Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A lot of compassion means family grows a bit

Show me a man who is never at a loss for words and I will show you a man who is going to amount to something in life.

A person who fits that description to a fare-thee-well is Dr. Morris Beverage, president of Lakeland Community College, known to his friends as “Duke.”

At a Fast Track 50 ceremony a couple years ago at LaMalfa, I was at the mike and lamented to Marty LaMalfa that I had to walk a long way because he didn’t have valet parking that night.

When Duke took his turn at the mike, he said, “I didn’t know they didn’t have valet parking. Some kid took my car.”

At the Lakeland Hall of Fame induction a couple weeks ago, I introduced Duke as “the smartest person I have ever met.”

When he got to the mike, he turned to me and said, “You need to get out more.”

But it was something he said a few years ago that is the subject of today’s discussion. I had just heard him lecture for more than two hours on “ethics.” It was totally absorbing. I have never heard a lecture of that length that didn’t, for a single moment, get boring.

He listed 16 values people hold to be important, and asked his audience to rank them in order of importance. Virtually everyone listed “honesty” as No. 1. I put it in second place. I rated “loyalty” as the most important characteristic in a person, and I still hold to that belief. I don’t care how smart or how honest you are, without loyalty you are nothing.

When I told that story to the lady of the house, her response was immediate: “What about compassion?”

I told Duke about her remark and he quickly agreed to add compassion to his list. There will now be 17 noteworthy values worth mentioning. Compassion has made the list.

I bring that up today because the lady of the house is the most compassionate person I have ever met. By far.

A prime example: Last week she welcomed a new kitten into the household. The poor thing was on death’s door.

Her brothers and sisters were healthy and she was obviously the runt of a litter who had been abandoned — virtually on our doorstep — by her uncaring and heartless mother.

I pointed out that we already had two cats, as well as two dogs. No matter. This fragile, abandoned kitty had to be saved.

I am now happy to report that after a few trips to the vet’s, special formula, special medication, four feedings a day and virtual sequestration from the other animals, this tiny ball of fur, about the size of your two fists put together, is hale and hearty.

Well and good. The only thing I insisted upon was naming rights, which was agreed upon. I named the other two cats after songs, “Angel Eyes,” (Matt Dennis) and “Ruby, My Dear” (Theolonious Monk).

As you already know, the puppies are named after people I like. Thus Maggie and Tricia. But I digress.

I gave the naming of the new kitten considerable thought. Remember, it had to be a song title. “Misty,” “Laura” and “Emily” came into contention. But the eventual winner was (and we have come to love this) “Mimi.”

Ah yes. Mimi. You funny little good for nothing Mimi. (I can hear it now, swirling in my head.)

Truly, the only reason Mimi is alive and thriving is because of the compassion of the lady of the house. That and that alone.

But not everyone loves cats. We had dinner at Dino’s the other evening with two of our greatest friends, Wimp and Mary Ann Moyer, who were on a brief visit back here from their adopted home in Florida.

I showed them a picture of Mimi. Wimp was appalled. He professes to hate cats. He said one of his favorite books was something about, “100 Things to Do with a Dead Cat.”

Hey. Not everybody agrees on everything. That’s why we have elections.

I’d be more inclined to read, “100 Things to Do with a Dead Baseball Team.” You see, that’s where loyalty comes into play. The Indians are dead, but I still watch all their games. True loyalty. Has nothing to do with honesty or compassion.

Meanwhile, life goes on in our household. Angel and Ruby ignore Mimi. Maggie and Tricia can’t figure out what she’s doing there. But beyond sniffing, they haven’t done anything that is the least bit anti-social or confrontational.

The only thing is, we don’t dare leave Mimi’s food where Tricia can get at it. She would devour it in a nanosecond.


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