Something for stevie
I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react. Stevie was short, a little dumpy, with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Down’s syndrome.
I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers. Truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the food is good and the pies are homemade. The ones who concerned me were the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck-stop germ;”and the pairs of white-shirted businessmen on expense accounts who think every truck-stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie, so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.
I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his little finger. Within a month my trucker regulars had adopted him as their official truck-stop mascot. After that I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought.
He was a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.
Our only problem was convincing him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would hurry to the empty table and carefully bus the dishes and glasses onto the cart and meticulously wipe the table with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brows would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.
Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck-stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.
That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work. He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Down’s syndrome often have heart problems at an early age, so this wasn’t unexpected. There was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.
A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery and doing fine. Frannie, my head waitress, let out a war whoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Belle Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering
9 He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?”he asked.
10 “We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”she responded.
“I was wondering where he was,”said Belle. “I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?”
12 Frannie quickly told him and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed. “Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be okay,”she said, “but I don’t know how he and his mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by
as it is.”Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.
After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face. “What’s up?”I asked. “That table where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting,”she said, “this was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.”She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.”
“Pony Pete also asked me what that dance was all about,”she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.”She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie”scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply, “Truckers.”
15 That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. We met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back.
Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting. “Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,”I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you two is on me.”I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession.
We stopped in front of the big table, its surface covered with a mess of coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins. “First thing you have to do, Stevie, is to clean up this mess,”I said, trying to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie”written on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table. Stevie stared at the money, then at dozens of napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it.
I turned to his mother. “There’s over $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. Happy Thanksgiving!”Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody shouting, and there were a few tears, too. But you know what’s funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other,
Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table —the best worker I ever hired.
How Deep Is Your Love?
Love to some is like a cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say let it go
And some say love is everything
Some say they don't know
At some stage or the other in our lives we experience an emotion which defies definition. It's a feeling that can only be felt and not described. An overwhelming joy that comes together with its share of sadness. Love.
Given the busy nature of our lives, it's to be appreciated that we even find the time to indulge in matters of the heart. But at the same time I wonder if we even understand its true depth. I remember having countless crushes while in school. My math teacher, our neighbour's son, my best friend's brother and lots of others whom I fancied for the colour of their eyes, the
shape of their moustaches or just the way they walked. Harmless puppy loves that are as brief as soap bubbles. I can laugh about all those silly and adventurous thoughts and acts now but at that time nothing could be more serious an affair for me. Then came the stage of real relationships.
Being in an all girls' school I hardly had the opportunity to interact with members of the opposite gender. Socials between our school and the boys' college, therefore, would be awaited anxiously. Those three hours of unhesitant attention by a group of well-groomed young gentlemen provided us with enough content to talk and feel excited about for the next four weeks.
And even then there was no real need of having a boyfriend.
I somehow grew up believing that love would happen when it had to. And sure enough it did. It came at an age when I had a career, a long-term plan and a more or less settled life (and now I am not yet 25!). I was mature enough to enter a relationship which demands a lot of give and not so much of take.
Love was a magnificent building I built on the foundation of friendship. It took time to blossom. It took a lot of understanding, loads of sharing and caring, and plenty of affection to become what it is today. And it meant a meeting of minds. You might say that I belong to the traditional school of romance. But in my opinion, love needs to be nurtured. And it has to be distinguished from the intense but short-lived love or the pleasures of the flesh.
Our parents' generation was fed lavishly with ideals. It was an era of constraints, restraints, respect, admiration, and plenty of romance. The long skirts, the quiet and unpretentious looks, the curled long hair, the calmness, the shy glance 鈥?these are all so frequently remindful of a bygone era. An age when the distance between the sexes somehow managed to help preserve the holiness of love and relationships.
The younger generation, with its openness and fading lines of proximity, has jumped on the bandwagon of love with so much haste that it is difficult for them to distinguish between physical attraction and mental compatibilities. What we have been exposed to via the media have fast paced our sensibilities so much that taking things slow requires effort on our parts.
I am sorry to learn about the kind of emotional baggage school kids are carrying in what are purely unemotional relationships. Some might blame the current state of affairs on peer pressure. But has anyone ever stopped to figure out where this peer pressure originates? Do any of us try and understand who is responsible for this shift? Does anyone bother to study the state of mind of the teenagers?
