|2/8/2014 3:12:00 PM|
John Hammer drags Timmons back
"So, where the hell have you been, Timmons?"
I can't explain how John Hammer creeps up on me. He's bigger than a tree house and has a voice that could echo from Alamo to Linden. Despite his size, he's constantly catching me off guard.
"I've been working," I answered. "What've you been up to?"
"How come you haven't been writing your column?" he asked, ignoring my question.
"Well, it's been a busy time and there's been-"
"Nobody knows what the word sacrifice means anymore," he interrupted. Not that my answer was that important. When John Hammer has a point to make, he doesn't waste time.
"I was reading a story the other day," he began. "It was about an IU kid who was named a Rhodes Scholar. Here's something interesting, Timmons. Out of the U.S. kids who earned that honor, half of them were first-generation Americans."
He looked at me.
I looked back.
He kept looking.
"Do you not get it, Timmons?"
"I guess not."
"We're losing," he said. "We're falling behind. The very future of this country is in jeopardy."
At first, I was a bit taken back.
"What, are you saying that just because kids of immigrants did well this year academically that we're doomed?"
His look told me I totally missed the point.
"When I was younger I remember JFK's inauguration speech," he said. "He said to us that we should not ask what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country.
"Tell me, Timmons, who does that anymore?"
I thought for a second.
"My grandparents were farmers," he went on. "I'll bet they didn't go to the grocery store 15 times in a year. The wife sends me that many times in a month now. They grew what they ate. They made do with what they had. Everyone chipped in, the kids, the grandkids. Sure, it was about survival, but it was more than that. It was about family, and community, and taking pride in not just what you did, but that in what you did was important and made a difference. Our kids don't even get the concept."
I didn't disagree, I said, but I didn't see the connection to the Rhodes Scholar.
"She said that her parents sacrificed everything they had in order to make sure she had an education," he explained. "She said because of that, because of that sacrifice, she felt a duty to do well.
"Timmons, she gets it. She understands something that my generation did but didn't hold onto. And the next couple of generations either forgot it or never learned it. I'm telling you, if we don't learn from her and get it back, this country is on a bad path."
Once again, John Hammer, the big, lumbering giant of a man took all the complexities out of life and boiled it down to its most basic element.
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