A TALE OF TWO TILLIES

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Snoopy, famous beagle and would be author

“Everybody loves a clown.”

Gary Lewis and the Playboys, rock and roll band

 

At Pickerington High School my senior year, Mrs. Tillie Brooks taught two subjects. The first subject, business and accounting, she taught to all students. The second subject, compassion, as far as I know she taught only me.

The dictionary definition of compassion is, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.”

To set the stage let me tell you that I had a troubled youth. I struggled in school and with life. My solution, I thought at the time, was to enlist in the Marines. This was 1970 and the Vietnam War was still front page news. My future did not look all that rosy.

I needed to pass Mrs. Brooks class in order to receive my diploma. And from all indications, it wasn’t going to happen. But Tillie Brooks, the teacher famous for you get what you earn and you earn what you get, stepped in with a new plan of action. Allowing me to do some extra work and fudging my grade a bit, my grade card showed a C for compassion in accounting.

 

*            *            *

My name is Jerry Lee Snider. People ask me if I was named after the rock and roll legend, Jerry Lee Lewis. The answer is no. I was born before Mr. Lewis became famous. My grandmother named me Jerry Lee in honor of two of her favorite entertainers. They were Jerry Byrd and Ernie Lee. Mr Byrd played steel guitar on several recordings by Hank Williams Senior including the hits, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Lovesick Blues. He also worked with Dolly Parton and Pasty Cline. Ernie Lee was the singing host of several radio shows in the 40s and 50s.

And that brings us to Tillie number two.

She called me Joey.

I was very young and she was very scary.  And no matter how many times or who in the family corrected her and told her my name was Jerry, to Aunt Tillie I was still Joey.

Turns out Aunt Tillie was a prophet.

A clown is a comical, silly, playful person.

And in circus lingo clowns are called Joeys in honor of Joseph Grimaldi a famous actor, comedian, and clown from England.

I consider my life mission to create hope and laughter.  And every morning I stand in front of a mirror with a red clown nose on and say, “Today I’m going to make someone glad they met me.”

After this ritual, the nose goes back in my bathrobe pocket. But the spirit of the gesture stays with ms. So be on the look out for me.

I guess Aunt Tillie did okay. She knew something all those years ago that the rest of the world would wait to discover.

 

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Proverbs 17:22

 

 

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STARTING WITH HENRY

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.

Everything we see is perspective, not the truth.”

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

We live in Ohio. Our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live in California. In order to feel connected, I watch the KTLA  newscast live streaming on the internet from Los Angeles. So part of my day begins with the friendly hijinks of Henry Di Carlo, the early morning weatherman. Earthquakes, fires, and mudslides. With a little help from the rest of the news anchors, Henry handles the bad news with compassion and concern. If the forecast is bright, Henry is a lot of fun to be around. However, it seems to me that, when choosing to have a good day or a bay day, a whole lot of people give their power to decide away to folks like Henry.

From a young child and all along the way to the 66 years I am now, I have come to expect the weather to be a conversation starter with just about anyone I’m chatting with. For some people; It’s too hot or too cold, there is too much rain or not enough rain. The frost is too early or the frost is too late – Either way we’re screwed. And so it goes.

But my favorite kind of people to chum with are the folks who know where to find an umbrella, a raincoat, rowboat, surf board, sun glasses, or a pair of snowshoes. Maybe they can’t do anything about the weather but they can make some attitude adjustments.

Once upon a time there was a flood. And as floods go, it was pretty bad. The rain kept coming down and the water was rising fast. People started gathering on the roof of one house and waited to be rescued. They soon became fascinated with a hat going back and forth in the water. Finally a little old lady stood up and said, “Don’t worry about that hat. It’s my husband. He said that today, come hell or high water, he was going to mow the grass.”

“Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen, theologian

We need Henry Di Carlo and all the other weather watchers. We need their help in planning what to wear and figuring how long it will take us to get to work. We don’t need their help in deciding what to think. In fact, the weather can come along and take everything material thing you own – your house, your car, your swing set and your George Foreman grill. Guess what, you’re still the proud owner of your attitude. And we still have each other.

“Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Happy trails to you, keep smiling until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?

Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”

Dale Evans and Roy Rogers

 

MY PAL AL

“There are only two ways to live your life.

One is though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein, Theoretical Physicist

 

Thank you. Nice of you to notice my new tee-shirt. And yes, that’s a picture of Albert Einstein on the front. My pal Al was a very smart man. He won the Nobel Prize for physics. When the legendary funny man Charlie Chaplin invited Al to the premiere of his new movie, City Lights, the public cheered for both of them. Later Chaplin said to Einstein, “They cheer me because they all understand me, and they cheer you because no one understands you.”

