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Vote for the Bristol Herald Courier's Letter Of the Year
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Vote for the Bristol Herald Courier's Letter Of the Year

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Tennessee has strong grandparent visitation rights, protecting grandparents who are no longer permitted to visit their grandchildren. Virginia’s laws are not as clear.

I am fortunate to be a grandmother of three, and to have spent years as a caretaker in my grandchildren’s lives in southwest Virginia – more than a decade for the oldest. Access to my grandchildren ceased when my son died tragically in 2017, and so I lost contact with four important people around the same time.

Virginia allows for grandparents to ask for visitation with their grandchildren, but the law sets a remarkably high and nebulous bar to grant access. We are required to prove “actual harm” to grandchildren absent of visitation. “Actual harm” is not well-defined in the law, and proving it presents a nearly impossible standard.

Tennessee has laws that better define harm from cutting off grandchildren’s access to grandparents, considering how robust their relationships were. Other states, including Texas, Connecticut and Massachusetts have seen recently a groundswell of advocacy to improve visitation laws. I hope Virginia is next.

I am encouraged by legislation introduced earlier this year in Virginia (SB 571), particularly for grandparents like me who have lost their children. But SB 571 does not go far enough.

Like Tennessee, Virginia could better explicitly define harm, in addition to considering the strength of the grandparent-grandchild relationship in rulings. Legislators should support such improvements to SB 571, which may be considered for the 2021 legislative session.

I pray I can see my grandchildren again one day. Having lost their father and my son, I think we would all benefit. I imagine if faced with this scenario, other grandparents in Virginia would feel the same way.

Pamela Price

Glade Spring, Virginia

I got COVID because I got lazy.

When COVID first began I followed the rules. I am not saying I liked them but I wore my mask and stayed six feet apart and washed my hands all day every day. But I got tired of doing that .

I was busy working as my job luckily wasn’t affected, and I have my family and life continued and my vigilance began to waiver. Over the summer we went to a busy resort town and didn’t take a lot of precautions. No one got sick. After a while even though it’s still on the news it’s almost like things were almost back to normal.

Until last week when I woke from a nap with a bad cough followed by a fever. Two days later I tested positive. It’s been a rough 10 days experiencing multiple symptoms, and I am almost completely over the symptoms now but it could have just as easily went the other way and I could have end up hospitalized.

My point is I got it because I was lazy. I hate wearing my mask and washing my hands so much. But COVID is real and it’s a horrible sickness to have. I thought I couldn’t get it, but no one is immune. So please don’t get lazy. Please encourage your love ones to stay vigilant. When you get it, it stops you in your tracks.

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Nikki Arant

Bristol, Tennessee

Want to be a baseball umpire, here’s what you do. Find a local association. You may have to start at Little League for free. Want to move up? Purchase your own gear and uniforms, pay the fees to undergo background checks; attend meetings and clinics. Maybe go through professional umpires’ school. Then gain the experience through working many games. Earn the respect of the coaches and administrators. Hope you are lucky enough to call high school state playoffs, Appalachian League, AAU National Championships, NAIA Mid-South Regionals, Hokie-Smokie Classics between UT and Virginia Tech, Dizzy Dean World Series’ and countless other games. Maybe you will be lucky enough to call with former Major League umpires like Dale Ford who umpired two World Series and two All Star games and was behind the plate when the “ball went through Buckner’s legs” in 1986. Maybe he will tell you did a good job after a game and know that it came from a Pro. Maybe you will go long stretches of not getting hit in the mask with a 95 mph Justin Grimm fastball and then you will get hit with three straight where there is no padding. You will endure the wrath of people who come to the park with the sole intention of being ugly and may have to be removed. They may even follow you to your car and act in a threatening manner. You will have to learn to “leave it at the park” and not take it home with you or let it affect you personally. You will have to realize that there are 30 guys they can call ahead of you that can do the job as well or better than you. You may not be liked, so they may not call you anymore, I have done all these things listed, wanna ump? I will be glad to get you started.

Marty Lowry

Bristol, Virginia

On Jan. 6, the Herald Courier published a letter titled “BSA President should be fired for allowing gay members.” Like the writer, I too am an Eagle Scout; however, unlike the writer, I see no wrong in opening the doors of the BSA to those who are homosexual and/or female.

The BSA has provided me with some of my fondest childhood memories. It taught me more than just how to camp in the woods or build a fire. It taught me how to be kind to others, how to show courage during times of distress, and, most importantly, how to set myself apart from others through leadership and good deeds by following the Scout Oath and Law.

In the letter, one facet of the Scout Oath was mentioned: “a Scout is morally straight.” In this section of the Oath, it is not stating that one needs to be heterosexual. Instead, it is referring to the idea that one needs to hold true to the morals of love, kindness and generosity. To argue that homosexuals or women cannot do these actions, as the letter alludes, is itself immoral and wrong. Furthermore, the letter fails to address the Scout Law, which specifically states that a scout is friendly, courteous and kind. I pinpoint these specific items of the law because I find that most human beings possess these characteristics, whether they be gay, straight, male or female. One does not need to agree with them or their lifestyle, but casting them out to be marginalized and discriminated goes against every pillar of Scouting’s foundation.

Instead of demonizing a group of people who already feel they must live their lives in the shadows, perhaps the “morally straight” thing to do would be to open our hearts and minds with a sense of love and humility toward our fellow man.

Andrew Snyder

Bristol, Tennessee

I’m sitting on the front porch soaking up the breeze. Finding silver linings was a good first step not to worry about the pandemic. But then breathing became this new direction for me. It seemed it had been too long since I took in real air. It is summer and I’ve been swimming in a deep hole, spending hours with my bare feet on the ground, walking my dog more regularly and believing for the first time that what happens to me is God’s plan. If you’re reading this take your shoes off, spread your toes, find a place to be peaceful and enjoy just one moment of gladness before you go on with your life. And don’t forget to breathe. We have more in common than some admit.

Maggie Hess

Bristol, Tennessee

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