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I regularly accumulate pieces of wisdom and observation that deserve to be heard well beyond my own eyes and ears. For instance:

An elderly woman stood at the hospital entrance facing a nurse who'd admitted her son for surgery. She'd just been told that she couldn't follow him into the surgical waiting room because of concerns over covid-19 infection.

"But you don't understand," she pleaded. "He's having surgery and I really need to be with him for support. That's why I came!"

The rules were firm. She was turned away in tears. Sadly, this also is what family members experience at hospital doors today.

Conversation overheard

I overheard an interesting conversation the other day between older white and Black men discussing race. The white fellow suddenly stuck out his hand and asked the Black man to shake, which he did. Then he withdrew his hand, saying, "Do you see any black on my hand or white on yours?"

The Black man, of course, said he didn't. "That's my point. We both are human beings regardless of our skin color. We can't control our skin color. But we sure as heck can control our behavior and our attitudes."

His RHD degree

I asked Joe Morgan of Little Rock, a successful and retired Arkansas automobile dealer, if he'd earned a degree. He smiled broadly, and replied, "Yep. I earned my RHD degree."

Me: "Oh really, what's an RHD degree?"

"That would be the Root Hog or Die Degree."

Undoubtedly from the proverbial school of hard knocks.

Currently an Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner, Morgan in earning his RHD degree, went on to say that former Razorback head coach Lou Holtz years ago shared at a national conference of vehicle salesfolks that the key to becoming successful in their chosen careers lay in being able to answer "yes" to just three questions potential customers want to have answered.

"First," Morgan recounted, "do you know what you're talking about? Secondly, can I trust you? And third, do you care about me?"

As an obvious honors graduate, Morgan then said a lifelong friend once asked how Joe had risen to such success when, as young men, both had started with the same company earning $2.50 an hour. "I told him the difference was you went to work for the $2.50 an hour they paid while I went to work for the company."

Being like water

Dr. John Bomar, a Hot Springs chiropractor, has sent a copy of his book "Encountering Tao," featuring the wisdom of Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu, who founded the system of Taoism.

While I've spent my life as a Christian, I also found passages from Lao Tsu compatible with my own thoughts about existence.

For instance, he said that like water, our lives should be beneficial to all without expecting anything in return. Like water, when we meet the inevitable obstacles of life, we are wise to relax and flow around them. "Like the river that dominates the valley by seeking the low place that proud men disdain ... thusly we can endure."

Tsu also advised that in overvaluing material things we also undervalue ourselves.

Traits evaporating

I'm not certain when the vital traits of integrity, honor, character and common sense began evaporating from our society. It has happened during my lifetime since I and many of my friends had the importance of those qualities emphasized during our youths.

There was a time not long ago when a lot of business often was conducted with a handshake and promise. A person's good word before the 1960s often was considered their bond.

There also was a time when common sense was valued in our culture. If something flew in the face of reason, it was largely ignored. Today, even the most outlandish, dangerous ideas and actions, both in life and politics, are actually considered as a substitute for wisdom and serious contemplation.

As for one's integrity, an initial step, as I see it, is our willingness to be intellectually honest. Simply put, can we admit to ourselves and others when we know we are mistaken?

Integrity is described as taking responsibility for one's actions. Putting others' needs above your own. Offering to help others in need. Giving others the benefit of the doubt. Choosing honesty. Showing everyone respect. And manifesting a sense of humility.

Embracing lies

On a related note, anyone else noted how flagrant lying has become shockingly common, even accepted, among many elected leaders in past few decades? I'm talking about deception that flows from the top down through society. A few examples:

"We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

"I am not a crook."

"Read my lips. No new taxes."

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

"Mission accomplished."

"If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor."

The coronavirus would weaken "when we get into April, in the warmer weather."

Now go our into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

--–––––v–––––--

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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