By Jake Morrill
Growing up, my sister and I were briefly minor celebrities to insomniacs across Appalachia. What I mean is we showed up on late-night TV. It was 1982. The World’s Fair was coming to Knoxville. Everything was aflutter. Picture a whole city getting ready for company. Someone must have thought people needed a lecture because my sister and I ended up in a public service announcement.
It started with a family, out at the World’s Fair. You could hear the daughter whining, “But Daddy! I want to ride the log flume.” That was my sister. A pudgy boy–played by me–rendered mute with excitement, writhed and tugged at the father. The father looked at his absolute limit, with those horrible children. Like something bad could happen, if you didn’t watch out.
The camera pulled back, to reveal the smiling visage of Archie Campbell, from the TV show “Hee Haw,” wearing his signature overalls, leaning over a fence. I don’t remember all he said, but the gist was, “When all those foreigners come to Knoxville this summer? Don’t go around beating your children in public.” One line, with a shrug, was, “Take a break and cool off.”
I was only ten, so didn’t have any children of my own to go around beating, but things could make me mad. Somehow, “Take a break and cool off” made a lasting impression. As psychologist Viktor Frankl didn’t actually say, “Between stimulus and response, there’s a space. In that space is our power to choose a response. In that choice is our freedom.” Or as mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn actually did say, “You can’t change the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Scholars trace the practice of mindfulness back to the Buddha. Me? I’ll always trace it back to Archie Campbell.
Jake Morrill is a minister and therapist in East Tennessee. He holds degrees from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Harvard Divinity School, and is a recipient of the post-graduate Michener-Copernicus Fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.