Friday, April 30, 2010

Carl, David and The Bible Study

‘Thom,’ he asked boldly, ‘are you staying here tonight?’ ‘Yes, I’ll be here through the night,’ I responded. ‘Can we have Bible study before we go to sleep,’ he asked. ‘Of course we can, Carl. Do you think anyone else would like to join us,’ I continued. ‘Probably not, but I’ll ask,’ Carl said as he headed down to the bunk area.
I found a modest Bible in one of the cabinets and began to consider a passage or two that might be relevant to a young man who’d been sleeping on the streets, taking meals in churches and spending these very cold winter days in the public library reading magazines. After much fidgeting, fumbling and second-guessing I chose an uplifting passage from the 4th chapter of Philippians: no berating, no scolding no ‘least of these’ references – just Paul in one of his rare happy moments advising us to focus on the good stuff.
Thirty minutes later, showered, fed and dressed for bed Carl joined brother David and me in a warm room on the main floor of one of our church buildings. He was ready for Bible study with his red Good Book clutched firmly in his large hands. Before we opened the scriptures we talked. Within three minutes I learned that Carl had been in prison, has and continues to struggle with cocaine addiction, been diagnosed with schizophrenia, takes heavy medication, is trying to get back into college and was saved during an altar call in a local church several years ago. It was 20 degrees that night and he and some other gentlemen had come to spend the night at our church.
Well, holy smokes, I thought to myself. How does one begin to respond to a complete and needy stranger carrying this kind of baggage? I thanked Carl for his honesty and suggested that we pray together before we continued. I prayed and then asked Carl if he wished to do so as well, which he did. I began asking simple questions about Carl’s childhood and family life and he responded with consistent frankness. I became more curious about each of the struggles he was facing and our conversation deepened with David joining in from time-to-time with kind-hearted comments and questions. ‘What do you need at the moment in order to make some progress in some of these areas,’ I finally asked. ‘A job and some people to trust me,’ he responded. ‘My own family doesn’t even trust me. My father will not let me back in the house; he won’t even talk to me,’ Carl continued. ‘So, something went wrong between you and your dad,’ I asked. ‘Yes, it’s the cocaine thing. He can’t handle that.’
I looked down at the Bible I was still holding in my hand. I quickly scanned the passage I had planned to share and discuss about ‘whatsoever things are good and pure and worthy and of good report…think on these things’ and it seemed terribly hollow for the moment. But then I thought – far be it from me to declare any portion of the scripture hollow for any moment – and I went ahead and read it out loud for Carl and David – and me. I went on to say why I liked the words so much and found in them a source of encouragement, comfort and wisdom. To my relief Carl agreed. But I couldn’t help but wonder ‘whatsoever things’ Carl could think about in his condition that were good and pure and worthy. But when I stared back at him I could see there was such decency and dignity inside him that had become stranded or betrayed. How dare I determine the goodness that does or does not exist within the soul of another?
Carl wished to read a passage, too and he did. It was an odd passage from a Psalm that held great meaning for him. He talked about it a while and then he said he was tired and was heading down to go to sleep. We said another prayer and David and I bid him goodnight. David and I looked at each other, shook our heads in some kind of awe and wonder and sat in silence for a good, long time. I believe we had just entertained an angel unawares.

