On LiMu the Emu

Retirees have time to reflect on many weighty subjects; among those topics fleetingly at top of mind this week is the notion that Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (full disclosure: my long-time employer has had a close working relationship with Liberty Mutual for many years) has determined that a large swath of our people will be motivated to buy insurance from a carrier represented by a disheveled gentleman and a homely bird (LiMu Emu) (each wearing yellow shirts; the latter occasionally vomiting paper scraps on to a desk top).  Liberty Mutual is able, and its marketing research has presumably determined that younger consumers find the spots endearing.  My reaction to them reminds me that I am perhaps now a bit further from the Pepsi Generation than I am from  the Pepperidge Farm Generation :).

On American Kindness

Over the weekend, we were in Milwaukee for a family gathering, and our fairly new Prius was struck, opening a gash on the left rear side that we were pretty sure when we discovered it was at an angle such that wind shear would cause some of the rear fender to rip off if we tried to drive back to Madison without having it attended to. (No note was left.) From an engine standpoint, the car was completely drivable. We were able to make an appointment at a nearby service center (more on the shop below), and at a few minutes past 5 on a Friday night, set off to drive about 4 miles in significant winds and bitter, bitter cold with the dark coming on.

We didn’t make it. About half way to the shop, we heard a bang and realized that part of the fender had flipped back due to the wind. We pulled over in the now almost-dark to retrieve what had come loose, cars moving around us, fairly concerned about what we were going to do.

A van slowly pulled up behind us and stopped. Its motor kept running, its headlights stayed on, and its emergency flashers came on. An African-American gentleman, in his mid-50’s – warm, friendly, reassuring — got out of the van, came up, and — with cars continuously going by us and in temperatures and wind cold enough to numb your bare hands in a couple of minutes — helped us put the pieces temporarily back in place, and with duct tape he provided, we got the fender patched sufficiently so we could finish the drive. Then we exchanged names, we thanked him – I don’t think it was possible for us to thank him profusely enough – shook hands, and … he bid us good night, and went on his way.

Got to the service center. The shop is for engine repair, not body work, but the rep and a couple of the technicians came over and when they heard that our goal was simply to make the car secure enough to get back to Madison, they said they thought they could attach a couple of fasteners that would hold the left rear together, and told us to go to dinner (we had family with us in another car) and come back in about an hour.

When we got back, the car looked like it had a few stitches, and was clearly sturdy enough for us to get it home. We asked what we owed; we heard: One of the guys had some time.  No charge. Glad we could help.

For those of us that tend to focus on the seemingly paralyzing political acrimony we have at home and the serious issues we face here and internationally, it’s good to recall: There exists, as there always has, a good will, a kindness, a generosity of deed and spirit in America.

For 2019

Among the books I’ve been reading lately is Conservationist Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac and Sketches from Here and There, which he composed during the 1930s and 40s.  In his sketch, “Wisconsin,” Mr. Leopold wrote:  “To see America as history, to conceive of destiny as a becoming … all these things are possible for us, and to achieve them takes only the free sky, and the will to ply our wings.”

2019 may be a tumultuous year.  Let us pray [or hope, if you prefer 🙂 ] that our leaders fairly address the many issues we face rather than exploit them; that what is true, just, and good for our people and those around the world will ultimately hold sway; and that the year brings us the grace to recognize and appreciate the blessings we receive, and the strength to overcome the obstacles we encounter.

Happy New Year.

On the Passing of George H. W. Bush

President Bush himself perhaps provided the most insightful assessment of his presidency in a comment to historian Jon Meacham:

“I am lost between the glory of Ronald Reagan — monuments everywhere, trumpets, the great hero — and the trials and tribulations of my sons.”

Even so, I now look back on his life of service and his decency … and realize what our current political climate has lost, and the standard to which we need to aspire and return.  Mr. Bush’s agreement during his term to raise taxes – despite his earlier campaign pledge, and with the understanding that it could (as it did) cost him a second term – because he felt it was the right thing to do – is in stark contrast to the craven focus on self-interest of politicians of both parties that we suffer with today.

I would submit that what can be said of President Bush can’t be said of many presidents:  that his years in the White House were simply a part of the tapestry of a larger life that in its entirety consisted of integrity, honor, duty, devotion to his wife, his family, and his friends, and dedication to his nation.  Although there are good biographies available about him, I recommend that anyone having the opportunity instead read All the Best – George Bush, a compilation of the President’s correspondence over a lifetime.  It demonstrates in his own words, more clearly than any historian, eulogizer or commentator has or will, what a fine man he was.

A Lesson from a Friend

I recently spent time with a very close friend of ours who we hadn’t seen for a while.  It’s getting later in his life, and while he and his spouse both have jobs, it’s fair to surmise that they may always be a bit financially challenged.  He is, nonetheless, completely free of bitterness and without rancor.  He is warm and open, a gentleman in the best sense of the word, who genuinely wishes the best for all whom he meets.  Many of his family and friends are better financially fixed than he and his wife, but he bears no resentment.  He leans conservative and supports President Trump, although he disapproves of the President’s behavior.

Although I acknowledge – it’s a Guiding Principle of these pages — that any outlook I express can be completely haywire, I obviously hold my perspectives firmly and generally offer them fairly energetically.  That said, during our time with our friend, while I posed questions regarding his positions, I found myself very open to what he was saying — wanting to understand his thoughts — because he does wish the best for all, has no confrontational tone as he explains his views, and accepts that I don’t always agree with a gentle smile.

I suggest that today, we not focus on the excesses of Mr. Trump, or, if you will, Ms. Pelosi.  May we as a people find a way to regain our tolerance, our openness, to well-intended views contrary to our own.  I concede that it is more difficult in circumstances where there is not the close personal bond I have with our friend.  Of this I am confident:  whether he or I have the more accurate view of the current state of our national affairs, he is the one much closer to the gates of Heaven than I am; if I do make it through those gates, it will be in part due to his intercessions on my behalf …

Let’s give thanks for all of our family and friends.

A Note Outside My General Realm …

A number of years ago, I read an interview of Robert Redford, in which he was asked:  Was there anyone he envied?

Yes, he said, there was:  his friend, Paul Newman.  He said that Newman was married to the woman with whom he remained deeply in love after more than 40 years; that he made a movie when he wanted to; that he drove a race car when he wanted to; that he experimented to create an exquisite meal when he wanted to …

I feel likewise blessed:  I am also married to the woman with whom I remain deeply in love after more than 40 years; TLOML and I are lucky to regularly see our children, our son- and daughters-in-law, grandsons, family, and friends; we are able to travel; I exercise as and when I want to (which I thoroughly enjoy); I ponder our investments (which, again, I thoroughly enjoy); I blog when I think I have something to add …

Sen. John McCain, in an interview after he was diagnosed with the brain cancer that ultimately claimed his life, indicated that he had had an extraordinarily blessed life.  Mr. Redford felt that Mr. Newman was similarly fortunate.  I consider myself in their company.  As our nation – and, for those that have concern, the Catholic Church — endure trials which I believe will only intensify in the coming months, may we remain cognizant of our blessings …