The mindset of this generation is all too evident in the way it handles its personal life. There are more relationships being distorted under the pressures of lust than ever before. There is more focus on physical beauty than on inner charm. There is more of closeness and less of intimacy. There is more of passion and less of emotion. There is more of acquiring and less of sharing. There is more of opportunism and less of selflessness. In short, there is more of ME and less of US.
We have hardened ourselves so much in this competitive age that we have forgotten the essence of relationships. There's much more to being someone's lover than gifting them red roses and fifty-cent cards. What about gifting our object of affection, our time, our company, our support, our friendship? What about setting priorities in our lives and focusing on each with sincerity? What about trying to be self-sufficient emotionally before letting ourselves loose? What about giving ourselves, and others, time and space to forge relationships? What about working towards meaningful and lasting friendships? What about honouring our commitments? What about channeling our energies and emotions towards building lifelong bonds rather than wasting them on seasonal relationships?
We have but one life and we must experience everything that can make us stronger. True love happens once in a lifetime. And we should not have become so tired by our frivolous acts that when it comes we aren't able to receive it with open arms.
What Is Friendship?
When we approach the notion of friendship, our first problem is that there is a lack of socially acknowledged criteria for what makes a person a friend. In one setting, we may describe someone as a friend; in another, the label may seem less appropriate. Therefore, people tend to have a very thin understanding of what friendship really means. To help us understand what friendship really means, we need to review some classical views of friendship.
One classical view of friendship is provided by Aristotle, the famous ancient Greek philosopher. Aristotle distinguishes between what he believes to be genuine friendships and two other forms: one based on mutual usefulness, the other on pleasure. So, according to Aristotle, we may find three kinds of friendship:
Friendship based on utility. Utility is an impermanent thing: it changes according to circumstances. When the ground for friendship disappears, the friendship also breaks up. Friendships of this kind seem to occur most frequently between the elderly, because at their age what they want is not pleasure but utility. Friendships based on utility are also frequently found among those in middle or early life who are pursuing their own advantage. Such persons do not spend much time together, because sometimes they do not even like one another, and therefore feel no need of such an association unless they are mutually useful. They take pleasure in each other’s company only in so far as they have hopes of advantage from it.
Friendship based on pleasure. Friendship between the young is thought to be grounded on pleasure, because the lives of the young are regulated by their feelings, and their chief interests are in their own pleasure and the opportunity of the moment. As they grow up, however, their tastes change too, so that they are quick to make and to break friendships. That is why they fall in and out of friendship quickly, changing their attitude often, even within the same day.
Friendship based on goodness. Perfect friendship is based on goodness. Only the friendship of those who are good, and similar in their goodness, is perfect. The conduct of good men is the same or similar. It is between good men that both love and friendship are chiefly found and in the highest form. Such for as the saying goes, true friends must go through trials and tribulations together. And no two persons can accept each other and become friends until each has proved to the other that he is worthy of love, and so won his trust. The wish for friendship may develop rapidly, but true friendship does not.
Another classical view of friendship can be found in the writings of Cicero, an ancient Roman statesman and orator. According to Cicero, true friendship is only possible between good men. He further defines “the good”as “those whose actions and lives leave no question as to their honor, purity, equity, and liberality; who are free from greed, lust, and violence; and who have the courage of their convictions.”The friendship between good men, based on virtue, does offer material benefits, but it does not seek them. All human beings are bonded together in a community of shared reason. Therefore, in friendships and relationships, those who possess any superiority must regard themselves as equals of those who are less fortunate. It is virtue that creates and preserves true friendship.
Thus, we may see that the traditional idea of friendship is made up of three components: Friends must enjoy each other’s company; they must be useful to one another; and they must share a commitment to the good. According to the classical views, virtuous friends are bound together, as the recognize each other’s moral
excellence. To perceive a friend, therefore, is to perceive oneself; and to know a friend is to kno w oneself. Each can be said to provide a mirror in which the other may see himself. Through netw orks of such virtuous friends, we can develop a shared idea of good and pursue it together. Friend ship of this kind is necessarily involves conversations about well-being and of what might be involved in living the good life.
My Greatest Olympic Prize
It was the summer of 1936. The Olympic Games were being held in Berlin. Because Adolf Hitler childishly insisted that his performers were members of a "master race," nationalistic feelings were at an all-time high.
 I wasn't too worried about all this. I'd trained, sweated and disciplined myself for six years, with the Games in mind. While I was going over on the boat, all I could think about was taking home one or two of those gold medals. I had my eyes especially on the running broad jump. A year before, as a sophomore at the Ohio State, I'd set the world's record of 26 feet 8 1/4 inches. Nearly everyone expected me to win this event.
