11/22/2017

Nov. 12, 2001: My daddy used to say, “You don’t have to be smart; you just have to recognize who is smarter than you.”

My friends at Georgia Tech – and believe it or not, I do have a few – will be pleased to learn that I now publicly bow in deference to one of their own. (My Tech friends will no doubt hasten to add that all their graduates and 99 percent of the flora and fauna on the planet are smarter than me, but that story is for another day.)

Everybody has been trying to cope with what happened to us on and since September 11. Buildings and airplanes and innocent lives have been blown apart and our own sense of security with it. We are equal parts mad and frustrated as to what to do next.

Enter W. J. Blane, an assistant professor of architecture at Georgia Tech.

What was I doing consorting with the enemy? I was making a speech to the Mechanical Contractors of Georgia, which seated me at Professor Blane’s table for dinner. Talk, as it inevitably does these days, focused on current events and gave those of us around the table the opportunity to vent about the dire times in which we find ourselves.

Professor Blane finally put it all in marvelous perspective for us: Things have changed. Learn to live with it. Learn to deal with it. Understand what is and quit looking back to what once was. I am sure this logic has been stated before but I have been too busy pontificating to listen. This time I was listening, and the good professor was absolutely correct. It is time to move on.

Tragically that we may never again know the tranquility and security we have enjoyed most of our lives. Tragically, our children and grandchildren and the generations to follow may live in an environment where terrorism is commonplace. Living is going to be a lot riskier than ever before. We just have to learn to deal with it.

If you are afraid to die, then you are going to have a miserable life ahead of you. If you take each day as though it truly may be your last and live it to the fullest, you will find life a lot more worthwhile. The sky will seem bluer. Your food will taste better. You will laugh more and squabble less. You will hug more and shrug less. You will learn that life’s little irritations aren’t worth your time. You will have more important things to do like love your family and appreciate your friends. Who knows, you might even find time to forgive a person or two for slights, real or imagined.

I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving Day and occasionally have paused between mouthfuls of turkey to remember how good I have it. From now on, I am going to try to make every day Thanksgiving Day. I am going to thank my family for putting up with my foibles and frailties. I am going to thank every police officer and firefighter I see for protecting me, sometimes even from myself. I am going to thank April, the World’s Greatest Postal Worker, who cheerfully delivers a bunch of mail that usually goes straight into the trashcan. I am going to thank Dr. Gil Watson, the World’s Greatest Preacher, for trying to save my wretched soul when lesser men would have given up long ago.

I am going to thank a group of people I never see for picking up our trash before dawn and never waking us while they do it. And Rick, who cuts our grass and trims our yard and makes it look better than I ever could if I spent all day, every day at it. And Ronnie, who makes our cars run because we don’t know how. And my patient friends who endure me on a golf course, despite the fact that I never practice and expect to hit every shot perfectly and get mad when I don’t, which is often. And those of you who don’t hesitate to write me when you agree or disagree with something I have opined on these pages. Either way, you care enough to speak out.

Finally, I am going to thank Georgia Tech Professor W.J. Blane for his extremely wise counsel and for making my daddy look as smart as I always thought he was.