One Shoe

1935. India. Mahatma Gandhi rushed into a railroad terminal to catch a train. He was late. And as he ran, the train began to move out of the station. Gandhi raced and grabbed the railing on the last car. And pulled himself up. But just as he stepped on board, the sandal of one foot fell off — and landed between the tracks.

QUESTION: Did Gandhi jump off the train to retrieve the sandal (and then try to make it back on the train)? Or did he shrug – and step inside the railroad car with one bare foot? What would you do?

It really is a trick question. Gandhi did neither. Instead, he quickly removed the sandal on the other foot and lobbed it into the center of the tracks — near the one that had fallen. An acquaintance who was already on board the train asked why he had thrown his other sandal. Gandhi replied that he was hoping that the person who found the first would find the second — and have a fine new pair of sandals.

This is an example of what might be called “creative compassion” — an ability to help others in ways that may not be so obvious. It is stories like this that give credence to the idea that we may not be able to change the world — but we may be able to change the world of another human being. The biggest thing we might do on any given day is simply to do an act of kindness, of compassion or of love — to another person.

Shakespeare Oxford Society

[An old post from August 30, 2012] William Shakespeare was born on April 20, 1564, and died on April 22, 1616.  In his 52 years, he is alleged to have written some of the world’s greatest plays, tragedies, dramas, comedies and poetry.  As for me, I don’t buy it. 

For several years, I was a member of the Shakespeare Oxford Society — a 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to getting to the bottom of who actually wrote the works of Shakespeare.  The Society leans toward Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford.  DeVere was born on April 12, 1550, and died on June 24, 1604.  It was de Vere who likely wrote the works of “William Shakespeare” — despite the fact that several plays were arguably (but disputably) written after his death. 

The real William Shakespeare’s personal details do not ring true to one annointed with the amazing literary gift ascribed to “Shakespeare.”  There was actually doubt about his authorship dating back to when the plays were first written(!).  De Vere (or “Oxford”) was in the mix of speculation from the very beginning. 

As a collector of historic manuscript material, there is another — significant — factor in this disputed attribution.  For a man who allegedly wrote thousands of pages of glorious literature, there is not one sentence of handwritten text penned by “Shakespeare” (or de Vere for that matter).  In fact, there are only six known examples of Shakespeare’s handwriting — and those are scratchy signatures on legal documents. 

In my post of August 18, 2011, I spoke of my interest in searching for a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (of some 200 sets printed, only 47 are known).  Another quest that I’m sure I would enjoy is a hunt for the handwritten proofs used for setting the type of Shakespeare’s works.   I’m sure there are manuscripts out there.  Somewhere.  Waiting.   Perhaps waiting for me. . . . .

Maybe I need a sabbatical.  🙂

The Sports Page

Does anyone read the sports page in the daily newspaper? In the Chicago Tribune, the sports page is an entire section. When I come back in from picking up the newspapers off the driveway, I peel them out of the plastic bag and pitch the sports page into recycling. I think the last time I looked at the sports page was in April – when the Masters golf tournament was in progress.

I rarely watch sports on television either. College or pro. Some years ago, the Cubs were in the World Series and – yeah – I watched. And years before that – the Bulls were ongoing champs. But since then, there’s little reason to watch unless someone of interest is in the hunt. And that’s rare. . . . .

I am troubled by those who earn $30 million a year for “playing” football or basketball or baseball. Forget the grade school teacher who wants to take his children to a baseball game. And can’t afford the $150 tickets. Much less the $8 hot dogs or $7 Coca Cola. Oh and don’t forget the $50 parking. . . . .

No – the sports page doesn’t resonate – or sports for that matter. I’ll cheer when Northwestern, Augustana or Villanova win. And I’ll sometimes tune in on Sunday for PGA Golf. But as for the other pro stuff? As Donny Brasco said “fuhgetaboutit.”

Happy 90th Birthday!

[A smiling repeat from June 28, 2018] Donna is the one in our family who handles the birthday or greeting cards. She buys them at the local card store (selecting the perfect card for the occasion). She addresses the envelope and fills out the card with a touching message. She seals the envelope, puts on a stamp and sends it off.  At most, she will ask me to sign the card or draw and color one of my artistic creations (see post of November 16, 2017).  

Once in a while, I will send off a birthday card on my own (cue the trumpets).  When I do, the card doesn’t show a puppy dog.  Or a mountain scene.  Or offer a “Best wishes on this special birthday” message.  I have a supply of “Happy 90th Birthday” “Happy 95th Birthday” and one or two “Happy 100th Birthday” cards stuffed in my drawer.  Along with some birthday cards that are (these days) not sendable.  If you get my drift. . . . . .  