 I was in for a surprise. When the time came for the broad-jump trials, I was startled to see a tall boy hitting the pit at almost 26 feet on his practice leaps! He turned out to be a German named Luz Long. I was told that Hitler hoped to win the jump with him.
 I guessed that if Long won, it would add some new support to the Nazis' "master race" (Aryansuperiority) theory. After all, I am a Negro. Angry about Hitler's ways, I determined to go out there and really show Der Fuhrer and his master race who was superior and who wasn't.
 An angry athlete is an athlete who will make mistakes, as any coach will tell you. I was no exception. On the first of my three qualifying jumps, I leaped from several inches beyond the takeoff board for a foul. On the second jump, I fouled even worse. "Did I come 3,000 miles for this?" I thought bitterly. "To foul out of the trials and make a fool of myself?"
 Walking a few yards from the pit, I kicked disgustedly at the dirt. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look into the friendly blue eyes of the tall German broad jumper. He had easily qualified for the finals on his first attempt. He offered me a firm handshake.
 "Jesse Owens, I'm Luz Long. I don't think we've met." He spoke English well, though with
a German twist to it.
"Glad to meet you," I said. Then, trying to hide my nervousness, I added, "How are you?"
"I'm fine. The question is: How are you?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Something must be eating you," he said--proud the way foreigners are when they've mastered a bit of American slang. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed."
"Believe me, I know it," I told him--and it felt good to say that to someone.
 For the next few minutes we talked together. I didn't tell Long what was "eating" me, but he seemed to understand my anger, and he took pains to reassure me. Although he'd been schooled in the Nazi youth movement, he didn't believe in the Aryan-supremacy business any more than I did. We laughed over the fact that he really looked the part, though. An inch taller than I, he had a lean, muscular frame, clear blue eyes, blond hair and a strikingly handsome face. Finally, seeing that I had calmed down somewhat, he pointed to the take-off board.
 "Look," he said. "Why don't you draw a line a few inches behind the board and aim at making your take-off from there? You'll be sure not to foul, and you certainly ought to jump far enough to qualify. What does it matter if you're not first in the trials? Tomorrow is what counts."
[101 Suddenly all the tension seemed to leave my body as the truth of what he said hit me. Confidently, I drew a line a full foot behind the hoard and proceeded to jump from there. I qualified with almost a foot to spare.
 That night I walked over to Luz Long's room in the Olympic village to thank him. I knew that if it hadn't been for him I probably wouldn't be jumping in the finals the following day. We sat and talked for two hours--about track and field, ourselves, the world situation, a dozen other
 When I finally got up to leave, we both knew that a real friendship had been formed. Luz would go out to the field the next day trying to beat me if he could. But I knew that he wanted me to do my best--even if that meant my winning.
 As it turned out, Luz broke his own past record. In doing so, he pushed me on to a peak performance. I remember that at the instant I landed from my final jump--the one which set the Olympic record of 26 feet 5 1/16 inches--he was at my side, congratulating me. Despite the fact that Hitler glared at us from the stands not a hundred yards away, Luz shook my hand had--and it wasn't a fake "smile with a broken heart" sort of grip, either.
All the gold medals and cups I have wouldn't make a plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long at the moment. I realized then that Luz was just what Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games, must have had in his mind when he said, "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."
Set Your Body's Time Clock to Work for You
1 As the first rays of sunlight filter over the hills of California's Silicon Valley', Charles Winget opens his eyes. It is barely 5 a. in., but Winget is eager to go. Meanwhile, his wife pulls up the covers and buries her face under the pillow. "For the past fifteen years," says Winget, "we've hardly ever gotten up together."
2 The Wingets' situation is not uncommon. Our bodies operate with the complexity of clocks, and like clocks, we all run at slightly different speeds. Winget is a morning person. His wife is not at her best until after nightfall. Behavioral scientists long attributed such differences to personal eccentricities or early conditioning. This thinking was challenged by a theory labeled chronobiology by physician-biologist Franz Halberg. In a Harvard University laboratory study, Dr Halberg found that certain blood cells varied predictably in number, depending on the time of day they were drawn from the body. The cell count was higher at a given time of day and lower 12 hours later. He also discovered that the same patterns could be detected in heart and metabolic rates and body temperature.
