanding the range of model essays that answer the instructor/author’s prompts. I can personally attest to the new worlds that my students opened for me.

Derek Owens on Sustainability

Derek Owens (2001) expanded the definition of sustainability in his book, Composition and Sustainability–published by the Refiguring English Studies of the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE). Check out the blog The Bookfish by Steve Mentz to read Owens’s book online. Furthermore, ERIC provides a fine abstract for Composition and Sustainability too.

The Refiguring English Series “examines the role English should play in larger society and public policy.” Sustainability has an inherent interdisciplinary style, such as public policy and sociology or marketing and philosophy. Among other things, it should expand the already wide range in human interest stories while maintaining relevance.

In the “Chameleon Vision” chapter, Owens defines sustainability as “meeting today’s needs without jeopardizing the well-being of future generations.” We collaborate with our environment and depend upon it. Therefore, sustainability includes simply allowing students to write about their environment–whether it’s that barbecue restaurant on the next block, their favorite rap or duranguense band, a hope for a gospel concert to come to town, or their favorite job as a tank driver. As you can see, the political connotations could be liberal,conservative, centrist or none at all. Owens asserts to let students think about stories that belong to them and want to preserve. Could he be asking our faculty, students, and textbook authors to think like anthropologists?

Here’s a chance to bring real students’ interests to the desk through fairness in topic choice. Check this website for a wide range of exciting essay prompts This can mean no less than the difference between passing and failing in developmental courses. A boring or irrelevant cluster of composition prompts can alienate students–especially the marginal ones. English faculty function as “gatekeepers and catalysts,” according to Owens. Owens proclaims it’s time to get away from anthologies that remind one of a “greenhouse or wax museum for the same small number of species…Move outside the safety zone and bring in the outsider.” The freedom inherent in composition topic choice could lead to provocative inquiry and inspiration.

Maybe the composition or developmental English instructor would feel free to share their pop culture interests in such a liberated environment. In my case, I might start with the many careers of Bruce Dickinson, the Iron Maiden singer who flies commercial jets for a British airline, the Iron Maiden jet. He has written novels, hosted a BBC radio talk show, and did a documentary on tanks. Dickinson is a top fencer who has a line of fencing equipment. Most recently, Dickinson started his own brand of mail-order beer called “The Trooper” after the famous song. Lately, I’ve noticed that many of my model sentences are amusing–a factor that can increase textbook engagement.

On Branding

The state of brands and how they affect well-being was measured by media consultancy Havas Media. The study examined how people interact with businesses in a world full of crumbling institutions; a brand will stand apart from the crowd if it makes people’s lives better and more meaningful. Branding research has insights relevant to the sustainability in composition topic movement.

“What’s the trick to making a brand meaningful? Focus on outcomes, not outputs. The criteria, says Haque, are simple: “Did this brand make you fitter, wiser, smarter, closer? Did it improve your personal outcomes? Did it improve your community outcomes? Did it pollute the environment? We’re trying to get beyond “did this company make a slightly better product” to the more resonant, meaningful question: Did this brand actually impact your life in a tangible, lasting, and positive way?”

#You Matter

Finally, Angela Maiers is a leader among educators on Twitter, and we have been mutual followers of each other for some time. Ms. Maiers of Iowa has introduced the hashtag #YouMatter to dialogue on education. What could show a student or an aspiring author that they matter more than allowing flexibility on topic choice? Plenty of essay prompts and the ensuing essays have the chance of making someone angry, whether teacher, student, or administrator. It could be due to political views, love or disdain for contemporary culture, appreciation or distaste for multicultural or regional topics, and “too controversial” to name a few. It’s really important for an instructor to provide a choice of essay prompts for the student. She is also a member of General Leadership, an e-journal founded by General John Michel–another Twitter associate.


To conclude, Owens notes the unique position of the composition instructor because of the freedom to explore. According to John Langan, the dean of Developmental English and Reading instructors, the purpose of writing is to inform, persuade, and entertain.The vast majority of courses have a set body of knowledge that the instructor must cover. Let’s allow our Composition and Developmental English/Writing students to report their world to their instructor and college itself. Branding research confirms the common sense observation that people want a meaningful product. Angela Maiers has developed #YouMatter into a philosophy of education through the primacy of acceptance–a close relative of sustainability. The arguments against regional topics appear more like censorship than a quest for a generic national prompt list.