Out and About (Sort): Quest for Comity by Howard Freedlander

We pay professional therapists to listen to us, but we can’t afford the time or effort to listen to others with divergent views.

Two friends in the county have views diametrically opposed to mine. Yet we enjoy a depth of civility and friendship that transcends our polar opposite viewpoints. We refuse to poison our communication with insults and personal attacks.

It seems that civil dialogue or any discourse between those on opposite ends of the political spectrum is rare. Either politics deliberately doesn’t come up in conversation, or the differing persons simply avoid each other. We all know this sad tale; the polarization seems a stubbornly omnipresent fact of life today. It’s a shame.

Maybe it’s overstated. Maybe it’s not. Divisiveness seems entwined these days with the human condition.

Just recently, I spent 90 minutes at lunch with some people whose viewpoints differed greatly from mine. Conversation was difficult at times. Fortunately, each person generally spoke without emotion and recrimination—not entirely, but mostly. A sense of friendship and respect seemed to emerge at the same time as dessert and coffee.

I won’t dwell on the lunch. However, I will talk about “Better Angels,” as reported recently by CBS News. I was dismayed but not surprised by the stark differences of opinions about gun control; the discussion lasted 18 months in Lebanon, Ohio.

What interested me is that this method of overcoming ill will is the same as confronting and overcoming harmful bias. In fact, two members of the “focus group”—one an Iranian-American and the other an evangelical Christian—described how their initially fraught relationship evolved into one of warm friendship. The therapeutic process worked.

What seems new and striking about the discussion and its byproduct of friendship is not a new phenomenon It just stands out due to the bigotry and stridency expressed in our times in some quarters. The abusive language harms our democracy; it consigns compromise and tolerance to the outer reaches of human behavior. Productive discourse seems unfathomable.

In President Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, presented on March 4, 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, voiced a yearning for a time when “the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

In futility, Lincoln hoped for an outcome free of mortal combat and societal schism.

Striking a different, yet forgiving and conciliatory tone in his second inaugural address delivered in March 1865 just before the end of the wrenching Civil War, Lincoln said:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations. “

Analyzing Lincoln’s second address and the current state of relationships in our fractious nation, Paul Cox, a friend, wrote:

“The second address anticipated the end of the war and the great job of reconciliation – it is generally accepted that Lincoln, the great captain, would have steered the ship of state more successfully through the turbulent post-war years. We cannot know. But we look back from here and see so many issues still unreconciled, wounds still not healed.

“Has it been malice? Has it been a lack of charity? As this world spins around, there are many strong centrifugal forces that would throw us all apart. The act of listening to people with diametrically opposed political views would be one of the first things necessary to assure us being held together.”

Paul arrives at the same conclusion as I did: civility has suffered as those on the opposite ends of the political spectrum adamantly avoid, if not disdain, listening to people whose opinions, though well-thought out, seem anathema to our ears. We won’t and don’t listen. We believe that the search for common ground is meaningless.

The quest for comity is a bumpy, uncomfortable road. It offers risks; we might change our minds. We might respect and even like the person whose opinions are bothersome.

All of us embody “better angels.”

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): 3rd Bay Bridge Span Questioned by Howard Freedlander

Last week I wrote about an engaging concept entitled Delmarva Oasis, which, if it becomes a reality, would convert a large portion of the Delmarva Peninsula into a preserve that retains and enhances the agricultural and environmental goodness of the region we call home. I noted that the prospect of a third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span imposes a certain urgency on converting this concept into a reality.

Up until recently, I favored a third span. For 30 years, I crossed the Bay Bridge to earn a living in Baltimore and Annapolis. I developed a love-hate relationship with the existing two spans, sometimes crossing easily, sometimes with annoying difficulty.

The solution to the increasing congestion and mental damage seemed obvious to me: build an additional span. The May to September “reach the beach” fervor, resulting in year-after-year inconvenience to Eastern Shore residents trying to negotiate Route 50, would be alleviated. All would be right on this side of the Bay.

I have been wrong.