News to Me

About 15 years ago a Nashville attorney named Perry March killed his wife and got rid of her body. It was real big news here in middle Tennessee. Most reasonable people long ago concluded this guy was guilty but the official evidence was never sufficient to warrant an arrest. The story has come and gone since those first tragic news reports in 1996. We Nashvillians have followed this abrasive lawyer to Chicago, Canada, Mexico and parts unknown; his parents became involved, his children, his former wife’s family; even his new Mexican wife. Eventually Mr. March was apprehended in Mexico and transported here for a trial that aired continuously on our local networks. They finally nailed him. I was taking a brief siesta the afternoon the jury came into court with their verdict. Sarah woke me up excitedly and exclaimed, “Guess what, honey - Perry March is guilty on all counts!” I responded, “Thanks honey,” and went back to sleep.
No sooner did this unnecessary and over-reported fiasco end than this weird son-of-a-bitch pops up in Thailand and tells the world that he was somehow involved with the death of JonBenet Ramsey. Okay, here we go again. Why is this news? Why do I turn on my television or log onto the Internet and hear or read about this creep? Do I give a rat’s ass whether or not this guy was planning to have a sex change and already had his privates shaved for this purpose? What part of me sympathizes with this poor soul who was devastated when he wasn’t picked to be drum major in his high school band? Do I need any hints to figure out what he was doing in Thailand? Of course I know what he was doing in Bangkok - and there’s not a second-grader on the planet that needs that kind of education! When this chump was being walked into that initial interview he looked strangely like Lee Harvey Oswald being led to his fateful encounter with Jack Ruby. (Where was Mr. Ruby when we really needed him?) Get him off the air and out of my sight - he’s a pervert. (But, since you told me, why the hell was he eating roast duck and drinking Chardonnay in the business class section while being transferred back to the states from Thailand?)
And it wasn’t too long ago when all we heard about for a month was the bug-eyed, runaway bride who staged her own kidnapping and fled to Vegas. Is there any end to the intrigue? Why was this news? Do you recall what we encountered everyday during the summer of 2001 - that strange congressman from California who was being grilled for his possible involvement with the jogger who was murdered in D.C. Here’s another incident in which shaving was mentioned. This son-of-a-bitch shaved his whole body! His ass (cleanly shaven as it was, apparently) was just about to get nailed when the world-as-we-knew-it came to an end on September 11th.
I will say that the events of that infamous morning grabbed our attention for months and months - appropriately. But eventually we had to have another sordid fix and boy was it worth the wait! Enter Scott Peterson - and then another year in Aruba.
All of these events were tragic, no doubt. If a child - a child - is missing, abducted or harmed I am all ears. Shout it from the rooftops - let’s find the animal responsible - I’ll be the first in line to sign up for detail. But God help us all - we are living in a world that is full of abundant sorrow, unmet need, poverty, starvation, conflict, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and war - all on a grand scale. Can’t we please focus on real news?
It occurs to me that in the age of cable television a network could be dedicated for this type of reporting that could isolate and confine this non-news for those who wish to view it. After all, we have a weather channel, a comedy network, ESPN, home shopping, a golf channel, a history channel and even Animal Planet. Let’s give the people what they want, when they want it. How about CBTV - Crazy Bastard Television: ‘The network for and about Crazy you!’

A Golf Lesson with Thom Schuyler (Terrible idea)

Most that have played the game will tell you from time to time that golf was invented by dark demons from Satan’s den of hellish torture. It is not an easy game. If you are playing pretty well right now I’m happy for you but you will suck again very soon. Trust me. Twenty-five years ago – at the peak of my very modest game – I got my handicap down to 7 at a lovely and challenging old course in Nashville, TN. Although it never got lower I did stay in single digits for 5 or 6 years. Twenty-five years later I’m doubtful I could break 90 on any course. I have no swing, no positive swing thoughts, no new equipment and no confidence.
Anyway, I played in a great tournament this past weekend – much to the chagrin of my partners – and I happened to get paired on the second day with one of my favorite people – a great college basketball coach and a real good golfer whose game has temporarily hit the skids. Walking down fairways together we discussed how golf instructors offer opposing advice for any issue. For instance, should I place more weight on my toes or my heels when I’m addressing the ball? Answers: Toes, heels. How far should the ball be from me at address? Answers: Reach for it a little, as close as possible. Where should the ball be in relationship to my feet from the perspective of left and right? Answers: Play every shot off the left heel for consistency, move it little-by-little in your stance from left to right as the clubs decrease in loft, find a spot that works for you and keep it there. So, it’s confusing. One thing I do know about playing a round of golf (and I’ve often heard pros say the same thing:) pick one thought per round and concentrate on getting that right (steady head, flexed right knee, rotating around your spine, etc.) and you’ll have a better chance of making some really good shots and turning in a decent score. The option is to go through a rather long checklist before and during every shot.
1. Relax
2. Pick up the club with your left hand in a manner so that the ‘V’ created by your left thumb and pointer finger is pointing toward your right shoulder.
3. Place your right hand on the club in a manner so that the ‘V’ created by the thumb and pointer finger on your right hand also point to your right shoulder.
4. Relax your grip on the club. Do not strangle it. (You will note that the real strength in your hands emanates from your ring and middle fingers.)
5. Place your feet a comfortable but stable distance apart – about the same distance as your shoulders.
6. Flex your legs to a comfortable and athletic position.
7. Keep your back straight.
8. Place the weight of your body equally distributed between your toes and heels and the left and right side of your body.
9. Relax
10. Place the ball a reasonable distance away so that the club head meets the ball in a natural way based on your current posture.
11. For starters, imagine a line running perpendicular to your body starting just inside your left heel. That’s where the ball should be.
12. Try to keep your head in its original position – not moving left to right or turning – during the entirety of the next section – the swing.
13. Begin the swing by pushing the club into a natural motion with your left hand (rather than pulling it away with your right hand.)
14. Allow your left shoulder to follow its natural path and turn well beneath your chin.
15. Hips should also be equally involved in turning.
16. Load up a good portion of your weight to your right side as the club continues its back swing.
17. Keep that left arm (this is all presented from a right-handed perspective) very straight – (DO NOT ALLOW IT TO BEND.)
18. When the club has reached a position behind you in which it has become parallel to the ground you have reached the maximum back swing distance. At this point the club should be pointing toward your target.
19. Begin the down swing with dominance from the left arm allowing your shoulders and hips to turn back through the same path they just traveled.
20. The club head is designed to strike downward upon the ball rather than ‘sweeping it’ off the ground.
21. Try to maintain a visual perspective wherein your body and head stay ‘behind’ the ball into impact and finish with a complete follow-through (DO NOT STOP THE SWING ONCE YOU MAKE CONTACT WITH THE BALL.)
22. Finish ‘high’ with your belly facing your target.
23. Say, ‘Shit!’ or ‘Fore!’

