Coffee with Mimi: Just be nice

Published 6:52 am Saturday, September 1, 2018


Contributing columnist

We live in a time of minute-by-minute news accounts of world events. If you are part of the generation that I am, we became aware of a world outside Saturday morning cartoons, at the untimely death of an American president.

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I had not yet celebrated a double digit birthday when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember fairly clearly the virtual round the clock television coverage. The reporters and anchors were clearly shocked, but professionally worked their way through the hours of details and stories as they strung together biographical films, historical perspective analysis and coverage of the protocol involved in the death of a sitting president.

Since that time, we have witnessed the passing of many people we have come to almost know because of the explosion of television, internet and social media access to their lives. For better or for worse, we are bombarded with information about those who are leaders or noteworthy in our society.

In previous centuries, citizens would learn of the death of personages eventually. The details and analysis would be forthcoming as historians got to work and passed along the records as they distilled the research over time. In actuality, we know what a select few wanted us to know.

Not so, today. One internet site reported there are 27,831 TV channels in the world, of which 375 are dedicated to news. Granted, some of those are segmented to a degree such as primarily covering business topics and trends. A count of internet news sources is not possible: possibly due to the lack of need to tie information to sources which are, well, verifiable to anything which is solid such as a book or a human who has read a book. 

But, this week I was grateful for some of this over coverage of news events. The minute by minute dissection of the details of a life’s story.

This week, a great man died. A man who was a political legend in our time. Literally, many millions of people voted for him from the time he was elected to two terms in the House of Representatives, to five terms in the Senate, to two unsuccessful runs for president. His political record was loved, or despised, depending on who you listened to — I never voted for him.

His personal life history ran the gamut from war hero to a lackluster academic career. He sowed his wild oats by his own admission and spared no one his opinion while in the midst of debate.

We know all of this, now. In real time, as they say. And still, we pause to appreciate the life of a real American. Even a person such as myself, who was often on the other side of his ideological position, is quite saddened by his death.

Because at the end of the day, most any day, by all accounts, he was nice. He was respectful, appreciative and didn’t let the issues get in the way. His interactions during the day were not solely based on what he could gain or take.

Why do I believe these eulogized remembrances of this man? Because I saw him in action once many years ago.

It was a little thing, a chance encounter which lasted mere minutes. I have told the story before, but at some points in history, I need to be reminded of what makes a good person and this is the time for this little story.

Even though the children were very young, the oldest was only six, we decided to take them to Washington, D.C. We planned the whole experience to include every monument of significance, as well as the Zoo, the Smithsonian and the cherry trees, meeting our congressman in his office and so forth. We had to feed them and would time touring to include a lunch or dinner stop somewhere which wouldn’t break the bank and had something they would eat.    

The most memorable experience became that not for the food, although the meal was completely satisfactory all around. It was lunch in one of the Senate dining rooms. We had done our homework and knew the public was welcome to this particular one. So, there we were, a family of five seated in the center of the room. The kids were well behaved.

In the course of the meal, a man approached our table, leaned down to the kids’ level and asked their names and where they were from. The oldest child filled him in. The man patted them on their heads, welcomed them to Washington and told them to enjoy their visit. He went on his way. We were asked if we knew who the man was, but we did not.  He is the senator from Arizona, we were told.

Take a minute even for people you don’t know. Talk to kids, even though they can’t do anything for you. Don’t blow your own horn, people will remember you if they should.

He was a very nice man and we will miss him because he was just that. That’s all he needed to be.