3 Halberg's explanation: instead of performing at a steady, unchanging rate, our systems function on an approximately 25-hour cycle. Sometimes we are accelerating, sometimes slowing down. We achieve peak efficiency for only a limited time each day. Halberg dubbed these bodily cadences "circadian rhythms".
4 Much of the leading work in chronobiology is sponsored today by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Charles Winget, a NASA research physiologist and authority on circadian rhythms, says that circadian principles have been applied to astronauts' work schedules on most of the space-shuttle flights.
5 The space-age research has many useful applications here on earth. Chronobiologists can tell you when to eat and still lose weight, what time of day you're best equipped to handle the toughest challenges, when to go to the dentist with your highest threshold of pain and when to exercise for maximum effect. Winget says, "It's a biological law of human efficiency: to achieve your best with the least effort, you have to coordinate the demands of your activities with your biological capacities."
6 Circadian patterns can be made to work for you. But you must first learn how to recognize them. Winget and his associates have developed the following approach to help you figure out your body's patterns.
7 Take your temperature one hour after getting up in the morning and then again at
four-hour intervals throughout the day. Schedule your last reading as close to bedtime as possible. You should have five readings by the end of the day.
8 Now add your first, third and fifth readings and record this total. Then add your second and fourth readings and subtract this figure from the first total. That number will be an estimate of your body temperature in the middle of the night consider it your sixth reading.
9 Now plot all six readings on graph paper. The variations may seem extremely small only one-tenth of a degree in some cases but are significant. You'll probably find that your temperature will begin to rise between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., reaching a peak sometime in the late morning or early afternoon. By evening the readings start to drop. They will steadily decline,
reaching their nadir at around 2 a.m.
10 Of course, individual variations make all the difference. At what hour is your body temperature on the rise? When does it reach its highest point? Its lowest? Once you have familiarized yourself with your patterns, you can take advantage of chronobiology techniques to improve your health and productivity.
11 We do our best physical work when our rhythms are at their peak. In most people, this peak lasts about four hours. Schedule your most demanding activities when your temperature is highest.
12 For mental activities, the timetable is more complicated. Precision tasks, such as mathematical work, are best tackled when your temperature is on the rise. For most people, this is at 8 or 9 a.m. By contrast, reading and reflection are better pursued between 2 and 4 p.m., the time when body temperature usually begins to fall.
13 Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day for effective dieting. Calories burn faster one hour after we wake up than they do in the evening. During a six-year research project known as the Army Diet Study, Dr Halberg, chronobiologist Robert Sothern and research associate Erna Halberg monitored the food intake of two groups of men and women. Both ate only one,
2000-calorie meal a day, but one group ate their meal at breakfast and the other at dinner. "All the subjects lost weight eating breakfast," states Sothern. "Those who ate dinner either maintained or gained weight."
14 If foods are processed differently at different times of day, certainly caffeine, alcohol and medicines will be too. Aspirin compounds, for example, have the greatest potency in the morning, between 7 and 8. So does alcohol. They are least effective between 6 p.m. and midnight. Caffeine has the most impact around 3 in the afternoon. Charles Walker, dean of the College of Pharmacy at Florida A&M University, explains, "Stimulants are most effective when you are normally active, and sedatives work best when you're naturally sedate or asleep."
15 Knowing your rhythms can also help overcome sleep problems. Consult your
body-temperature chart. Your bedtime should coincide with the point at which your temperature is lowest. This is between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. for most people.
16 Dr Michael Thorpy of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City offers other circadian sleep tips: go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. "Irregularity in sleep and waking times is the greatest cause of sleep problems," Dr Thorpy says. The best way to recover from a bad night's sleep is simply to resume your normal cycle. Beware of sleeping pills. "Most sleeping pills won't work for periods longer than two weeks," warns Dr Thorpy. And there is real danger of drug accumulation in the blood.
17 Visit a doctor or dentist as early in the day or as late in the evening as possible, since your highest pain threshold is between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
18 Winget and fellow NASA chronobiologist Charles DeRoshia also offer advice to diminish the debilitating effects of jet lag: a week or so before departure begin adjusting your daily activities so that they coincide with the time schedule of your destination. Eat a small,
high-protein low-carbohydrate meal just before your trip. Get plenty of sleep in the days before your trip. In flight, eat very little, drink lots of water and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. When you arrive, walk around, talk to people, try to adapt to your environment. Before retiring, have a light meal, high in carbohydrates. Take a warm bath.
19 Knowing your body's patterns is no guarantee of good health. But what chronobiology reveals is the importance of regularity in all aspects of your life and of learning to act in synchronization with your body's natural rhythms.
