“Hate corrodes the container its carried in”
Senator Alan Simpson during his eulogy of President G.H.W Bush
One thing I learned as an educator is that we are always learning.
When we are a part of or exposed to various learning moments, those moments
which are both known, and even most often unknown,–moments throughout our
lives, we inevitably are given gifts of the ‘take aways’…
Those nuggets and morsels of wisdom that we glean…
glimpses of that which speaks deeply to our souls.
They are the things we ruminate over…chewing on and pondering over.
They are the small gifts we receive from both moments and individuals…
If you’ve read any of my posts this week, you know I’ve been trying to take
in what I can from the life, death, mourning and now funeral of our 41st President
George H. W. Bush.
I’ve been watching the state funerals of our presidents since John F. Kennedy’s funeral
as my parents instilled that sense of duty and respect in me…
a respect extended to our presidents for their service to us, the people.
It mattered not the party, we gathered for each one—that is until I was on my own,
And I still watched…just as I did today for our 41st President.
It was never about party or politics…but it was about respect and service.
President Bush 41 was just finishing the first year of his presidency when my son
It’s one of those things written down in a baby book…” who was the president
the year you were born”…with his being Bush, mine being Eisenhower.
Most who know me, know that I was a huge fan of President Reagan.
And if you’ve read many of my posts over the years, you’d then know that the tandem
working relationships between President Ronald Reagan,
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and
Pope John Paul II all played a significant role
in my life at a time when I was just coming into my own…
coming into my own thoughts and conviction about the world around us.
They fed my keen interest and love for our democracy, freedom as well as the importance of
having a working Christian faith within that very democracy and freedom—
as the cost for each comes at a very high price.
They taught me that hope remains even when things appear hopeless…that
a Cold War could be broken, a wall could be torn down and people could taste freedom
after living a lifetime under tyranny.
The presidency of George H.W. Bush seemed to serve as an asterisk to those
four world giants and the ture gifts they offered our world.
So it comes as no surprise that I’ve been quite taken with much of what I’ve learned
throughout the course of this week regarding the life of our 41st president.
Some things that I had known and some things that I had never known.
Some things about The President, some things about his cabinet and some things
about his lifelong friends.
It has been, however, from his death that I have actually found a surprising sense
of hope—hope for this oh so divided Nation of ours.
A deep-ceded, hate-filled division that I have anguished over now for
oh so many months.
Look at these two images.
The first image of this group of American movers and shakers is at the
beginning of the President’s funeral.
It is an image of past and present.
And within that past and present is a great deal of visible stain.
This was a gathering of people who we all know don’t exactly care much for one another.
Some in the group are better at hiding their real feelings in public than
some of the others.
This historic picture shows four presidents, along with one hopeful want to be,
along with spouses gathered together, seated side by side,
in order to pay homage to one of their own.
The mood is somber yet the tension on this front row is palpable.
The second image appears to show that humor can be unifying emotion.
Humor seems to be one of the small final gifts given by the 41st President to
this group who have followed his footsteps.
And it was Al Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming and lifelong friend of
President George H. W. Bush who, in his eulogy of his dear old friend,
offered many of those stories which provided a thankful amount of humor.
A gift freely offered to all those gathered and particularly needed by those gathered on
that front row.
But it was what Senator Simpson said toward the end of his eulogy that
I found most telling of which I could only pray that those seated on that
first row would each digest in his or her own private way.
Senator Simpson noted that President Bush never “hated” anyone…
Meaning this age-old friend never heard his very important friend ever
express vehemence or disdain…for anyone…not publicly nor privately.
Not even after a difficult and challenging campaign and defeat.
Not even after the dealings with aggressive and difficult world situations.
Not even after a life spent in the often ugly and petty business of politics.
Not even despite the trials of living life after losing a young child.
As this approach to life and living was something instilled in him at a young age.
For the Senator noted that both he and Bush had learned this particular lesson
early on in their young lives as each of their mothers carried what they
called velvet hammers.
