Monday, February 18, 2008

the nation of procrasti

signs i have a writing deadline: my bathroom gleams with such cleanliness it can't be viewed with natural eyes, i decide to organize my finances for the first time in a year, and a gnawing anxiety in my intestines that causes rapid blinking and a mild case of turrets. so why, i ask myself, am i writing words here on my blog rather than adding some words to the empty word document that my boss expects tomorrow chock full of words? good question. the answer: the bathroom is already clean. ok. it's more than that...i just can't face that insufferably helpful animated paperclip that shames me with his observations that it looks i'm writing a letter, do i need his help? does it look like i need help? i'm doing just fine here on my own, living it up on the shores of procrasti-nation, the opposite pole of the seldom visited dedication nation.

please forward job openings my way? i might need 'em.

Friday, February 1, 2008


This week I bid sad farewell to two men who wouldn't appear to have anything in common.

President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away last Sunday night, in his home probably just blocks away from where I was having dinner. After receiving the sad news of his passing, my first feeling was actually happiness for Pres. Hinckley – I imagine Sunday night was a joyful time of reunion. And how sweet is death when you did the living part right? He really wasted and wore out his life in the service of God and man. This week, a feeling of loss has been sinking in – and an awareness of the impact the prophet had on the church, his community and me.

I saw a documentary about Hinckley’s life the other night. He was positive, brave, audacious, adventurous and knew how to make people feel loved and good. He opened up our community, encouraging members to step outside their circle of comfort. It’s easy to be Christian in a congregation of like-minded folks, but Hinckley wanted to us to get out of our congregations and get out in the world. He certainly did. He popped the world’s klieg lights on our faith and invited “outsiders” in – without judgment.

Hinckley fell into the work with the church (instead of his first career ambition to be a journalist) because he was bold enough to tell his church leaders when he thought something could be improved. Post-mission he went to the prophet and gave his two cents about the missionary teaching materials, and he was asked to take a job with the church and dream up other improvements. He was a man of deep faith and a man of action. My favorite quote of his: “When there’s a job to be done, get on your knees and ask the Lord’s help, then get on your feet and go to work.”

And I love his relationship with his wife. Hinckley has said that he and Majorie had never had a fight in 60 years of marriage. Majorie once quipped in response, “I wonder where he was for the last 60 years?” My bet is that Hinckley really couldn’t recall a fight – it was his nature to see things positively. I also liked one other comment Majorie gave about marriage. When asked about the secret to a happy marriage, her response: lower your expectations. They both kept it real and I’m motivated by their honesty and energetic lives of righteousness without a trace of self-righteousness.

This week another man known and loved in much smaller circles passed away. I admit I was a bit afraid of Ron Horton at our first meeting. All I knew was that he was once a hard-partying biker who frequented casinos and bars and his friends included ex-cons and a serial killer. Our first interview was at a seedy bar and Ron rolled up on his chopper, long hair flying. But I wasn’t concerned after he took of his glasses and I saw his eyes. Ron was a good man.

Yes he partied pretty hard at one point and his cast of friends was a collection of the handicapped, the foolhardy and the down on their luck. But he was the shepherd of this little flock of misfits. I went to Biker Church with him one Sunday (his biker gang would congregate at a bar in fellowship over too much alcohol). I watched him circulate through the crowd, checking in on folks, caring for a baby (that the parents brought to a bar!) chastising people for making poor decisions and encouraging better things from people.

The story I wrote about Ron described how he tracked one of his friends he suspected of being a serial killer, working hand in glove with police to bring him to justice. Some of his friends turned on him after he did this; some folks aren’t fans of law enforcement, but he did what was right rather than what was easy. And upon his friend’s capture, Ron gave the significant reward money to families of the victims. This is a guy who is raising three boys in a modest home and could certainly have used the money. I know how much of his day was spent in the care and service of others. I called him many times while writing my story and he was inevitably caring for a sick friend, buying groceries for someone down on their luck, taking in another kid or friend or animal. He didn’t look the part of a do-gooder and would’ve been out of place in our meeting house, but he did the living part right too. He wasted and wore out his life in the service of his fellow man, quietly doing what was right without a trace of self-righteousness, without looking for anything in return and without fear of judgment.

My dad once told me that the mark of a great man is how YOU feel when you leave his presence. If you feel good about yourself and inspired to be better, that’s a great person. So this is my tribute to Gordon B. Hinckley and Ron Horton – two great, inspiring men who have made the world a poorer place by taking their leave.

ps: the Ron Horton article here: