Halloween Is Worth Dying For

halloween85It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well, Vera, that Halloween is my favorite holiday. By the way, here’s a pic of your dad and uncle from when we lived in Bridgeville, Pa. Your grandmother made their costumes. You can tell the boys were up for the occasion.

This is the first Halloween for you — well, not actually the first, but last year doesn’t count because you were still a four-month-old slug just lying around sleeping most of the time. Now, you have wheels on those legs. I wish I were there to see you experience this wonderful holiday for the first time. Continue reading

I Wasted Too Much of My Life Doing These Two Activities

Time is the most precious gift we’re given when we come into the world. The gift isn’t the same for everyone. Some people are given little; some are given much. I’ve been given a lot, already having made it into my seventh decade.

Looking back, it’s clear to me now that I squandered a lot of this gift. I used too much of my time doing two things in particular that proved to be a waste: commuting and watching TV (or, more generally, what I call spectating). Continue reading

The Place That Was Hardest to Leave

Your grandmother and I have moved around quite a bit, Vera, principally because work opportunities pulled us away. We were reared in rural central Pennsylvania, but we’ve spent our adult years mainly in Pittsburgh suburbs, the Mechanicsburg, Pa. area, Philadelphia and its suburbs (West Chester), and the Front Range (Boulder and Loveland, Colorado). We’ve lived in different neighborhoods and belonged to various groups. But there is one that stands out. There is one that proved to be the hardest to leave. There is one I miss the most. And the reasons why might be relevant to your life. Continue reading

Treasure the Special People Whose Paths You Cross

I recently received a warm message from a fellow parishioner at the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren (which we attended when I was serving as president of Bridgewater College). The message was a welcome reminder of some of the very special people whose paths crossed ours during our lifetimes — and of some of our special time together.

It’s easy to forget sometimes. It’s easy to dwell on the less-than-special people, or the people who were asses. Sometimes it seems they outnumber the special people. But I’m not sure that’s the case.

When I recall our time at Bridgewater College, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the duplicity. It was as rampant as we’ve ever experienced anywhere — actually, more so (by far). Fortunately, though, I also remember some of the most special people whom I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. I wish that’s what would come to mind first. Perhaps someday.

We’ve been lucky, Vera. We’ve encountered some amazing people along the journey. Some were people of extraordinary accomplishments. Some were pure of heart. Some oozed goodness from every pore of their bodies. Some made us laugh (in a good way). Some were simply genuine, real, authentic and trustworthy. Some blessed us with rich conversation for hours on end. Some cared — truly cared.

Some of these people are still in our lives. Some aren’t. But all have enriched our lives immensely.

You undoubtedly will have similar experiences, Vera. And you’ll most likely be a very special person to people whose paths cross with yours.

My advice is to pause and treasure those moments and those people. I have found that they, more than any success you might have or goal achieved, are what truly make life special.

When you sense someone is making you a better person merely by being in their presence, when you receive inspiration from someone, when your courage is strengthened by the aura and example provided by someone, when your intellect and heart are stretched and softened by the words and actions of someone, when you are in the presence of someone with whom you can be yourself without any pretense or airs, when you eat, drink and laugh with someone who truly cares about you and your well-being, when you desire the evening to never end, know that, in the parlance of the religious, you are in the presence of holiness and are experiencing a holy moment. In secular parlance, it is special. Very special indeed.

It matters not what you choose to call it. But it matters greatly that you recognize it. And treasure it.

Men Can Be Pigs

I’ve been meaning to tell you what pigs men can be, Vera. But the opportunity hadn’t come up. It came up yesterday.

Until then, my focus may have been on restroom habits. It’s where one often encounters the piggishness of men. Seeing men exit public restrooms without washing their hands is a common occurrence. So my first warning to you was going to be this: don’t shake hands with men (unless you know them to be of a higher hygiene caliber).

But Donald Trump, the GOP nominee for the presidency of the United States (leader of the free world), reminded me yesterday that the piggishness of men was a deeper issue than restroom hygiene.

Yesterday, the campaign of one of our presidential candidates, Donald Trump, imploded when a tape came out of Mr. Trump bragging, in extremely lewd and offensive terms, about being able to get away with sexual assault on women because of his celebrity status.

One of his defenses to admitting conduct that could get non-celebrity perpetrators arrested was that boys will be boys, and that’s how they talk. I can’t know. Perhaps in his world they do. In mine, they don’t.

The reaction of people to this statement is interesting yet hardly surprising. Mormon politicians took the high ground. They expressed outrage and withdrew their support. Apparently the Mormons actually believe what they say about morality. Not surprisingly, their expressions of outrage were not matched by many non-Mormon “Christian” evangelicals. It’s not surprisingly because it’s been apparent all along that their support for a certain political agenda had nothing to do with any actual belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But I digress. Back to Mr. Trump’s words.

They reveal, if nothing else, the degree to which men can be pigs.

Men like Mr. Trump objectify women. They don’t respect women. They abuse them in a myriad of overt and subtle ways.

There have always been such men, and I suspect there always will be. As a man, I’m probably not the best person to warn you about such people. Talk to other women, many of whom have been victimized and abused by┬ámisogynists and others who prey on what these men consider to be the “weaker sex.”

Of course, I hope you’re never victimized. I hope you’re never treated badly by men. But I know it’s a risk. A real one.

I don’t know why some people have the urge to assault and abuse other people. And I don’t know why some people feel the urge to brag about it. Yet Mr. Trump’s words are a reminder that it happens. They are a reminder that men can indeed be pigs. And worse.

Fortunately, Vera, not all are. The apologists for Mr. Trump who claim there was nothing unusual or particularly bad about his words or actions are way off base. I don’t know how usual or unusual the words or actions are, but I know they are not common to all.

There are men out there who aren’t pigs; indeed, there are men out there who honor and respect all people, regardless of gender. You’re fortunate to have one of the best as your dad.

Relish in your good fortune. And if, someday, you choose to spend your life with a man, you will know what goodness and honor look like. You will know that wealth and celebrity status are not proxies for goodness.

I so hope you’ll be strong enough, and lucky enough, not to be lured into a bad situation by some man’s power, wealth or popularity. And I so hope you’ll never see, first hand, just what pigs men can be.


Not Even God Can Change the Past

Shimon Peres died this past week. They don’t come much better than this. Mr. Peres was a visionary. He was courageous. He was a realist. He was willing to sacrifice — even his life if necessary. He became a peacemaker. He graced us with his wisdom. He stands in stark contrast to much of what we see in the world today.

But it’s something he told former Harvard president Lawrence Summers that caught my eye. Here is Mr. Summers’ tweet:

“I once asked Shimon Peres about something that had gone wrong. His response: Not even God can change the past.

Remember those words, Vera. Continue reading