Throw Momma on the Plane (Further Rage Against bin Laden)

This morning at 9:30 I drove my 90-year-old mother to the Nashville Airport for her return trip home after a two-week visit. In her frail condition – including a walker and a great deal of anxiety about air travel (which, in this case included a change of planes in Atlanta) – we arrived almost 3 hours prior to her scheduled departure allowing plenty of time to go through the mechanics. I parked my car with a valet so I could stay with my mom non-stop to the ticket counter and gate. We took an unreasonably long walk from that point to the Delta check-in desk where a very helpful Delta employee greeted us. As she was assisting us with the check-in procedure I asked her guidance with a few other very specific issues: wheelchairs here, in Atlanta and at her final destination in Pennsylvania; help checking my mother’s walker all the way through to her final stop and a pass for me to escort my mother to her boarding gate. She was most helpful and assured us that all would be fine. She then walked us to the front of the baggage drop-off line and as we waited for the next available agent a gentleman with a wheelchair arrived. I paid the agent for my mom’s one piece of luggage and then asked her for the pass to go back to the gate with her to which she replied, “No, you can’t do that if you are using a wheelchair assistant.’ My plea for lenience did not work. My mother’s demeanor slipped to the dark side, as did mine. As the wheelchair assistant led us to the security line I did my best to lift mom’s spirits. With tears in our eyes we said goodbye, I love you, I love you, too. I’ll call you tonight.
I stood and watched as she was wheeled through security, her white hair showing clearly through a crowd of strange travelers. Although saddened by our recent goodbye I soon felt an additional emotion rising within me: rage. As my mother disappeared into the humiliating grid of security checkpoints I returned to my car all the while imagining everything that could possibly go wrong: a misplaced ticket, a rude agent, a tumble from the wheelchair, no help in Atlanta, a lost ID card. And suddenly my unforgiving thoughts landed on that tall, bearded devil hiding in some damp and skanky cave somewhere in the middle of hell drinking strong coffee strained – I hope – through the hem of his filthy robe and I blame all of this on him and I wish with everything in me that if he isn’t dead already our brave ones find him and do the deed quickly and come back home to see their own parents before they are white-haired and frail and being pushed away in a wheelchair into a maze of humiliation by a stranger.


