Mr. Chips
An Updated Version

This essay begins with a backstory. Years ago, I worked with a colleague for several years. She was the only one that was smart, honest, and on target all the time. I’d trust her no matter what. However, our careers went in different directions, which meant that we each moved away from Kingston, PA. Not long ago, while she was working in a hospital, she happened to stumble upon my website. Thus began our weekly chats, which occur on a regular basis each Saturday at 1pm my time and 2pm her time.

Our chats initially started out with each of us getting up to date with our families and lives in general. In one of our initial chats, she asked how my son, Scott, was. Before I could reply, she added, “He was really a very handsome boy.” Well, Scott is handsome, but, this year, he will celebrate his 50th birthday. When she knew Scott, he wasn’t even in kindergarten.

However, for many months, our weekly chats have morphed into client-centered psychotherapy. My friend is my therapist, and I’m her client. She is an excellent female version of Carl Rogers, and I have, on a weekly basis, praised her Rogerian style. I’d go on and on about some vexing problem that rattled me. I would bring up anything that I wanted to resolve while knowing fully that she would allow me to vent until I had finally drawn my own conclusions. Carl Rogers would have been impressed by his protégée.

Here is a smorgasbord of issues that I brought up over the past year, my emotional tie to my family in Myanmar, my drive to raise a half million dollars for 1250-laptops for the schools that my granddaughters attend, and my failure to do so. I have also discussed with her many times what I learned while attending junior and senior high school in Mt. Lebanon, PA. I thought that I was both dumb and poor. My inability to control everything is another issue. Into that mix, my two dances with death had been added, which pushed the legacy issue to the forefront.

Last Saturday’s Rogerian session must been have seen by my therapist that she needed to be a bit more assertive. She sent the following--

From the movie, Good-bye, Mr. Chips

In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise. At a moment in my life when the world is new. And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me, To be brave and strong and true, And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine, At a moment in my life when the sky is blue. And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging. To be brave and strong and true, And to fill the world with love my whole life through

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset, At a moment in my life when the night is due. And the question I shall ask only I can answer. Was I brave and strong and true? Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

At the end of the three stanzas, my Rogerian therapist merely wrote Legacy?

My therapist must also think that I am looking more and more like Mr. Chips.

Those lyrics bring all my haunting questions together in one place. I pondered those words for quite some time. In the beginning of my life, I had opportunities to fill the world with love. In my middle years, I again had the occasions to do the same. Looking back on the first two parts of my journey down my yellow brick road, I did some things that are worth remembering. However, if I look more closely, I surely could have improved my efforts to fill my corner of the world with love.

What could I have done better? While I understood that what we call our family needed to expand beyond those living in one home, I needed to go beyond even what I considered more expansive than others.

Silas Marner was a changed man due to Eppie.

I remember memorizing a short paragraph from George Eliot’s novella, Silas Marner. Silas Marner was an old man when he met Eppie, which rescued him from life’s threatening destruction.

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.

In a fortuitous and serendipitous moment, I met my Eppie a half dozen years ago. I went to Myanmar to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, often called the Lady and failed to interview her. Nevertheless, a met a nine-year-old young lady who radically changed my mindset about how to define family.

Last week, I wrote an article, Angry Old Men. Read it if you haven’t. It will help you understand my mindset. Silas Marner was also an angry old man. He was resurrected into a radically different person thanks to the hand of a little child…Eppie. Each of us will find happiness by discovering our Eppies. The more expansive your family becomes, the happier you will be. It changed Silas Marner. While I wasn’t some crotchety old miser, expanding my family certainly added much to my life. My Eppie started with Ti Ti and rapidly included her younger sisters, Snow and Fatty.

Finally, remember this—it is in giving that we get. The more you give, the more you will get.