I usually have no clue as to whose birthday is when.  But if Donna reminds me that it’s someone’s birthday, I may groan.  Go up to my desk.  Rummage around a bit.  And dash off one of the “Happy 90th Birthday” cards to one of my fraternity brothers or golfing buds (who have a sense of humor).  In most cases, the “90th Birthday” business is these days ten to fifteen years off from the actual number.  If I want to add pizzazz to the card, I may draw a line through “90th” and scribble “Ooops – 91st”. . . . .   

Brothers

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.  It is like the precious ointment upon the head . . . . and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion . . . .”  Psalm 133:1-2

In July 2015, I posted on attending the 100th anniversary of the Gamma Alpha Beta fraternity at Augustana College.   Many of the brothers from my era showed up.  We have remained a close-knit group since graduation.  This last weekend, we had a reunion of “GAB’s” in Rockford with about 20+ brothers — all of my vintage.

I wasn’t destined for college (see post of October 13, 2013).  My future was to work as an assistant plumber after high school.  Frankly, it’s a fluke that I even applied (around the time of high school graduation) and got in to “college.”  And that I came to know my brothers. 

There are amazing memories and stories.  One I smile at is the dark night when my entire pledge class was corralled by police and taken off to the police station for borrowing a neighbor’s ladder at midnight (the neighbor was awake, thought it was theft and called the police).  One quick-witted pledge escaped detention by launching himself over a window well and clambering up onto a fire escape.   Yeah.  That was me. . . . 

The GAB’s won the Homecoming Sing with the ballad I sang to Lauren every night when she was young — “Oh Shenendoah.”   It was that song I picked for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding (see post of August 14, 2011).  We had tears in our eyes as the music played.  It’s interesting how when you meet old friends, you pick up where you left off.    It’s as if time stands still and I’m 19 years old again.  With my brothers. In my brain, I’m still 19.  Now if only my body would cooperate . . . . .        

Power

There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army; nor is a strong man delivered by his great strength. Psalm 33:16

According to the Council on Foreign Relations Global Conflict Tracker – there are 27 ongoing – bloody – conflicts going on right now around the world. Some are territorial disputes. Some insurgencies. Some for purposes of genocide. A few over drugs. A few, like Ukraine, are all-out wars. All for the exercise of power. And where does it get us?

World War II saw the murder of 80 million people – that’s a million people killed every month for six years. World War I – 20 million souls. Today, the world’s conflicts are extinguishing the lives by the tens of thousands. Destroying cities. Devastating crops. Creating massive pollution. All for the flaunting of power. And where does that get us?

While the leaders of nations, rebel groups and political entities claim justification for the killing and destruction, how will they be remembered? Hitler thought he could conquer the world and yet he has been relegated to the toilet bowl of history. Vladimir Putin has joined him. Perhaps Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-Un, and the despots of other fiefdoms will be flushed down as well . . . . .

Meanwhile. . . . according to the UN Chronicle, 25,000 people die — every single day — of starvation. And nearly a billion people are under-nourished. Just think if Putin, Xi and the other global tyrants hung up their desire for murder, cruelty and devastation and used their power to help others. They could be heroes. Heroes. And remembered for eternity. For truly making a difference.

Everyone’s time on this earth is transitory. But a whisper. All the more reason to use our gifts — our power — to make a difference.

My Father’s House Has Many Rooms

{A repeat from May 27, 2020] In 1985, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – the Mormon Church – opened a grand temple in Glenview, Illinois.  It was the 35th Mormon Temple in the world.  

Prior to its consecration in August 1985, the doors of the Temple were opened to the public.  From July 15 to August 3d, an open house invited anyone and everyone to take a guided tour through the beautiful structure.   There was no proselytizing and no sales talk.  It was strictly – we would like to share with you – our neighbors – this new home for the Mormon Church. 

I had seen the construction site – and later the completed structure.  When I read that the Temple would be open to the public, I thought it would be interesting.  And educational.   So one weekend afternoon, Donna and I drove over to a very crowded parking lot and lined up for the tour.  We must’ve spent close to an hour walking through – including a small, beautiful oval-shaped room, grand chandelier and four chairs – I believe called a “Celestial Room” – where one might pray more directly to God.  

