"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)
I'm a very verbal and expressive person, yet as I sit here at the computer typing, I'm finding myself at quite a loss for words! I was about to write that I got some upsetting news yesterday. I did - however, it really wasn't "news" because it happened a long time ago. But I learned of it yesterday, so for me I guess it really was news.
Before I get into that, I want to say I've been wrestling for weeks about things I want to write on this blog and things I just plain want to say. But I'm also afraid. I've learned in life that it's very easy to be rejected. I've also felt marginalized for much of my life; I've felt like I just plain didn't fit in. I know my writing these words may surprise a lot of folks. I've done a lot of public speaking during my adult life, and I know I usually come across as very comfortable and confident when I speak in public. And, I know a lot of my writing probably seems the same way. It might surprise you that one of my favorite songs is The Warrior is a Child by Twila Paris. In that song she talks about what a giant, confident, assertive and victorious Christian everybody believes she is; but that when she's away from the crowds and in private, she says, "I drop my sword and cry for just awhile, for deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child." Those words very much fit me, too, but I guess that's not bad. I have to depend on the Lord and trust the Lord, and not myself, and that's a good thing.
I got a reality slap yesterday. It jolted me into thinking about how I want to live and what is and isn't important. Listen, I could almost take myself off Facebook and maybe at some point I will. I am absolutely sick and disgusted with all of the hate and hand-wringing from both the political right and the religious right and the political left and the religious left (and, trust me, there is a religious left).
It's interesting when you think of somebody from the distant past that you haven't seen or heard from in over thirty years, so you do an online search to try to find out where they live and what happened to them. I do that from time to time, and it's one of the things I do like about Facebook and about being online. This week it just kind of came to me to do a search for one of my father's closest friends back in the 1960s and 1970s named Bill Schimmel. Bill had to be my father's coolest friend! He was ten years younger and from an affluent family in suburban Milton, Mass. My dad met him at Civil Air Patrol in the 1950s. Bill Schimmel had been a radio personality on a country music station in the early days that my dad knew him. Bill didn't use his real name when he was a D.J. He was funny, likable, extroverted, interesting, fun-loving, but also very humble and very nice. He didn't come over to our house a lot, but when he did, he was one of the few grown-ups who would make a point of talking to and being friendly to the kids. I know my brother, sister, and I appreciated that. My father was a very complicated person. At one extreme, he could be very authoritarian, very strict, and very rigid. At the other extreme, he could be relaxed, fun-loving, and even silly. It was that side of my father that always manifested itself when Bill Schimmel was around. My father had kind of a playful relationship with Bill Schimmel, almost like Bill was a kid brother to him. Maybe Dad needed that because he was the youngest of a large family, so he never got to have a kid brother. Dad used to joke and fool at lot with Bill. He called Bill "Newt" and "Sonny". I have no idea what the possible significance of those nicknames could have been! If you've ever listened to radio host Bruce Stevens, his voice and persona is almost identical to Bill Schimmel. (Bruce Stevens worked at Boston's WBZ radio in the late 1980s. He was later a weekend host on WTKK-FM, and most recently he was a weekend fill-in overnight guy at WBZ, although he's also had longterm radio jobs in Hartford and Indianapolis.) Yes, every time I'd hear Bruce Stevens, it would make me think of Bill Schimmel, and I'd wonder where Bill is now.
A particularly happy memory I have is of our family spending a day with Bill and his extended family on Cape Cod during the summer of 1966. Bill's parents had a beautiful home right on the waterfront in East Dennis. Bill took us out in his boat and we went deep-sea fishing. Later, Bill's extended family had us all to a cookout on their property. The steaks were burnt on the outside and raw on the inside! My dad hated rare steak and he joked a lot about that, but it was such a memorable day and a lot of fun! Bill's father was an executive at WBZ radio and television. As kids, we all went on Boomtown. For those of you who are not Baby-Boomers from Boston, Boomtown was a children's show on Boston's channel 4 hosted by cowboy Rex Trailer which had about twenty-five kids on the show each week as sort of a participatory audience. It wasn't till I was probably around twenty that my mother told me we went on Boomtown through the arrangement of Bill Schimmel's father, and that Bill's father was the Boomtown Santa Claus at Christmastime!
As a high school kid, I wanted to go into broadcasting as a career in the worst way. My father didn't think it was a good idea. He had Bill Schimmel talk to me about it. Bill left broadcasting to become a schoolteacher. Bill told me, "You're a nice guy, and I'm a nice guy. Broadcasting is a cutthroat business. That cutthroat stuff wasn't for me, and I don't think it would be for you, either." That ended my broadcasting desires. In fact, my father strongly encouraged Bill to become a Driver Education instructor in addition to public school teaching, and Bill did.
Well, what was my big jolt- my big shock this week?! I remembered that Bill got married and settled in a little town called Margaretville, New York. My parents lost touch with him. I don't think they had any contact with him at all after the 1970s. What I found on line was a Victim Impact Statement which Bill's widow had given, in the aftermath of Bill being killed instantly by a reckless drunk driver in August of 1987! What devastating news; and to think it happened to such a truly nice guy! In the statement, his widow speaks of the irony that Bill was a Driver Education instructor. He was just out on an errand, and a drunk driver ended his life. She talked about the terrible loss of her husband.
I asked my sister if she had any idea that Bill Schimmel had died that way in 1987. Like me, she was shocked and devastated. She is certain my parents knew nothing of that, and that they'd have been very, very upset if the had known about it. It happened so long ago, and I've had no contact with Bill Schimmel since the 1970s, but right now I'm truly grieving over thirty years later.
What does this have to so with some of the stuff I wrote at the beginning of this piece? A lot! People are so worried about "what a jerk Trump is" and "what a jerk Nancy Pelosi is" and they won't speak to this one and they won't speak to that one, and everbody's got "an agenda" and everybody's got a chip on their shoulder, and frankly I'm sick of it!
There's so much more important- like God. Like what His plan is for your life. Like what His will is. And, what about your family? And, what about your loved ones? And, how are you spending your time? And, are you sowing money into things that really matter, or are you socking it all away in the bank like Ebenezer Scrooge?
Our lives can end at any time. Any time! Our loved one's lives can end at any time!
Where are our priorities?
What are we doing?
And the fact that good people like Bill Schimmel are killed by drunk drivers- well it stinks! But it makes me glad that someday the Lord will return to this planet, and that this "vale of tears" is only the beginning of eternity.
I've gotta stop.
If this piece touched you in any way, I'd love to hear from you.
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