Two Quotes That I Like

“Think like a wise man–but, speak like a common man.”

—William Butler Yeats

“It’s not the example of our power. It’s the power of our example.”

—Joe Biden

Remembering Roger Ebert

I had the great pleasure of meeting Roger Ebert twice during the many years that I was privileged to supervise the voting for the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the TV Academy for the Emmy Awards.

The first time was when the TV Academy gave an Honorary Emmy to Gene Siskel (perhaps it was the Chapter’s Governors’ Award) which Siskel’s widow accepted on his behalf, after his death. Roger was the presenter–and, his tribute to his late colleague was so moving and profound that you could have heard the proverbial pin drop in the room. We had a lovely, warm conversation back stage, before this part of the program.

The second time that I met Mr. Ebert was at the reception before the TV Academy’s Silver Circle banquet, where they honor those broadcasters who have distinguished themselves in the Chicago and Midwest television markets for more than 25 years. I had my photo taken with him, which he later autographed with the inscription that he was honored to have his picture taken with me! That seemed to be typical of his humility and graciousness. The photo hangs proudly on my wall, and can be seen in the photo section on this site.

My sense was that Roger Ebert was beloved by all who knew him. He will be sorely missed by his legion of friends–me included.

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” – William Butler Yeats

The $5 Candy Bar

On my way to the commuter train in the evening, there is a young black man who sells candy bars for a dollar a piece.  Often, he is standing there, selling his wares with his children.  Occasionally, I have stopped to buy a candy bar from him, before hurrying up the stairs at the station to catch the train. One day, I stopped to talk with him, and asked him why he was out in the frigid Chicago air selling candy. He replied that he was doing this to help support his family.  He had an honest and kind look in his eyes…I had no reason not to believe him. Once in a while, I would stop and give him two dollars, and would only take one candy bar, which I would eventually give away to someone else.

One particular evening,  as I approached this man selling his candy, I realized that the smallest currency that I had in my wallet was a five dollar bill–and, not willing to part with it, adverted my eyes from the candy salesman as I passed him by, scurrying up the stairs to catch my train.

When I sat down in my seat on the train, a woman sat across the aisle from me, and was talking with her friends. I heard the woman say that she only had a ten dollar bill in her wallet–but, not knowing what to do,  gave the man selling candy the ten dollars, and took a candy bar and no change.

When I heard this, I immediately hung my head in sorrow and remorse, for I was certain that I could have afforded to give this man five dollars, more than this woman could give him ten. I made a small “Sign of the Cross” with my thumb and forefinger, and asked God to forgive me for my selfishness and thoughtlessness. I vowed never to pass by this man again, without putting at least a couple of bucks in his hand–and, taking only one candy bar. And, I never have since.

“When I go down and see the way some people live,

and look around dismayed,

shame scorches my cheeks like the back of a flatiron.

How shamefully we hold our tongues.

Or, at the most, we hem and haw . . .

Lies are written on fat faces

That should be hidden in trousers . . .”

—Andrei Voznesensky


“Never stifle a generous impulse.”

–Author Unknown

Note: I have used this quote in a previous post. But, I think that it is important enough to repeat.


The Map

Last winter, I was invited to tour an institution called the Catholic Theological Union (http://www.ctu.edu) by the president of this school. This organization is the largest Catholic divinity school in the United States, and is located in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, on the southeast side of the city, for those not familiar with the area. The school, which now trains mostly lay people for both domestic and foreign missionary duty, was co-founded in the late 1960’s, interestingly enough, by the chief Rabbi of one of the local synagogues in the area, to foster the study of Catholic-Jewish relations–a subject which interests me greatly.

At any rate, on the ground floor of the school is a map of the world, with two groups of colored dots. One color denotes where the students who attend the school are drawn from. The other color indicates where the graduates of the school are performing their work around the world.

I was particularly impressed by the simple, yet eloquent, message that the map relates. It is a message that we all, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, should remember as we go about our daily lives. God calls us to do His work, and then sends us out in the world to do it. Nothing complicated about that–pretty straight forward. Yet, somehow, that profound message seems to get lost in the cacophony of the temporal world in which we live.

A Charge to All Young People

I liked this quote when I read it. It reflects my wish for all young people, no matter what course they take in life.

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”

–St. Ignatius Loyola

Doing a Few Things Well

The one thing that I’ve seen in business that gets people into trouble, other than unbridled ego and greed, is that they take on too many tasks. They try to do too many things, for whatever reason (ego, maybe?), with the end result being that they screw everything up.

One of the greatest compliments that I’ve ever had in business was when someone once said to me, “Paul, I’ve never known you not to do anything well.”

I think that you’re much better off, and will  greatly enhance your reputation for competence and integrity, if you do a few things very well, rather than a lot of things done poorly, or not so well. People won’t remember the number of tasks that you’ve tried to accomplish. But, they sure will remember your screw-ups.

“Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all”

Skipping Through Life Frivolously

I recently had lunch with an attorney friend of mine (or, rather, I should say that he was kind enough to invite me to lunch at his downtown Chicago club). We were having a lively discussion, when he stops me in mid-sentence and says, “You don’t skip through life frivolously, do you? Things weigh on you. You give your words great thought before you say them.”

I was startled by his comment. But, I had to agree with him. He got that one right.


I’ve never been interested much in “things”. If you have a nice house, I think that is wonderful. If you have a big, fancy car, I’m very happy for you.  But, material goods just don’t interest me much. Oh, I have decent clothes, and have a car that is absolutely fine–but, nothing really fancy.  It’s OK. I think that there is so much more to life than the material.

I had lunch this past summer with a very prominent Chicago media executive. He said to me, “You know, Paul, I know a lot of people with an awful lot of money. I can’t say that it’s made them any happier.”

‘Nough said.

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores, and longing to eat what fell from the Rich Man’s table.  Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The Rich Man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire’.

But Abraham replied, ‘Son remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone else cross over from there to us.’

He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’

Luke 16:19-31

But, now we can cross that chasm.  We can take care of the poor. We can comfort the sorrowful. We can heal the sick. And, we can shed the warm light of hope on all those who suffer in the darkness of despair.

Finishing Their Symphonies

Over the several years or so, I have had at least ten friends, or close acquaintances, die from various diseases, mostly cancer of one type or another. The youngest was 50 years, with the oldest being 68 years–all cut down much too young, with their life’s work left unfinished. All were good people, doing great things.

I have wondered what to make of this.

I remember from my education in the classics (the Jesuits were great at this), that most symphonies are written in four movements. That great composer, Franz Schubert, however, was only able to complete two movements of his work, before he died an untimely death in 1868.  Hence, the work became famously known as the Unfinished Symphony (Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8).

Our work, it seems, is to complete the “symphonies” of the lives that these premature deaths left unfinished–to carry on the good works, and good deeds, that they were so tragically unable to complete. That is how we can best honor the memory of those who have died so young–carrying on the wonderful work and good things that they left undone.

It's More Important to Be Nice

Overheard recently,  “It’s nice to be important. But, it’s more important to be nice.”

Couldn’t agree more.