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December 25 , 2007
In a holiday season which focuses primarily on Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, I find that my two most moving experiences have been not Christian-influenced but rather Jewish-influenced. Let me explain.
First, I’m reminded at this season that a simple philosophy of living preached by a Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, sets a standard of moral conduct which would solve a good many of the world’s problems if practiced by people of all faiths or, indeed, of no religious faith at all. I’m talking about the simple philosophy voiced by a Jewish preacher, usually translated into English in words like these: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This holiday season I was moved also by the words of another Jew, Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe.
Jacoby was among the Jewish guests involved this year in the annual White House tradition of hosting a Hanukkah celebration in addition to the customary White House Christmas parties.
Jacoby described the White House reception as “a beautiful and festive event,” also “undeniably Jewish, from the kosher buffet dinner and Hebrew songs sung for the several hundred guests from the U.S. Jewish community.” Jacoby also wrote:
“All this in a White House richly-decorated for Christmas and occupied by a president who was devoutly Christian.”
And then these memorable words: “It is hard to imagine a more compelling illustration of the nation’s culture of religious tolerance and freedom.”
To me, Jacoby’s comments were among the more eloquent and moving tributes to this great country that I have heard or read, at Christmastime or any other time.
* * *
Advertising, especially on television, is, of course, often designed to make you believe the advertiser wants to offer something of extraordinary value designed especially for people like you. Some recent examples:
An ad which promises to help you acquire “the house you know you deserve.” A skeptic might say that the house which even a “special you” deserves is the house that he can afford to pay for.
Then there’s the ad in which the sponsors promise to “help you pay less taxes than you owe.” Hardly an inducement for people to be honest taxpayers.
And the ad that promises to teach you how to “learn to trade in stocks risk-free.” I think the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, and I would agree that there is no such thing as a risk-free investment in stocks. (That’s as far as I will go in suggesting that I share investment wisdom with my friend Warren.)
* * *
Prairie Avenue medical bulletin:
As I dictate this, I’m recovering from surgery for a torn right shoulder rotator cuff (I fell on the sidewalk at Eppley Field). Marian is preparing for another major orthopedic procedure January 2 - - an artificial left knee.
This will give Marian a certain symmetrical balance, as it were: two artificial knees, two artificial hips, two artificial shoulders - - sort of a “symmetrical six,” two, two and two, whether counting from knees to shoulders or shoulders to knees.
She approaches the surgery, of course, with her usual upbeat spirit, glad that a skilled surgeon like Dr. Kevin Garvin is available to apply his widely-recognized expertise to her case.
An associate of Dr. Garvin, Dr. Ed Fehringer, a relative newcomer to the team of experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, performed rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder.
Twenty-eight stitches later, Doctor Fehringer sent me off to therapy, where another expert, therapist Leonard Wood, is currently putting me through thrice-a-week right-arm manipulation. The other day I asked Woody if there was ever an occasion when one of his patient’s arms was simply pulled off, perhaps to be mounted on the wall as sort of a trophy.
Woody’s flippant reply: “Oh, no, we just throw it out behind the clinic. We’ve got a big collection of bones out there.”
Omaha is blessed to have such depth of medical talent, including, I hasten to add, nurses and nurses’ aides. I just wish I had become acquainted with Doctor Fehringer in a goose blind along the Platte River where he, a native of Columbus, still likes to hunt when he can find time. I think I would like him even better wearing a camouflaged cap rather than a surgeon’s mask.
* * *
Add political odds and ends:
Perhaps energized by Oprah Winfrey’s considerable presence on the platform in support of him, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, usually intense but not given to shouting at political rallies, hit an emotional high note during a recent rally in South Carolina.
“South Carolina, we are going to change the world,” Obama shouted. Oprah chimed in with the observation that Obama “can bring us all together.” No specifics were offered as to how the world is going to be changed or how Obama can “bring us all together.”
Candidates can’t, of course, any longer claim to have been born in a log cabin, but it was at least in the tradition of “born in a log cabin” political posturing that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has substituted growing up in “a small rent house” as a presidential qualification. It’s supposed to somehow indicate that you are more likely to represent the common man than someone, like Mitt Romney, who grew up in a house which his father owned.
Well, if growing up in a rented house is a qualification, I wonder if I should get into the presidential race.
As best I can remember, I grew up in at least five rented houses scattered around North Omaha, mostly in the Florence area. Oh, yes, there was also a rented apartment, and I was born in one of the rented houses.
Can you top that, Mike Huckabee?
* * *
Claire, our 5-year-old cocker spaniel, asked me to share this message with you. (Charlotte, 3, and Sarah, 13, seconded Claire’s motion.)
Be sure to keep chocolate confections out of reach of your dogs. (Be especially alert this time of the year when so much chocolate is available in various forms.)
Twice in five days, Claire ate chocolate candy. In the first instance, she leaped and pulled an open sack of candy down from the counter where I had carelessly left it close to the edge. Four days later she sniffed out a candy bar in the purse of a bridge-playing guest in our home.
In both cases, the antidote was to take Claire to a veterinarian to have vomiting induced. In the first incident, Charlotte and Sarah went along, because I wasn’t sure whether they had also ingested chocolate. Charlotte had and Sarah hadn’t, but the three were all induced to vomit.
In the second incident, we were sure that Claire was the only chocolate-eater. It was a 3.5 ounce milk chocolate bar. The veterinarian said to bring her in.
I’m told that it doesn’t take a great deal of chocolate (for Claire’s second trip to the vet, 3.5 ounces of milk chocolate in a 20-pound-plus dog was considered dangerous) to send the dog into a state of shock.
I should add that my good friend and fellow hunter Dr. John Griffiths, a Labrador lover, years ago warned me to stop feeding chocolate M&Ms to our cockers.
Two days after her second vomit-inducing trip to the vet, Claire trembled as Marian drove west again in the general direction of our veterinarian’s clinic.
She was much relieved when it turned out that she was being delivered to the Bark Avenue dog-grooming salon for one of her periodic visits.
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