I was pumping gas into my vehicle yesterday at a small, locally owned service station and there was a gentleman on the other side of the same pump doing the same thing. We said hello, mentioned the pleasant change in the weather and wondered to each other if we’d completed our Christmas shopping. When his tank was full he turned to his wife - seated on the driver’s side - and began sharing with her the details of this just completed fill-up: 14.68 gallons, 2.49/gallon, 87 octane and other facts I was unaware one could ascertain from a gas pump. She dutifully transcribed this information into a small notebook, checked the current mileage, did some calculations and then placed the book of statistics into the glove compartment. I was both amused and troubled by this event. I have known a handful of people in my lifetime that tracked this kind of data. A couple of my uncles and a brother-in-law always seemed to know exactly what kind of mileage they were getting – city and highway. And the exchange of information was highly competitive – each suspecting the other was lying and refusing to agree on any one brand of gasoline that delivered the best results.
Surely there’s nothing wrong or inhumane about tracking this kind of information. But I have always been puzzled by the need to organize, collate and catalog such mundane stuff. My hunch is that these people spend hours on the weekend poring over a lifetime of miles-per-gallon statistics comparing the manufacturers of the various vehicles they’ve owned through the years based on horsepower, engine size, number of cylinders and gasoline brands. I imagine them getting angry or elated or confused by a set of conclusions they reach. I imagine that some of the calculations throw them into odd forms of depression from which they do not quickly escape. They are tortured when they know deep down that their nephew is getting better mileage or when their next-door neighbor is paying 20 cents less per-gallon for gas.
Well, it’s just a common man’s observation. I’ve got to sign off now and turn my attention to determining the slugging percentages of left-handed, Dominican-born batters in the AL West over the age of 24 during the month of June when Virgo is in the 7th House with Pisces waning.

The Seven Habits of Terribly Ineffective People

Following is a handful of personality traits, character flaws and other qualities I have observed in others and practiced myself throughout my adult life. This is in contrast to the list published in a hideously boring best-selling book that everyone in corporate America was forced to read at some dark moment in the recent past by an inept manager in preparation for an unnecessary and shallow event called a staff retreat. The truth is that all of the effective people I’ve met or worked with in my life were very defective in some or several significant ways. They may have been irrationally motivated, insecure, distrustful, driven by demons from the past, weirdly brilliant, humorless or incapable of human interaction. Most of us are commoners content with reaching not-so-lofty goals as we remain unimpressed with our own talents and expend little energy climbing another rung on the great ladder of success. Rather, we turn our attention and energy toward other things. Here then are The Seven Habits of Terribly Ineffective People (you know who you are.)
1. Sleeping late. Benjamin Franklin – a highly effective person – is credited with the ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ rhyme. Indeed, he may have scribbled this wisdom down somewhere along the line; however, if one does a modest bit of research we find that Mr. Franklin was a rascal and a carouser: party animal, talk-of-the-town, witty, life of the party, etc. Methinks Old Ben rolled in pretty late most nights of the week and very possibly rolled over a few times the next morning. Although I have always loved the idea of being awake to watch the sunrise (following a good night’s sleep) I have never been able to make it a habit. I sleep long and late.
2. Watching television. Ineffective people prefer being stimulated by forces outside themselves providing those forces are not challenging (like reading.) Cable television is an irreplaceable source of non-threatening stimulation. Not only can they sit in front of the tube for 6 hours every night of the week they can also discuss their theories and projections about the next episode of 24 or LOST with other ineffective people during the day at work.
3. Procrastinating. One of the most revered qualities of ineffective people is the art of ‘putting off until tomorrow what you can do today.’ This may serve as the mantra for all things inefficient. Yet in some ways it makes sense. Details to follow…
4. Whining. Every environment has its share of slackers – those who don’t do their share. An effective person, I suppose, may take that person aside and have a stern talk about working harder, chipping in and joining the team. An ineffective person prefers to talk badly about the slacker behind their back in the lunchroom, on breaks, down the hall or even at the dreaded staff retreat. Ineffective people wallow in their own crap and like it there.
5. Quitting. Pretty much everyone gets excited about something from time to time. Perhaps you’ll build a deck, plant a garden, put together a business plan, paint the bedrooms or read all of Shakespeare’s works. And so you begin but you never finish – you quit, don’t you? Everything in your life is about 75% complete and shall remain that way.
6. Drinking. This is not unique to ineffective people but I must include it here. Effective people also drink to dampen the unconscious reality of their self-loathing. But ineffective individuals take drinking to another level all together. They tend to consume more and more often than the balance of the population. Drinking fills the deep and hollow caverns burned into their psyches by the afore-mentioned habits.
7. Blogging. I have no idea how many individual blog sites exist in the universe. I know I have one and a few of my ineffective friends have them and some pretty famous, effective people have them. For the most part they are each self-serving, boring, political, inaccurate and unnecessary. For instance, no breathing human entity will be edified by these few paragraphs I am about to complete. However, rather than doing my taxes, reading a newspaper, finishing my deck renovation, preparing dinner or praying I have spent the last 20 or so minutes spewing this nonsense onto this page. That’s it. I am going to fix a drink, turn on the TV, fall asleep and finish this tomorrow.