These men learned hard lessons at the knees of their mothers with one of the most important
lessons being that “hate corrodes the container it is carried in”
That container being one’s heart.
So I was now curious for a little more background behind Al Simpson…
curious because he was much funnier delivering this eulogy than I had remembered
him to be during his days in the Senate.
So I found this little bit of his background story…
Another offering of hope found in a now elderly man’s earlier life…
The story is about a one-time youthful holy terror,
who almost, and most certainly would have in today’s time, served jail time for his
life of running wild, yet who, with time and redemption, actually grew up to become
a leader, a senator and dear friend to a president.
So the first of the takeaways that I want to share from a seemingly sorrowful event is
that of hope and hopefulness.
Other takeaways will be shared later.
I want to offer Alan Simpson’s backstory regarding how this now 87-year-old survived
to come out on the upside of what was nothing more than a selfish reckless youth…
The story is a reminder that if there is hope for a youthful hellion who
no doubt seemed to be a hopeless cause, so then surely there is hope for
a group of politicians who find great disdain for one another…
The same Hope that remains available for a deeply divided Nation.
A lasting gift offered even in death by a President to his grateful yet divided Nation.
A gift that our 41st President always knew came from his faith…
that being the faith and Hope found in and freely given by Jesus Christ.
There has been a great deal of this notion of hope that I have found in these
rapidly disappearing members of this Greatest Generation…
I even read of it coming from Barbara Bush.
Just a few months ago she herself was now dying,
her son Jeb asked her if she was afraid to leave their dad behind.
Barbara unequivocably told Jeb that she will miss her husband and his father
but that she believes in Jesus Christ.
She knew that George would be okay without her as she would be home with her
Savior—all the while waiting on George to follow.
Bereft as he was when his wife of 73 years died, George senior, knew where Barbara was,
that she’d be waiting on him as his hope also rested in his faith—
faith in a Savior who would also bring him home when the time was ready.
So I offer the back story to a once difficult young man who put his trust in
the notion of hope and hopefulness as he grew to be a man who also chose
to serve others over serving self.
According to Wikipedia:
In Simpson’s words to this Court, “I was a monster.”
In that brief, in support of the claimant in the Supreme Court case,
Simpson admitted that, as a juvenile, he had been on federal probation for shooting mailboxes
and punching a cop and that he “was a monster”.
One day in Cody, Wyoming, when Simpson was in high school,
he and some friends “went out to do damage.”
They went to an abandoned war relocation structure and decided to “torch” it.
They committed arson on federal property,
a crime now punishable by up to twenty years in prison if no one is hurt,
and punishable by up to life in prison if the arson causes a person’s death.
Luckily for Simpson, no one was injured in the blaze.
Simpson not only played with fire, but also with guns.
He played a game with his friends in which they shot at rocks close to one another,
at times using bullets they stole from the local hardware store.
The goal of the game was to come as close as possible to striking someone without
actually doing so.
Again, Simpson was lucky:
no one was killed or seriously injured, or caught by their parents.
Simpson and his friends went shooting throughout their community.
They fired their rifles at mailboxes, blowing holes in several and killing a cow.
They fired their weapons at a road grader.
“We just raised hell,” Simpson says.
Federal authorities charged Simpson with destroying government property and
Simpson pleaded guilty.
He received two years of probation and was required to make restitution from his own funds –
funds that he was supposed to obtain by holding down a job.
As he [Simpson] has described it, “The older you get, the more you realize . . .
your own attitude is stupefying, and arrogant, and cocky, and a miserable way to live.”
Simpson stated “I was just dumb and rebellious and stupid.
And a different person.” and then added,
“You’re not who are when you’re 16 or 18.
You’re dumb, and you don’t care and you think you are eternal.”
And so the state where this young hellion would cause so much trouble would eventually
vote him in as their United States Senator.
Setting his life on a path to becoming dear friends with the 41st President of the United States.
A man who remembered yesterday in the Nation’s National Cathedral.
There is always hope…