After the tour, we were met by two young men in white shirts and black ties.  They cordially asked if we had any questions – about the Temple or the Mormon faith.  I asked how Mormons view those of other faith traditions who worship God in their own way.  One young man responded by quoting John 14:2-3 – “My Father’s house has many rooms. . . . ”  and he shared an ecumenical belief that while Mormons may have an upper hand in terms of their faith (not unlike the exclusionary attitude of soooo many others faiths, synods, religions), all Christians should have a reservation for lodging in Heaven.  As to non-Christians, there is further latitude that acknowledges that all people are God’s children.  A good thought that we are all God’s children . . . . 

14 Years

[A repeat from October 21, 2018] In 1972, Donna and I took an extended honeymoon to Spain and Portugal. In Spain, we traveled around – sightseeing and attending the corridas of famed matador Diego Puerta in Madrid, Cordoba and Sevilla.  And we took pictures galore. In Ayamonte Spain, I traded three ice cream cones for a photo of three little boys (“It’s okay – he’s a tourist” said the woman working the open air shop). Then there was the fishing boat where the six men were quick to pose following my request. And in Lisbon, we walked the gardens of Jeronimos Monastery.  A gardener – wearing a black turtleneck and jeans – was suspended on a board over a large circular clock garden.  Clipping flowers.  He smiled, tipped his beret and posed.  Snap.  Snap.  Snap.  

Fast forward nearly 15 years.  Donna and I returned to Spain and Portugal with our 10 year old daughter, and friends, Diane and David and their son Dave.  Before leaving, I had the photograph assemblage mentioned above blown up to eight by tens.     

In Ayamonte, we went back to the same ice cream shop and I showed the same (now older) woman the photo of the three little boys.  She gasped.  And identified each one.  She asked us to be at her store in the morning.  And we were – greeted by a crowd.  And the three little – now grown – boys.  We gave each one an 8″ x 10″.   One mother cried on seeing the photo as she had no pictures of her son as a little boy.  

The fishing boats were gone – replaced by a small office of the Guardia Civil — the national police who sport the tri-cornered hat.  An officer identified one fisherman as the father of Ayamonte’s head of Guardia Civil – who marched over.  And began weeping when I gave him some 8″ x 10’s”.  His father had died a few years before.  He handed me his card – “if you ever need help in Spain, you call me.”  I still have his card. . . . .

And in Jeronimos, we found the gardener — now in a drab gray uniform.  Raking leaves.  And three weeks from his retirement.  He saw his photograph.  And his eyes filled with tears.  At his request, we buzzed through two rolls of Polaroid film taking pictures for our gardener friend – and each member of his entire gardening crew. We had memories. And made memories. . . . .  

Wisconsin Supper Clubs

[A summer repeat from 10/6/16]

Have you ever been to a Wisconsin supper club? If you haven’t, you’re missing a major life experience. Wisconsin supper clubs have a presence in most parts of (duhhh) Wisconsin. Little, sometimes out-of-the-way towns will have good restaurants that feature four course meals: soup; salad; main course; and dessert. And of course there’s the obligatory beverages: beer; spirits; and jug wine (though sometimes one is surprised by a genuine “wine list”).

When you enter a supper club, you usually pass the bar.  The trick is – do not pass the bar.   Ever.  There’s a protocol.  In most places, you go to the bar, say hello to the bartender and indicate you would like a table.  He (or she) will then give you the once over.  Make a mental note that you want a table.  And ask if you want a drink.  You must always say “yes” to the drink.  Or you may still be sitting at the bar at closing time.  At some point, a table will open and you’ll be escorted into the dining room. Immediately a relish tray, menus, water, bread and butter will be plopped on your table.    

Menus contain the usual assortment of two, four and no-legged protein.  My suggestion is go for the fish.  Usually perch or walleye.  Interestingly walleyed pike commercially-caught in Wisconsin is not served in Wisconsin.  Walleye normally comes from Canada.   Your entree includes mashed or baked potatoes and vegetables (sometimes canned).  Soups are usually onion or some “cream of” something soup.  There’s often a salad bar. Served salads can be disappointing.  If that’s the option, have the blue cheese dressing.  I mean – what the hay?  And the spigot is on — from bar to your table.  Dessert is usually a chocolate sundae in a shiny tin cup.  

I’ve been to my share of supper clubs – mostly in Door County and Northern Wisconsin.  Guide’s Inn in Boulder Junction and Birmingham’s on County B north of Sturgeon Bay are favorites.  These are two I would go back to again.  And again.  And order the walleye . . . .