By Jim “Pappy” Moore
Perhaps some of you remember The Mary Tyler Moore Show from the late 1970s, where she played a TV news producer. Actor Ted Knight played a stodgy TV newsman who acted well his part, named Ted Baxter. He brought a great deal of overacting to his role, and was often the butt of jokes. However, there was one episode in which another character was complaining about their life. Such fellow actor moaned about the daily routine: “Get up. Get out of bed. Have a cup of coffee. Go out the door. Go to work.” The delivery was dreary and tedious.
Ted Baxter’s reply was on point. In an animated fashion and with a very positive flair he suggested instead that they “Get up! Get out of bed! Have a cup of coffee! Go out the door! Go to work!” By using the same words but putting positivity into it, the goofy newsman pointed out how much of viewing the world is how one chooses to look at it.
I saw that show mostly when I was in law school. Some students were dreary and hated the drudgery. So much reading. So much studying. Harsh deadlines. But attitude was the key to staying satisfied and stable.
Every day each of us chooses how we will see the day. We can moan and groan about it, or we can embrace it and find the joy it has for us, if we frame our duties and chores properly.
My Dad used to have many sayings about life and getting through it. Recall that he and his brothers had to skip school every September because that was the month they all picked cotton. It’s hard work picking cotton. The bolls turn hard and have sharp edges which can slice a finger like a sharp knife. It is tedious, backbreaking work. Long hours lugging a heavy bag of cotton. Yet these boys – Garland, Clyde, Doc and Fred – pulled their weight and helped their family survive The Great Depression.
There is an old saying we used to hear as kids: “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” Perspective is important. We can frame our lives as tragedies of which we are the star. Or we can frame our lives as triumphs, where we are the victors.
When I had some dreary task to do, Daddy would tell me “son, if you can’t get out of it, get into it.” I can remember a time he used that line. We were out in winter cutting firewood. It was cold. The ground was saturated with rain. We had to get wood because that fireplace was how we got most of the heat in our home, and we kept it burning all the time. He did the cutting and I did the loading. When the truck bed was full, we jumped in the cab and took off. Not far from where we cut wood, the truck bogged down in the mud.
We got out of the pick-up and after assessing the situation, Daddy said “get up there and throw the wood out of the truck bed and onto the ground.” When I grumbled he used that line “if you can’t get out of it, get into it.” He meant to embrace your task if you have to do it. He was right, and it was advice I followed in life. Sometimes that meant unloading firewood you had just loaded, getting the truck unstuck, and loading the firewood again. Sometimes it meant cleaning the latrine in Boot Camp the cleanest it had ever been because that was your task. Sometimes it meant driving down into the river bottom to find a debtor that owed money you needed to get him to pay.
Alexander Pope wrote over two hundred years ago “Act well your part, there all the honor lies.” Daddy said it differently, but it meant the same thing. I wouldn’t learn the line Alexander Pope wrote until Mrs. Seago taught us that poem several years later in Senior English. But I knew the thought, because Daddy had always stressed doing well what you must do.
Life is not always pleasant. We have to roll with punches, and we have to choose to find the good, even on bad days. Act well your part.
Copyright 2024, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.