"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man." - George Washington.
I think old George was right, honesty in all things should be at the top of our list on how to conduct our daily life. Without that characteristic, all the others (kindness, generosity, caring, forgiveness, etc.) will suffer. After all, honor begins with honesty but does not necessarily begat the other traits described above. Like George, I believe it is the linchpin for the person we strive to be. Sometimes honesty is a difficult quality to maintain. If the checkout woman at the grocery store makes a $20 mistake in your favor, it isn’t too hard a call and sure gives you a good feeling. But what if you had to lie to get your auto insurance to pay $10,000 in damages? Now, suddenly, the honorable thing to do just become a whole lot harder. I have a GPS system in our car that records, on video, every mile we travel and all conversations we have. The intention, of course, is to use it if we’re involved in an accident to prove I am not responsible for it. The rub comes when I am liable for the accident, and I don’t divulge the existence of the recordings. That’s when honor & honesty has to kick in. That’s when I truly get to wear the mantle of an “honest man." There is an old saying that every man has his price, meaning he will sell his soul if the price is right. I doubt that is true, but I have seen that sellout many times. Just as the disciples abandoned Jesus in his time of need, we often see our morals abandon us during our time of need. I know what I need to do if the time comes. I have to believe that I will do the right thing.
My wife loves to attend our small town "Retired Teacher’s Yard Sale” held in April of each year. Sometime I go with her, other times I don't. It all depends on what I have planned for the day. This month I elected to go with her, and that was probably a bad decision. I left there with a bicycle, a small drill press, a wooden shelf, some tent stakes, a few CD’s, and who knows what else. For a guy who's supposed to be downsizing, I am a dismal failure. All the items in the sale were donated, and the profits were used for student scholarships. That is an excellent excuse, but not really the reason I bought all those things. Soon I plan to take everything out of my workshop, put each item in one of three piles: "Keep, "Maybe?", "Gone." After cleaning the workshop thoroughly, I will return the 'Keep' pile and then determine what I really want from the 'Maybe?' pile. What’s left will be what I invite my neighbor (Cal) to pick from. He normally takes everything in the “Maybe?” pile and some of the things in the “Gone” pile. What’s left goes to the city dump the following Saturday. I’m of the opinion that I probably go through a similar process among the people in my life, although I don’t call Cal over to take those, I’m doubtful about 😊. People shuffle through our lives constantly, and we subconsciously choose which ones we want to continue to interact with and those we don’t. There’s an old proverb that says, “Do not protect yourself with a fence, but rather by your friends." It is important that we choose our friends judiciously.
A recent trip to attend my granddaughter Christine’s college graduation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, also included stops in North Carolina to visit an uncle (Stewart) and close friend (Millie) and niece (Jessica & family). On our way home, we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, and visited with an old high school classmate (Hubert). Some of these fine people struggle with health issues and I am amazed at their ability to deal with the daily routine that is necessary to help them return to, if not good health, better health.
The other morning, I attended a retiree breakfast for employees of my former workplace. Later that day, I realized that I had left my jacket on the chair after breakfast ended, and that started to worry me. At some point in the “worrying” process it became apparent to me that being concerned about something so trivial was not a good thing. After all, there were people in my life struggling with life-and-death decisions, and here I was fretting over a missing jacket. I find it a constant struggle to keep things in my life in perspective. As a younger man, I doubt that “perspective” was something I pondered, but looking back I know that it should have been. Visiting family & friends is a valuable way to maintain that important outlook. Alexis Carrel said it so eloquently “Every “Every man needs to attend to the sides of his personality which he has neglected."
I recently attended my high school reunion, and it was quite enjoyable. It gave me a chance to visit my life as a teenager in the 1950s. The people that were part of my life then have changed, just as I have, but when we’re together, they are still the same: 18 years old with gray hair. Some, in my cast of wonderful characters are ill, or have family members with health problems. I could visit some of them, but not all, regrettably. I left the reunion with two distinct emotions: the joy of seeing family & friends and the sadness of seeing their struggles. As my wife and I made the nine-hour trek home, we stopped to get gas, and I noticed a “Sonic” fast-food chain across the street. I know they sell soft-serve ice cream so, after filling the car with gas, we dashed across the road and bought a vanilla cone. Now, the joy of eating an ice cream cone in hot weather is trying to lick fast enough to keep it from streaming down your arm. That takes some careful planning and precise licking. Alas, when I finished, it was all over my hand, but the joy of trying to keep up with the melting process was worth the hassle of having to clean up afterwards. As you can tell, it doesn’t take much to entertain me. I look for happiness wherever I think that little guy is hidden. As someone once said, “Two happy days are seldom brothers."
I read recently that humans began their love affair with dogs 15,000 years ago and that 44% of all families in America have a dog. That means we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 million dogs. Wow! A lot of people that I love, have a dog, sometimes more than one. It reminds me of a joke that goes; If you lock your dog and your wife in the trunk of your car for two hours, and then you pop that trunk lid open, which one will be glad to see ya? People talk to their dogs as if they can understand every word, and I do believe they know key words and react accordingly. Mention the word “treat” to almost any dog and they practically go berserk. I have always suspected that if you want to know what’s important to someone, look in their checkbook. My son takes his dog (Grace, a Pomeranian) to get groomed every couple of months, and it cost $200. I’m guessing here, but I’ll bet he spends $2000 a year on her and never regrets a penny of it. Why do we love our pets that much and spend so much of our time and resources on them? It’s not what we give them, it’s what they give to us - complete and total devotion. Watching that wagging tail of theirs when we come home from work, or from a trip to the store, lets us know that we are loved, maybe by the only living thing on earth. I think Marie Bashkirtseff said it best, “In regard to the transference of love, all I possess at present is concentrated on Victor, one of my dogs. I breakfast with him sitting opposite to me, his fine, large head resting on the table. Let us love dogs; let us love only dogs! Men and cats are unworthy creatures." Hmmm, I think a lot of cat people will not be happy with that quote. I do not have a pet, but I do enjoy the pets of others.
I hope this missive finds you enjoying life, wherever in this marvelous world you are, and that your summer is a wonderful experience. ....Tommy