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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Loyalty learned at an early age proves to be a lesson for life

At Boy Scout meetings we used to recite, “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal...”  There were an additional 10 qualities of character we look for in others ... as well as in ourselves.

You will note that No. 2 on the list is “loyalty.” This just a personal thought, but my own belief is that very little in life outranks loyalty as something that is important in personal relationships.

During one of his many riveting symposiums that I find useful and informative, Morris Beverage, president of Lakeland Community College, asked his audience to choose the most vital traits from a list of about 10 that we consider important.

Almost everyone said, “Honesty.” And I would not dispute that choice. It almost goes without saying, because without honesty we are not even civilized.

The lady of the house also listened to his talk, and asked, “What about compassion?”
It wasn’t on the list. But I would expect that from her, because she is the most compassionate person I have ever known – about other human beings and about every member of the animal kingdom as well.

“OK,” the man we call Duke relented. “I will add compassion as No. 11 on the list.”
I think that made all of us happy. And he still, to this day, makes references to compassion when he speaks of Mary.

But let’s get back to loyalty. I will never forget a remark made by my great friend, the late Judge Fred Skok of Probate Court. I once asked him what redeeming quality he saw in a person whom I did not regard as highly as he did.

“Jimmy,” the judge said. I leaned forward. When he began like that, I knew something important was coming. “Loyalty is the coin of the realm.”

He was saying, of course, that the man had been loyal to him, so he was being loyal in return.
And that ingredient remains a basic truth in my own life.

When I bought my first car, I got my insurance from Dan Hart, a close friend who graduated the year before I did from high school. And because of the strong degree of loyalty that surges through my veins, I never bought car or house insurance from anyone else. I never considered it. I am too loyal a person.

But Dan retired not long ago and sold the agency. And I had no degree of loyalty whatsoever to the person who bought the business from him. Never heard of him. So at the appropriate time, I switched.

And I asked myself, whom do I want to give my insurance business to? It may be no big deal as such transactions go, but it did involve both of our cars and the house, so it must be worth something.
I settled on Jerry Merhar, because he is a long-time friend, he embodies all the qualities I want in an insurance agent, and he is also funny. I don’t take well to people without a sense of humor.

And I will remain loyal to Jerry and to his company. But here is an added benefit I knew nothing of, but which comes with the territory. His company is Nationwide, and along with the policy we receive a bi-monthly magazine called Our Ohio. It is published by the Ohio Farm Bureau. It is slick, well written, and is a strong advocate of agriculture in Ohio. The articles are interesting, thought-provoking and insightful.

In the current edition, Jack Fisher, the Farm Bureau executive vice president, writes compellingly about the algae hitting the fan in Lake Erie near Toledo. The water was not drinkable. But business, labor, farmers, politicians, churches and charities mobilized to seek a solution.

But two days later, the blamestorming (fingerpointing) began. It was not by Toledo’s resilient citizens, Fisher wrote, “but by those with a backside to protect or an agenda to promote.”

He wrote a commendable article, nailing the phonies and the blowhards to the wall in the process.
A few pages later in the magazine is a fascinating article about Mennel Milling, a major player in the flour-milling business in Findlay, Ohio. It is a huge, family-run operation that dates back to 1886. Reading the narrative, I learned more than I could ever guess existed about the flour-milling business.

But like every other business in this super-regulated country, it has challenges. They don’t come across as complaints, but I got the message. Listen to this:

Among the challenges are “keeping up with all the rules and regulations set by the state and federal agencies, including Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Food & Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Ohio Department of Agriculture.”

I’m not saying we don’t need any federal or state regulations. A lot of them are necessary.
But I’m just saying that a great many of them are nothing but bookkeeping and paper shuffling exercises, and do nothing except create jobs for bureaucrats and their cronies – at taxpayer expense.

Who would have guessed, when I decided to buy insurance from Jerry Merhar and his son, Mike, that I would be getting such a worthwhile byproduct as a classy magazine that calls ‘em as it sees ‘em?



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