Time to Take a Break
When I was growing up, my daddy quit going to Rotary. Daddy had been a member of Rotary as a young businessman in Jackson, Mississippi, and when we moved to Charlotte, one of the first things he did was join the downtown Rotary Club. Tuesday nights at supper, Daddy would tell us all about what he’d learned that day from the speaker at Rotary. Or he’d recount conversations he’d had around the table with his fellow Rotarians (not until late in Daddy’s Rotary career did the club begin admitting women). Often he’d unfold brochures and explain the Rotary’s latest service project, pointing proudly to the good the club was doing in the world.
Another thing the Rotary did was keep attendance. You’d get recognition for attendance. Attendance was a big deal at the Rotary—people would go on vacation and find a local Rotary Club to attend so their attendance record would be intact. My dad had an admirable attendance record. In fact, he was bordering on achieving some sort of major perfect attendance milestone. Then one Tuesday, he simply didn’t show up.
Daddy’s decision to skip Rotary that day was deliberate. He said the attendance record was becoming a thing unto itself. The club’s creation of an artificial measure of what it meant to be a good Rotarian was dwarfing the reasons he had joined Rotary in the first place, which was the camaraderie, the educational speakers, the service projects, the business contacts. He did not like seeing the skewing of his priorities that was taking place. So he woke up one Tuesday, got dressed for work, and skipped Rotary. He broke the chain of perfect attendance. The next week when he returned to the club, many did not understand what he’d done or why he’d done it.
Today, I’m thinking of my daddy and wondering if our United States Senators ever pause as they are slipping on their shoes. I wonder if they ever stop in the middle of adjusting their ties. I wonder if they ever reflect on the perfect records they’re compiling with the NRA. I wonder if the extent to which they are cleaving to an artificial definition of what it means to be a good Senator ever interrupts their morning routine.
Frankly, I do not see it, them asking themselves the question: what has happened to my priorities? Have the reasons I undertook this journey—to be a good representative of the people and care about their lives—been supplanted? Am I now more concerned with holding onto my job than with doing my job? How quickly do I translate my fear of losing my position into politically justifying doublespeak?
Do any of these men (and a few women) ever look into the mirror at their well-combed hair and sagging jowls and ask: Who am I fooling? The people? Or myself?
When they turn away, ready to go about their business for one more day, is it the truth in their eyes that makes them look away? Or is it the haunting, grief-filled eyes of the parents that they do not wish to see? Even worse, is it the ease with which they dismiss those saddened, accusing eyes?
If they can’t answer these questions squarely, maybe some of them need to take a break.
here’s to creative synthesis . . .