Drill, Baby, Drill

I don’t like most animals. Dogs are my favorite. I will stop and talk to pretty much any dog and, perhaps, their owner. I am not fond of cats, camels or crocodiles and I never wish to be in the presence of a mountain lion, coyote or shark. But I do like people, many of them, anyway.
This past week there has been another devastating oil mess; this time in the Gulf of Mexico. Tens of thousands of gallons of raw crude spilled into the salty waters of this beautiful body of water. Sea life will certainly die; the environment will be greatly disturbed; the coastlines altered and economy set back. This is tragic, of course. I recall with sadness and horror the photos of seagulls dripping with the thick, black tar of the crude that gushed from the open wound of the Exxon Valdes; the ravaged beaches; the appropriate outrage of the citizens; the massive efforts to cleanse the ocean. There was nothing good about it.
Rightly or wrongly we are a nation addicted to oil and other forms of fuel obtained by drilling, digging, scraping and mining for earth’s natural resources. In the process massive machines are used along with vast amounts of dynamite, fire and power. When things go wrong on this scale they go terribly wrong. In the big picture I find it remarkable that our world experiences so few accidents.
There has been much made lately of the pursuit of alternative fuel sources like solar, wind and ethanol. I remain skeptical of the results but fully support any company or individual who chooses to invest their own money in the research. (If you think there will be no negative repercussions on our environment and wildlife from these forms of energy you are surely wrong. What state is going to volunteer to bury all the batteries from the proliferation of the oh-so-responsible hybrid cars we are driving? What will the Wildlife Society say when they encounter piles of dead bird carcasses at the foot of all those wind turbines?) In recent weeks I have also seen responsible research results suggesting that all of these alternative fuels combined will reduce by less than 3% our dependence on oil, gasoline and coal.
And so, with all due respect for God’s green earth and all of its inhabitants I cannot throw myself upon the rocks in wild hysteria every time we experience another tragic oil spill, factory explosion or coalmine disaster. Sadly, but inevitably, they are the unfortunate bi-products of who we are and how we live. And for those who protest so loudly may I suggest you unplug your computer, turn off your lights, sell your car, refrain from charging your cell phone, let your grass grow, sell your refrigerator, remove the furnace and air-conditioner from your home, bathe in cold water, build an outhouse, walk to work, smash your television and enjoy life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hello, My Name is Thom Schuyler and I am a Xenophobic, Racist Bastard

