My job requires me to spend a lot of time on our Tennessee roads and when that time involves interstate driving, you find yourself quite often looking at the double doors of the rear end of an eighteen-wheeler. Over the years I have found a lot of verbiage on these rolling billboards that are both entertaining and educational, plus some that make me want to pass just to get the verbiage out of my sight. You know the ones like, “I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you,” and “Your mama is so fat that blank blank blank blank and unmentionable.” Those I don’t appreciate and freedom of speech may be pushed to the limit.
However, just the other day I saw one on the back of a Wright’s Farm hay and straw truck that really got my day started right. Across the back doors in large blue letters, the owners had placed this quote, “If you want to walk on water, you have got to get out of the boat.” That bit of inspiration stuck with me all day. Christ, in Matthew 14: 22-33 came to the aid of his disciples from the nearby shore where he had been praying, during a storm, by walking on the water. If you remember, Peter was the only one who got out of the boat to meet him, but took his eye off Jesus and began to sink until he asked Jesus for help and Christ took his hand to save him. When they get in the boat the storm ceases. That is the way life is for us. When we take our eye off of what is important, we may begin to sink, but reaching out to Jesus in tough times and keeping him “in our boat” during the storms of life, those storms can be calmed. But, you do have to get out of the boat every so often whether you want to or not. I know a person who quite often gets out of the boat to help others and makes walking on water look easy. My first encounter with her was way back when I was in middle school and she was a
superlative in a yearbook at Middle Tennessee State College as it was known back then. It was my brother’s yearbook, who was attending MTSC at that time, and the photo of this young lady, who was a queen of one of the organizations on campus, caught my middle school eye. Not only did she look like royalty, she just happened to be the daughter of the current governor of Tennessee. At that time in my life, I knew there was no way this country farm boy would ever have the chance to meet her, but at that age there is always hope.
However, over the years I have had the chance to meet and get to know Mrs. Ann Ellington-Wagner, the daughter of former Governor and Mrs. Buford Ellington, and I must say she has been everything I thought she would be, even from those days of looking at that yearbook back in middle school. I have gotten to know Ann by her involvement with the Tennessee Agricultural Museum located at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. Ann serves on the board and gives hundreds of hours to promoting the museum along with helping the community in numerous ways. The Tennessee Association of Museums recently recognized her as the Museum Volunteer of the Year. She received the Volunteer Award of Excellence at the annual conference of the association for coordinating the Preemie Evergreen project in conjunction with the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.
Ann organized the Preemie Evergreen project in partnership with Baptist Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Nashville. An evergreen tree was decorated and displayed at the Agricultural Museum with tiny, hand-knitted caps, booties, mittens and blankets””all for premature infants and their families. Over a period of eight months, Ann solicited and organized 26 new museum volunteers who dedicated almost 3,000 hours to make 434 small garments to keep tiny, premature babies warm. She provided patterns and instructions for the project, while generating interest in museum volunteering.
In a recent news release Ann was quoted as saying, “Many of the new volunteers had never been to the Ellington Ag Center or our museum. It was a heart-warming experience for all of us. The volunteers who were eager to make this happen inspired me. This award belongs to them!” And, the museum will be decorating another Preemie Evergreen again this year.
Ann Ellington-Wagner is one of those who steps out of the boat often to give help to others. She has waded some deep water at times for the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, operated by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and I, for one, sure appreciate what she has done.