The Eighth Tuesday we talk about money
I held up the newspaper so that Morrie could see it:
I DON'T WANT MY TOMBSTONE TO READ
I NEVER OWNED A NETWORK."
Morrie laughed, then shook his head. The morning sun was coming through the window behind him, falling on the pink flowers of the hibiscus plant that sat on the sill. The quote was from Ted Turner, the billionaire media mogul, founder of CNN, who had been lamenting his inability to snatch up the CBS network in a corporate megadeal. I had brought the story to Morrie this morning because I wondered if Turner ever found himself in my old professor's position, his breath disappearing, his body turning to stone, his days being crossed off the calendar one by one-would he really be crying over owning a network?
"It's all part of the same problem, Mitch," Morrie said. "We put our values in the wrong things. And it leads to very disillusioned lives. I think we should talk about that."
Morrie was focused. There were good days and bad days now. He was having a good day. The night before, he had been entertained by a local a cappella group that had come to the house to perform, and he relayed the story excitedly, as if the Ink Spots themselves had dropped by for a visit. Morrie's love for music was strong even before he got sick, but now it was so intense, it moved him to tears. He would listen to opera sometimes at night, closing his eyes, riding along with the magnificent voices as they dipped and soared.
"You should have heard this group last night, Mitch. Such a sound!"
Morrie had always been taken with simple pleasures, singing, laughing, dancing. Now, more than ever, material things held little or no significance. When people die, you always hear the expression "You can't take it with you." Morrie seemed to know that a long time ago.
"We've got a form of brainwashing going on in our country," Morrie sighed. "Do you know how they brainwash people? They repeat something over and over. And that's what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it-and have it repeated to us-over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all this, he has no perspective on what's really important anymore.
"Wherever I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something new. Gobble up a new car. Gobble up a new piece of property. Gobble up the latest toy. And then they wanted to tell you about it. `Guess what I got? Guess what I got?'
"You know how I always interpreted that? These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back. But it never works. You can't substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.
"Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness. I can tell you, as I'm sitting here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power will give you the feeling you're looking for, no matter how much of them you have."
I glanced around Morrie's study. It was the same today as it had been the first day I arrived. The books held their same places on the shelves. The papers cluttered the same old desk. The outside rooms had not been improved or upgraded. In fact, Morrie really hadn't bought anything new-except medical equipment-in a long, long time, maybe years. The day he learned that he was terminally ill was the day he lost interest in his purchasing power.
So the TV was the same old model, the car that Charlotte drove was the same old model, the dishes and the silverware and the towels-all the same. And yet the house had changed so drastically. It had filled with love and teaching and communication. It had filled with friendship and family and honesty and tears. It had filled with colleagues and students and meditation teachers and therapists and nurses and a cappella groups. It had become, in a very real way, a wealthy home, even though Morrie's bank account was rapidly depleting.
"There's a big confusion in this country over what we want versus what we need," Morrie said. "You need food, you want a chocolate sundae. You have to be honest with yourself. You don't need the latest sports car, you don't need the biggest house.
"The truth is, you don't get satisfaction from those things. You know what really gives you satisfaction?" What?
"Offering others what you have to give."
You sound like a Boy Scout.
"I don't mean money, Mitch. I mean your time. Your concern. Your storytelling. It's not so hard. There's a senior center that opened near here. Dozens of elderly people come there every day. If you're a young man or young woman and you have a skill, you are asked to come and teach it. Say you know computers. You come there and teach them computers. You are very welcome there. And they are very grateful. This is how you start to get respect, by offering something that you have.
"There are plenty of places to do this. You don't need to have a big talent. There are lonely people in hospitals and shelters who only want some companionship. You play cards with a lonely older man and you find new respect for yourself, because you are needed. "Remember what I said about finding a meaningful life? I wrote it down, but now I can recite it: Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.
"You notice," he added, grinning, "there's nothing in there about a salary."
I jotted some of the things Morrie was saying on a yellow pad. I did this mostly because I didn't want him to see my eyes, to know what I was thinking, that I had been, for much of my life since graduation, pursuing these very things he had been railing against-bigger toys, nicer house. Because I worked among rich and famous athletes, I convinced myself that my needs were realistic, my greed inconsequential compared to theirs.
This was a smokescreen. Morrie made that obvious. "Mitch, if you're trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down at you anyhow. And if you're trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone."
He paused, then looked at me. "I'm dying, right?" Yes.