Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Overcoming Tyranny in Roanoke

(Roanoke, Virginia, a medium sized city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.)

The "Tyranny of the Urgent" is our compulsion to accomplish those things that seem urgent while failing to do the truly important things that may not have a particular deadlline.

Today, I accomplished something important. I visited the parents of one of my key childhood pals growing up in Roanoke, Virginia. Jimmy's parents had an open door and we ran in and out constantly, ate whatever could be scarfed up, stayed up all hours of the night, and enjoyed his mom's continuous taxi services. Once, we started a fire in the kitchen unwittingly while his mom was at work.

It takes years, even decades, to begin to appreciate the work and labor that our parents or our friends' parents performed for us. As a rule it generally goes unacknowledged.

Recently, I sent one of my books to my fifth grade teacher, a big black guy (at least he seemed big then) who had old-school standards and commanded respect. I didn't learn anything new until high school. He was mentioned in the acknowledgments of my book so I sent him a copy to see it, along with a letter of thanks for his excellent teaching, 30 years later.

I got a response . . . from his widow. I missed him by about 5 years. Like I said, some things in life rarely get recognized.

Anyway, I stopped by and visited with Jimmy's parents. I've been through Roanoke a hundred times in the past 25 years, but, you know, there's always something more urgent on the agenda.

They were delighted to catch up, and I was happy to hear all that was going on with new generations, grandkids, the old neighbors, etc.

It only lasted an hour or so. But it was extremely important, much more so than all that urgent stuff we are always fussing over.

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