The Saturday Morning Post© 2017

“If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does,
it must be by what he gives.”

Robert South

A Favor for a Friend

One of our neighbors, when I was a kid was Henry Silva, above right with fellow Rat Packers, Sammy, Frank, Dean and Peter in the original Ocean’s 11. Henry made several movies with these guys and had a successful film career playing the bad guy in dozens more.

I remember being a little bit afraid the first time I met him, because he looked every bit the villain he so convincingly played in the movies. But as we got to know him, he and his wife Ruth became good friends of my parents and the kids on our street grew to like him a lot.

You could always hear Henry coming home from work. He drove a white-on-black 1967 Porsche 911s. Making the turn onto our street in low gear created the high rpm sound of a Porsche’s that could be heard all through the neighborhood.

So, when I was about nineteen, I decided I ought to do Henry a favor as he always had been so kind to me. I suggested to him that, when he was out of town filming, his car’s battery might run low and the fluids might become a little sluggish. And I offered to take his car out occasionally, to “exercise” it and wash it weekly.

Henry said yes!

I was so ecstatic I could hardly see straight. And when Henry was gone on his next shoot, I was gone down the road in that beautiful 911s. Not quite like Ferris Bueller in the Ferrari…but close.

Oh man!

I have often thought back to those days and that great favor from a great friend and Henry’s faith in allowing me the privilege of driving his awesome 911s.

To see more photos of Henry click here.
To see photos of a 1967 911 like his, click here.

Work Walking

intern

“Sitting is the new smoking.”
Anne Hathaway in The Intern

Work Walking

If you haven’t seen The Intern, I recommend it. It’s a terrific movie with wisdom, experience and heart, and you can even watch it with your kids. But you be the judge of that.

There’s a line in the movie, “Sitting is the new smoking,” which got stuck in my mind and, through a series of fortunate events, has greatly improved my daily life and focus too. It all started when my good friend Wayne Franke told me that he walks twenty miles every weekend. Wow, that’s a lot! I asked him how he did that and why…? Wayne said that he makes his phone calls while he walks.

I began to think about that. A few years ago we moved our office to our guest house. It’s nicer being the landlord rather than the tenant, and it cuts out the beginning and the end of the day’s traffic. My assistants like it, I like it and my family likes it. Well, it occurred to me that a lot of the phone calls I make don’t require me to be in front of my computer. So the next thing you know, on the days it fits, I’m walking five to ten miles a day while working.

A friend said, “That’s the ultimate multitasking.” But really, it’s just the opposite. When at my desk, there are lots of distractions from email, piles of paper, notes, people, the phone. But when walking, there is nothing to distract me, and I am totally focused on the call and the three feet of pavement in front of me.

It’s awesome! We live on a quiet street, and so no one even knows I’m doing this, until now. Some of the neighbors may think I’m picketing without a sign, but aside from that I would highly recommend it.

What a beautiful discovery and addition to the quality of my daily life.

If it’s feasible for you, give it a try. It might work for you too.

It’s a Wonderful Life

life 1

“All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”
Peter Bailey

It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite film. The first, post-war release of director Frank Capra and actor Jimmy Stewart, in 1946, was a box-office failure, yet both said over the years that it was their favorite too. It wasn’t until 1973, when the movie slipped into the public domain and could be shown on any TV station for free, that it became a perennial Christmas classic.

I must have seen it at least twenty times and will probably see it another twenty times. But it was only after reading Henri Nouwen’s extraordinary book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, did the film’s true meaning, and why it so resonated with me, become clear.

It’s a Wonderful Life is really about the parable of the prodigal son, told from the elder son’s point of view. The elder son who stayed home and took care of his family and community is George Bailey. George’s young life is filled with dreams of great adventure. He declares, “I know what I’m going to do tomorrow and the next day and the next year and the year after that. I’m shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet, and I’m going to see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then I’m coming back here and go to college and see what they know… and then I’m going to build things. I’m gonna build airfields. I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high. I’m gonna build bridges a mile long.”

In reality, George never leaves his hometown, Bedford Falls, or his job at The Building and Loan. One by one, he sacrifices his dreams to save those of his family and community. And though he sees himself as a failure, everyone else sees him as a hero.

As a young boy, he saves his younger brother, Harry, from drowning and, in the process, loses his hearing in one ear, which keeps George out of the war. When Mr. Gower, the pharmacist, distraught over the loss of his own son to influenza, nearly poisons a sick boy with the wrong prescription, it is George who prevents it. He saves The Building and Loan from closure after his father’s death, when the Board votes to keep it open only on the condition that George stay to run it, thus forfeiting his trip to Europe and his college education.

George gives his long-saved college money to his brother, Harry, who, though hardly the prodigal, goes on to glory on the football field and in the war, earning the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism.

To everyone’s surprise, when Harry returns briefly home after college, he has married and accepted a lucrative job away from Bedford Falls, rather than take George’s place at The Building and Loan to allow George his turn at college. As Harry steps off the train and asks, “Where’s Mother,” George declares, “She’s home, cooking the fatted calf,” a line drawn directly from the parable of the prodigal son.

At last, on Christmas Eve, George’s inept but lovable Uncle Billy loses The Building and Loan’s $8,000 deposit. George takes responsibility for the loss, as he faces a crisis he cannot overcome, or so it seems.

George always puts the needs of his family and his community before his own. He learned this trait from his father, Peter, who, as George says, never once thought of himself. Over time, George is tempted to become bitter as he sees his own hopes and dreams dashed one by one, thinking his life a pointless existence.

Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.” It is George’s consistent choice to serve others, the less traveled path, that saves and joyfully fulfills him and those around him in the end.

May God bless you and yours during this holiday season and in the New Year!