I was just passing through a room in my house in which a television was tuned to MSNBC (or, as my profoundly witty and astute pal, KVD calls it: PMSNOBC.) Former governor, presidential candidate and constant Democrat mouthpiece, Howard Dean, was being interviewed. He is an easy person to distrust and dislike – at least for me. I recall in ’04 when he started out of the campaign gates so swiftly and many of my friends jumped on his presidential bandwagon only to be humiliated by his shrieking and creepy victory speech following an early primary. During that 5-minute stretch I think most Americans surmised that he would be more suited to a straightjacket and solitary confinement than to the Oval Office. Anyway, how soon we forget how terribly weird and off-center this guy is. Following his tirade on national television he dropped out of the race only to surface as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But today Governor Dean was waxing poetic regarding the stubbornness of Republican Senators, the xenophobia and racism of the citizens of Arizona and the general disdain for anyone who had the audacity to push back against the ideals and ideas of the Obama administration.
I am not a Republican but I am very much a conservative. I happen to respect the resistance Republican lawmakers had to the recent health care debacle. No average citizen in this country has any idea what just happened, what is in the bill or how it will impact our lives, health or pocketbooks. And frankly, I suspect few representatives or senators understood it, either – which was a perfectly sane reason to pushback and slow-walk the process. For this Mr. Dean has tagged these Republicans ‘The Party of No.’ Of course, Doc Dean got his pockets full long ago so what does he have to lose?
For this same man – a son of the elite northeast – to have any posture or opinion on the challenges of the citizens of the great state of Arizona to bring civility and safety to their neighborhoods is preposterous! How dare he declare these Americans xenophobic and racist because they are attempting to do the job his Almighty Feds have failed to do? Murders, shoot-outs, drug deals, illegal immigrants, law-breakers – this is Howard Dean’s America. Sure, let them in; give them everything they need; ‘We’re so glad you’re here!’ This is simply outrageous! But somehow The Dean finds a curious way to blame the Republican party for all of this.
I had the singular privilege of growing up in a working-class neighborhood in one of Pennsylvania’s famous steel industry towns. My parents purchased one side of a ‘double home’ shared by a first generation couple from Italy. Next to our property was another duplex shared by immigrants from Russia and Germany. Next to that home were two more families from Puerto Rico and Hungary. And it continued down the block and across the street. Yes, most of the parents and all of the grandparents in these immigrant homes spoke in their mother tongue. That was actually fun, interesting and edifying. I can still cuss anyone out in about five languages! However, there is one thing very different from our current crisis: all these beautiful and grateful Americans immigrated legally. Therein is the great problem.
I am greatly offended by Howie’s arrogant posture on all of these matters, but what else is new. Perhaps he and his family can afford to send a check to The Almighty Fed to underwrite the costs of these health care, immigration, banking reform and deficit problems. The fact is, I cannot continue to do this and I suspect I am in the majority. My hope is that The Mighty Doctor from Vermont will eat so much maple syrup one morning that his lips will stick together – forever.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Role Model Masters Class

Like many Americans I was measurably shocked and repulsed by the heartless shenanigans of Tiger Woods revealed over the past 4 months. Given the magnitude of his selfish actions I feel no empathy for him. His friend and former college/NBA basketball star, Charles Barkley, has stated on many occasions that he and other notable athletes in all sports are not role models. Barkley suggests that this role is rightly reserved for parents. Frankly, to a great extent, I agree with Charles. However, reality dictates that celebrities – no matter their field – ARE role models. Certainly as we mature many of us are proud to emulate ‘dear old dad.’ But within the minds of impressionable adolescent boys – many of them, anyway – is the desire to ‘be like Mike’ or ‘bend it like Beckham.’ I recall my own adolescent years and endless summer hours playing a game we called Strike Out with my pal Rick Vargo. It required a tennis ball, a broom handle bat, knowledge of professional baseball players and a tremendous imagination. Rick and I would each play a number of roles in this glorious pantomime: pitcher (Koufax, Gibson, Bunning, etc.), batter (Clemente, Aaron, Mantle, etc.), fielder (Callison, Wine, Mays, etc.) and even the play-by-play announcers (Saam, Scully, Allen, etc.) We emulated wind-ups, batters’ postures, wild basket catches, throws from the right field wall and the unique vocal delivery of each announcer. Role models? Hell yes they were role models; for a couple years they were everything to me and Rick and I suspect we weren’t the only 12 year olds recreating their own fantasy games in streets, alleys and playgrounds all over America.
With little effort I have removed any preoccupation with The Tiger Woods Soap Opera from my mind. In early January I told one of my sons that I was certain Woods would return to the PGA for The Masters – not before, not after. Unlike my NCAA March Madness brackets I was right on the money. This was an easy prediction: his ego simply dictated that he is present on golf’s premiere stage. But on this day after Resurrection, this Monday of Masters’ week, I find myself more annoyed by Tiger Woods than at any other moment since his notorious Thanksgiving excursion from driveway to fire hydrant. Upon the fairways and greens of golf’s Mecca is the brooding shadow of infidelity, selfishness and egocentricity. The prurient interests of the media have clouded this annual moment of challenge and respect. Our minds are naturally turned away from the other formidable talents on the PGA tour and toward the darkness of Woods’ exploits and empty explanations.
The most tragic component in all of this is Woods’ betrayal of his wife, Elin and their children. No doubt. And yet there is also a betrayal of the fans, his remarkably stellar competitors and the game itself. His unique talent is no longer of any interest to me. I cannot bring myself to root for him any longer. He is an empty vessel. This is not an admirable quality for a role model.