I will admit when you and I decide to talk science, it won’t be much of a discussion. Science was never be my best subject. Even so, Mr. Einstein did get through to me with some amazing words of wisdom.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

It took me two years to make it through the 4th grade, two attempts to earn my driver’s license, two shots to graduate from college, and two adventures in marriage to finally get it right. Most world champions rarely get it right on the first try. So if it’s Olympic gold or making the perfect omelet, expect a few blunders and flubs. The secret is to enjoy the journey and remember even Einstein went through a bunch of letters before he landed on E = mc2.

“Never lose a holy curiosity.”

When was the last time you took a different route to work? How about listening to a different radio station today? What do you think about trying a Chinese restaurant this weekend instead of pizza?

Check with the librarian and see if the two of you can figure out why the sky is blue. Make a visit to a travel agent and plan an exotic vacation to someplace whose name you can’t pronounce. Pretend you’re Christopher Columbus and go discover something new. You just might end up having a good time.

“Everybody is a genius.

But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I don’t think God put us on this earth to just take up space. Everyone, I believe, has a gift or a talent that needs to be shared with the world. It is up to each individual to find it for him or herself. A tip of the stetson to those folks who seem to come out of the womb knowing they want to be a plumber, guitar player, truck driver, dancer, or brain surgeon and then make it happen. For some the journey may be a bit more complicated. And there is no disgrace in being called a late bloomer.

Have fun learning why you’re a passenger on spaceship Earth. And above all, please be kind to your fellow travelers.

 

 

 

 

BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR JACK STORY

“Imagination is the true magic carpet.”

Norman Vincent Peale, author and minister

 

Chances are you’ve heard of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital located in Memphis, Tennessee.

Their mission is research and treatment of children with cancer or other life-threatening illness. They opened the door for their first patient in 1962. The idea and vision for this special place came from entertainer Danny Thomas. In 1940 Mr. Thomas was facing a bleak future. He was out of money and out of luck. With a young family to support, Danny prayed to Saint Jude asking for help in finding his path in show business. The prayer ended with a promise that if things worked out somehow Danny would create a shrine to Saint Jude.

Danny Thomas became a super successful actor, comic, and producer.

Fast forward to today. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats children from all over the world, charging them nothing and sharing research wherever it will help. A promise made and a promise kept that keeps on giving. Mr. Thomas was awarded The Congressional Gold Medal by President Reagan for this brilliant contribution to the world.

 

*            *            *

 

The signature part of Danny’s comedy routine was, The Jack Story.

A salesman is stuck on a lonely country road at night with a flat tire and no jack so he needs to borrow or rent one.

The salesman starts walking toward a service station about a mile away. He’s talking to himself as he walks. How much can he charge me for renting a jack? One dollar, maybe two. But it’s the middle of the night, so maybe there’s an after hours fee. Probably another five dollars. If he’s anything like my brother-in-law, he’ll figure I got no place else to go for the jack, so he’s cornered the market and has me at his mercy. Ten dollars more.”

Danny would drag the story on and on with the worse possible outcomes for his problem. When the poor man finally makes it to the service station the owner asks how he can help.

The salesman explodes. “You got the nerve to talk to me, you robber. You can take your stinkin’ jack and shove it up your …”

Mr. Thomas remarked that in his whole career he never had to say that last word. The audience was so in tune with the story and laughing so hard, he didn’t have to say it.

 

*            *            *

 

So what about your Jack Story?

How do you use your imagination?

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

If you’re going to be a prophet, why not be a positive prophet? Look for and believe that you’ll find the best in people.  And when you need to, you’ll come up with great ideas and see the beautiful possibilities with each sunrise. Most of all, when you need a jack, someone will be more than happy to help you.

 

 

 

ROOKIE IN RUNNING SHOES

“I am learning all the time.

The tombstone will be my diploma.”

Eartha Kitt, entertainer

 

Rocky Marciano was Heavyweight Boxing Champion Of The World from 1952 until he retired in 1956. He was undefeated in 49 fights and won 43 by knockout. Near the end of Rocky’s career a reporter stepped into the locker room for an interview before a fight. He found the champ reading a book on “How to Box.” Even after devastating every challenger put in front of him, Rocky still felt there might be more to learn.

So what have you learned today?

In his book, Born For Love, Leo Buscaglia, talked about his childhood experience at the dinner table. Leo was part of a large Italian family. After the meal, Leo’s father would go around the table and ask each of his children what they learned today. “And you better be ready to tell him something,” Leo explained. As a grown man in his seventies, Leo often found himself asking before going to sleep,

“What have I learned today?” And if he drew a blank it was off to an encyclopedia to look up some wacky statistic or piece of information so he could satisfy his father’s requirement and get a good nights sleep.

You and I have 100 billion brain cells. And if you want to keep them dancing you need to feed them some new thoughts and ideas. But don’t take my word for it. Former First Lady Laura Bush explains, “A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning.”

Let me add some exciting news to her words, library cards are free.

Do you have one?

