December 5th, 2018, was a day that we, who live in the greatest country in the world, learned much about our 41st president.
In a moving, touching service, friends and family reviewed the life of a man who lived a life that made a difference in all of us.
The words they used were loving and respectful. His friends, family and minister told of a man that was a humble, loving son, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
A man who put great emphasis on service.
There was much to be learned about this man.
Hopefully, we learned as much about ourselves. I know I did.
George Herbert Walker Bush was a man described by his closest friends as Godly, loyal, supporting, and loving and the list goes on.
About now you’re probably wondering, “Why is this column here in Sports?”
My answer is, because it concerns a hero. A real, honest to gosh hero. This is a man who volunteered to go to war at age 18, became the Navy's youngest aviator, was shot down and escaped death on a bombing run. A man who had nearly died a first time from a staph infection while a teenager.
Today we throw the term “hero” around pretty loosely. We give it to sports celebrities who basically play a game for lots of money. We tend to forget the real heroes of our time. The firemen and police officers, who put their lives on the line daily for our safety. And, how about our military men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom. And those who put service to others ahead of themselves.
In my mind, teachers are heroes, as well. Especially, Mrs. Thelma Thomas, my third grade teacher at East Lake Elementary, who gave me a love of books. There was also my American history teacher at Rossville High School, Mrs. Carter, who sacrificed many afternoons one semester to make sure I got that crucial credit my senior year and graduated on time.
There were a lot of other lessons thrown around today. Many I hope our current and former administrations picked up on.
I learned that humility is a trait to be treasured. And, I learned it is rare. As former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming put it, “Those who travel the high road of Humility in Washington, D.C. are not bothered by heavy traffic.” I’m sure that can be said of most places.
I learned that loyalty is to be treasured and appreciated. Loyalty to my God, my family, my friends and my country.
Fidelity is was such a trait with 41 that he called his boat by that name. Fidelity to our spouse, nation and beliefs foremost.
Friendships are to be treasured. If treated well they will last a lifetime. In President Bush’s case his closest friends came early and lasted until his passing. Part of 41’s credo was: “What would we do without family and friends?”
Humor. Again, with almost a Will Rogers delivery, Senator Simpson remarked that, “Humor is the universal solvent against the abrasive elements of life.”
Grace. George H.W. Bush was a gracious person. I can attest to that personally. I met him while on active duty in the Air Force. He and Mrs. Bush were the epitome of grace – and class. It was so evident how much they appreciated those in uniform. We knew he was a brother-in-arms.
Prayer was important to a man who once sat in the Oval Office. It was stated that every night the Bush’s would pray together and count their blessings. I believe they had many.
The above are just a few things I learned about our 41st Commander-in-Chief.
But, what did I learn about myself?
I learned that my loyalties need to be stronger. To my friends, to my country, my family, my church and my Lord.
I need to laugh more. Real deep belly laughs. It is good for the soul.
I learned I must always be a father my sons can come to for love, encouragement and a little guidance when needed. One of the most touching moments during the service was when the son, President George W. Bush broke down upon telling the world that his dad was the best father, ever.
I must apologize when I am wrong and know it is okay to fail. But never accept failure as a way of life.
I learned I must be a better friend. When my friends have a need, I must do a better job of being there. I need to reach out more and show compassion when needed and encouragement always.
I must be a more humble person. My travels should be on that high road of humility. Hopefully, the traffic will increase there.
As Senator Simpson remarked, “Hatred corrodes the vessel in which it’s carried.” I learned I must replace any hatred or hateful thoughts I might have with love, especially when it comes to differences with those who might have a different vision or opinion than mine. This is one I pray our nation’s leaders will take to heart.
In a word, I must be tolerant without abandoning my beliefs.
I learned I must be a servant. President Bush’s friend of over 60 years, former Secretary of State James Baker, was by his side when Mr. Bush passed. He spent the last half hour of his friend’s life rubbing and stroking the former president’s feet. It was said he was serving a man who had served our country greatly. Serving in much the same way Jesus had served his disciples.
In his closing remarks, Reverend Doctor Russell Levenson, Jr. said, “Love God. Love your neighbor. There is no greater mission on earth. Preach Christ always, and, if necessary, use words.
That was the greatest lesson I learned from the life of President George Herbert Walker Bush.
Ceiling and visibility unlimited, sir.
(Contact Dennis Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DennisENorwood)