“The next item on the agenda is ‘special matters,’ and that’s, uh, having me receive the C. C. Ludwig Award,” announced retiring Mayor Terry Schneider.
He practically whispered the last part, seeming slightly embarrassed to be standing in the middle of the room while superlatives were broadcast about him. Chalk it up to Midwestern modesty.
“A kind-hearted individual….we are eternally grateful,” Council Member Brad Wiersum read from multiple glowing recommendations. The mayor clutched his mic timidly with both hands.
“I want to reflect on a personal story that many of you haven’t heard,” he said cautiously, “that might be difficult for me to talk about.”
“People asked me, how can I sit through a contentious, controversial meeting and keep my cool and keep it civil? My standard answer is, well, I’m an introvert,” he explained in a gravelly voice. “So it’s the easiest thing for me to do. While that is true, it’s not the real reason why. And, um….”
Schneider coughed lightly and stared at the ground, trying not to cry. A black-and-white photograph of the mayor’s grandfather flashed onscreen.
“My grandparents lived in Plymouth [Nebraska] and I spent most of my summers with my grandparents. It was a phenomenal experience–particularly for an introvert–to be in a low-key town.”
The entire room was listening silently.
“I didn’t realize until after the fact, when we’re in a small town, you didn’t have any toys. One time, I made a bunch of darts. I was doing it in the living room. He was sitting on a rocking chair smoking his pipe. I was throwing and all of a sudden, it stuck him right in the eye.”
A few people nervously chuckled. The mayor again paused to collect himself.
“He just sat there. Didn’t say a word. There’s this dart in my grandfather’s eye. So I walked up and took the dart out. He never said a word. That kind of quiet lesson taught me that there are consequences to your action.”
The mayor reached into his pocket and brandished a small trinket.
“I’ve got a little toy tank that he gave me when I was a kid. I would spend hours on the carpet running the tank around. So I carried this with me every day to remember to act like my grandfather. I realized after 20 years, I didn’t need to carry it.”
Council members smiled sympathetically as the mayor concluded: “My grandfather passed away exactly 50 years ago. So thanks for listening to that little story. Maybe somebody will be touched by it.”
I see the man’s point here. But if I may: when someone throws a dart into your eyeball, how on earth is the lesson to sit there until they come and pluck it out?! I’ve heard of turning the other cheek, but you’ve only got so many eyes–and those things are NOT dart-resistant.
I believe silence is golden, but retina damage is PERMANENT.
Speaking of which, in another first for me, council members abruptly donned official “Tour de Tonka” sunglasses as the bike ride’s director strode to the podium.
“You guys are amazing,” he beamed, pulling out his phone and snapping pictures. “You look amazing, every one of you.”
The ride, he said, “is a sense of accomplishment. It’s not a race. If you can go that far, you deserve a pat on the back.”
Now THAT is a perfect lesson about life–and about being mayor.