One of the most amazing discoveries of my life was learning that after age 60 I could take classes free at any state university. As a senior citizen at Ohio University, I studied acting, painting, public speaking, writing, history, and half-dozen other subjects. In the near future watch for me at Hocking College. I’ll be the dude with gray hair and a beard in the glass blowing and ceramics class.

And please don’t be concerned about the crash, boom, and bang sound coming from North George Street. That’s me playing the drums and pretending to be Ringo Starr. I’m entertaining my neighbors but my wife thinks I need a few more lessons before I take my show on the road. Learning to play a musical instrument just might be what the good brain doctor ordered.

Hey, look at the clock. Time for me to lace up my running shoes and put in a few miles on the path near my house. I’ve been an avid runner over thirty years and guess what. I still read books and watch training videos on the subject.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki, Japanese Zen Monk

 

 

GETTING OFF THE BUS

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive– to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

 

For three years I have been working as an aide in the city schools where I live. Most of my service has been at an elementary or preschool. And in every classroom one of the walls is decorated with the alphabet. I still sing my ABCs from time to time and not long ago, while the children were at rest, I started thinking about those letters –  A is for apple, B is for ball, C is for cat, so on and so forth.

Then I started rethinking those illustrations and decided the letter A should be represented by a picture of one of the preschoolers I have been honored to work with. And the letter A should stand for Attitude. You see the young scholar I’m talking about spends a lot of time sitting in a chair for making some unwise choices.  But the next day, when the school bus arrives, he is the happiest camper on the planet. Glad to see everyone and more than ready to start a new day. He does not carry a grudge, not for the teacher who put him in time out or the playmate that snitched on his evil deeds. An excellent role model in the fine art of forgive and forget.

So how do you plan on getting off the bus tomorrow?

Who are you mad at?

Take a tip from my little friend – get over it!

And that brings us to the letter B.

How about B for back bone.

Have you tried anything new lately. My little friends are always up for an adventure. They don’t seem to worry about being too small, too tall, too old or too young. Name the game and they are ready to play. Name the project and they are ready to build. And whatever you put in front of them they find a way to make it fun.

Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

I recall watching a program about American soldiers returning to the beaches of Normandy where they landed on D-Day in the Second World War. They were asked about their struggle on that day and the rest of the war, “Was it worth it?”. Hearing the laughter of children playing near by, one soldier said, “There is your answer.”

And that, my friend brings us to the letter C. It stands for cheerfulness.

What could be more precious than the laughter of children?

And maybe It’s it time to give your funny bone a workout?

Young children have a lot to teach me.  A, B, C,  Attitude, Backbone, Cheerfulness, And I still have 23 more letters of the alphabet to go.

BIG WHEEL AND A BIG DEAL

“If you have a heartbeat, there is still time for your dreams.”

Sean Stephensen, author and speaker

 

My wife and I live in Ohio.

Our grandson lives in California.

2,278 miles from our doorstep to his.

He wants to know how long it will take him to get here on his big wheel.

I don’t have an answer for that but I do admire his grit.

 

*            *            *

 

Not long ago we made the journey to visit him for his 5th birthday. Weather canceled two departing flights and we missed a connecting flight by five minutes in Colorado. But weary gave way to joy when we finally landed in LA. And if I have to pick the most exciting event of a week full of adventure, here it is. I took a toilet paper roll and held one end to my ear, the other I placed on our grandson’s tiny chest. A moment later, I was listening to his heartbeat.

 

*            *            *

The average heart beats 115,200 times a day.  And if you make it to the ripe old age of 80 that adds up to 3,363,840,000.

Wow!

Now, here is some really important information to go along with those numbers. There is no guarantee exactly how long you or I will live and how many of those heartbeats you and I are actually going to get. You can think right, act right, eat right, be right, do everything right and still, no guarantee how long your heart is going to last. Knowing this to be true ought to get our attention. So while we still have a heartbeat, here are some important questions we need to ask ourselves.

Who does your heart beat for?

What makes your heart beat just a little bit faster?

Singers and songwriters know what I’m talking about. Here are a few tunes to celebrate the heart.

You Put The Beat In My Heart by Eddie Rabbit

My Heart Skips A Beat by Buck Owens

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat by Hermans Hermits

I Left My Heart In San Francisco by Tony Bennett

Heart And Soul by Hoagy Carmichael

Put A Little Love In Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon

Only Love Can Break A Heart by Gene Pitney

Love Me With All Your Heart by The Ray Charles Singers

Heartaches By The Number by Ray Price

Take These Chains From My Heart by Ray Charles

Your Cheatin Heart by Hank Williams

Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler

And you can see by some of those titles, the heart gets broken and bruised from time to time. That’s the way the game is played. And if you don’t take a chance on getting your heart-broken, you’ll never find true love and happiness in this life.

 

*            *            *

It’s a big deal – my heart and yours. And my prayer for you and especially my grandson is that every beat counts for joy, passion, and purpose.