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Editorial: Trip to Oxford home unforgettable

It’s a story I will never forget.

For 40-plus years, I’ve worked at a newspaper. I’ve covered more meetings than I would like to admit. I’ve interviewed famous people. I’ve met presidential candidates and entertainment stars.

Many of them are distant memories, a speck in my brain. Some I can’t remember at all.

But there’s this one that will stand out – forever.

The annual Masonic Picnic is this Saturday. Attendance has been dwindling in recent years, and Davie’s Masons are making an effort to bring it back to life with a food truck tournament, cornhole competition and more.

But all of that fun is not what the picnic is all about.

It’s about the children.

Years ago, the now late Taylor Slye arranged for us to visit the Oxford Orphanage, now the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford. Monies raised at the picnics go to this cause.

It’s quite the drive from Mocksville to Oxford, north of Durham. We were met with the usual greetings from the officials and tours of the campus and all of its amenities.

Then we went into the children’s cottage, where the youngest children lived. One step into that cottage and I was hooked. I was hooked on the great job the Masons were doing for the children at Oxford. I was hooked on supporting the picnic, which supports the home.

But most of all, I was just hooked.

The children were happy – and they all wanted attention. They would hold onto my leg in an effort to get a minute or two of my time. One young girl with glasses took to me, and me to her. I still cherish a photo made of us that day. Once inside that cottage, you didn’t want to leave – at least not until every child had a turn at getting your attention, telling you what they had learned that day, showing you their favorite teddy bear or just generally showing off to get your approval.

It’s hard to leave that cottage without tears – tears of joy in knowing there are people willing to help these kids, kids they don’t even know or likely will never know. Great things happen every day at the home for children.

Things are different at the home now, but the goal is the same – to help children who otherwise may not receive what most of us take for granted – a loving family. Most of the children had parents, they were just not capable of taking care of their kids for various reasons. The children needed a structured, loving home with a roof over their heads and food on the table. They got – and get – that at Oxford.

Things are different at the picnic nowadays, as well. Gone are the days many of us remember, that end of summer weeklong reunion with friends complete with rickety carnival rides and cotton candy and games of chance. Gone are the Thursday lunches where locals prepared baskets full of fried chicken, deviled eggs and every other concoction one could imagine for the masses to devour.

It’s time to start a new tradition.

So while you are out and about on Saturday afternoon and evening, stop by the picnic grounds off North Main Street behind the Brock complex in Mocksville. Grab something to eat. Enjoy the music. Play some of the games. But most of all, be generous.

The children need you.

– Mike Barnhardt