First Words

What makes for an undivided life?

True character is only formed over long periods of time.

Terry Timmerman is one of the finest people I’ve ever known. Unpurchaseable is how I’d describe him. His integrity was never for sale. A mail carrier, he died of esophageal cancer too young but not before he and his wife managed to raise a couple of thoughtful kids. One time in the hospital, after surgeons had successfully relocated his stomach to just below the clavicle of the shoulder used to carry his leather mailbag, Terry told me a funny story.

His son Jeff came home from sixth grade one day to announce: “Dad, I’m tired of being a goody two shoes. I’m always the odd guy out. All the other kids, especially the popular ones, have all the fun.” Terry listened patiently to his son’s frustration with missing out on the action. He proposed an idea. “Jeff, I think it’s fine if you want to try something different. Try screwing around a bit. Why don’t you give it three weeks or so, and we can visit again about how it’s going at that point.” Jeff thought that was a fine idea.

The next day after school Jeff told his dad that he was done with screwing around. He had thrown a pencil at his teacher when she turned her back to the class. The teacher spun around and demanded to know who threw the pencil. Jeff immediately raised his hand and confessed, “I did it.” The teacher walked over to Jeff’s desk and told him he should not be accepting blame for others’ bad behavior. She then turned to Kyle, who was sitting next to Jeff, and proceeded to haul him out of the room by the scruff of his neck. Kyle spent the rest of the day in the hallway.