People I Love,
This week was a solemn occasion in the life of our country as everything in Washington stopped to bestow dignity upon the life of our former president, George H.W. Bush. Whenever anyone dies we should ask ourselves, “What can I take from this life? Where is the beauty that I am in danger of missing?” Here are some of my takeaways from this gracious life.
First, have friends you disagree with. The former president was known for his graciousness towards those on the other side of the aisle. He stood for his beliefs but he loved and valued the sanctity of human life. That language typically only manifests itself in our mouths when we are talking about abortion or euthanasia but if you understand what sanctity means it should inform and influence the way you treat everyone. It was said of President Bush that you could fill all thirty-two of the NFL football stadiums with his friends and still need more room because he was friends with so many people and used his power to make their lives better. Just think about that last line against the backdrop of our current culture. Beauty is compelling.
Second, write letters/notes. Bush 41 was infamous for his meaningful handwritten notes and letters and those lucky enough to get one still have them to this day. We live in an information-driven, nanotechnology age that turns everyone into a number, a thing or a widget to be exploited. However, to take the time to put pen to paper and scribe out your thoughts reminds people they are human and as such they need other humans. Its what we were created for. Beauty is thoughtful.
Third, never say anything about someone that you wouldn’t want repeated at their funeral. Yesterday’s service was a beautiful, rich, evocative celebration of a gracious man’s legacy. And then there was our current president, sitting in the front row, fidgeting and fumbling like he was sitting on a tack. Proverbs says, “Roll a stone and be hit with it.” A part of greatness is knowing not just how to be in the spotlight, but knowing how to hold the spotlight on someone else in a meaningful way. Beauty involves restraint.
Fourth, hold on to decorum and tradition. Because we no longer value the social institutions of government, church and family we are losing the decorum that makes each of those meaningful. It’s why the holidays are so hard, funerals are oftentimes meaningless necessities and people are famous for what they disagree with. And then yesterday happened. What we saw yesterday is the beauty of decorum, respect and tradition and it should have left us with a tug of longing. Remember, tradition protects the institutions we profess to value. Beauty is meaningful.
Finally, have long friendships. President Bush’s best friend is a man named James Baker. He was in the room when the president breathed his last. He has been his friend for a long time. When the president was hospitalized in his 90’s it was Baker who snuck in a bottle of Grey Goose and had a steak delivered from Morton’s. While sitting with the rector from their church, Baker said of the dying president, “That man changed my life.” As the president lay dying, James Baker gently rubbed his feet. When he first entered the room that day Bush opened his eyes and asked, “Jim, where we going?” Baker replied, “Well, Jefe, we’re going to heaven.” The president replied, “That’s where I want to go.” Don’t just have long friendships but have long friendships with people who help you get to heaven. Beauty endures.
There is much beauty in the world so don’t miss it. Sometimes you have to strain your eyes to see it but once you behold beauty you will be better for it. Beauty matters, it is good and always worth stopping for.