A third span– either aligning with the current bridges or crossing from Baltimore to Kent County or extending from Calvert County to Dorchester County—would simply dump more vacationers on Route 50. Eastern Shore residents would continue to be imprisoned in their homes during the seasonal rush to the Maryland and Delaware beaches.

A bridge spanning the Baltimore Harbor and Kent County may seem logical based on distance and probable expense but destructive to a county with rich farmland and a predominantly agricultural economy and way of life. Kent Countians have fought hard over the years to preserve its rural character, understandably.

So, what’s the solution? Realistically, the political power supporting expansion of the two-span Bay Bridge rests on the Western Shore. This comment is not meant to disparage our fellow Marylanders on the other, well-populated side of the Chesapeake Bay.

The decision to build or not to build is not ours to make.

While we can make noise, we regretfully can do little else. Still, we must persist. Our arguments must carry sufficient force to resonate in the State House and General Assembly.

Were I able to wave a magic wand, I would opt for a rapid transit solution, one that would reduce the traffic on the Shore. I would recommend that a third span, should it be built alongside or even atop the current structures, be devoted solely to rapid transit.

A rapid transit solution not only would reduce cars, crashes, and congestion, it also would mitigate pollution in the air we breathe and the Bay we enjoy.

Would rapid transit be costly? Absolutely. Would it interfere with Americans’ love affair with their vehicles? Absolutely. Would it affect the economic fortunes of small businesses along Route 50? Very likely.

What also is rather obvious is that residents of communities on Kent Island, Grasonville, Wye Mills, Easton and Cambridge would achieve a degree of normality during 16-18 weekends. We may be able to cross Route 50 without blocking out a few hours to shop and do errands. We have been good sports for too long.

While doing some research for this column, I read about the possibility of a third span extending from Cove Point in Calvert County to Crisfield in Somerset County, taking beach traffic onto Route 113, relieving the stress on Routes 50 and 13. This is an intriguing possibility that never occurred to me during my lengthy obsession with the Bay Bridge spans.

Ignoring for the moment that residents of Somerset and Calvert counties might scream foul, I like this potential option. Admittedly, it leaves those of us on the Mid-and-Upper Shore unscathed by a third bay Bridge span; maybe our existing traffic would decrease by directing residents of the District of Columbia metropolitan area to the Lower Shore for their entry to Ocean City and Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach and Rehoboth, DE.

While literally pushing the can (cars) down the road, I remained concerned that rapid transit might be discounted as a viable, albeit expensive, option. Like so many people, I love the independence bestowed by access to my own mode of transportation. Like many other people, I would have to adopt a new mindset.

Just recently, I was at Tampa International Airport and necessarily discovered its people-mover system, SkyConnect. Use of it at first was unsettling. Then, I appreciated its convenience, efficiency and speed; Frequent travelers are accustomed to people movers at Atlanta’s huge airport and other domestic and foreign airports.

If the Eastern Shore of Maryland is going to retain its rural character and host a healthy and vibrant environment, preserving land and values, then it must not be the home of a terminus to a third Bay Bridge span. Unless that span is devoted solely to rapid transit and brings no more cars.

Preservation will entail a stubborn, reasoned resistance to more of the same. It’s worth the fight, difficult though it might be.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia. 

 

 

Out and About (Sort of): Delmarva on the Cusp by Howard Freedlander

With the looming possibility of serious consideration in the corridors of power in Annapolis of a third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span, the future of the Delmarva Peninsula as a precious slice of geography becomes an urgent subject. It requires a vision, while seemingly improbable, to take shape and grab hold of the minds and hearts of all of us living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia and most of Delaware.

Though not widely known at this point, Delmarva Oasis is a concept discussed most recently in The Spy and other venues by author Tony Hiss to describe a huge conservation effort to protect 50-80 percent of the land of Delmarva. The intent behind protecting this mass of land is to preserve not just the human quality of life but also the millions of species that go unrecognized in our daily comings and goings.

This expansive concept encompasses total conservation, including food production, public access and habitat lands to sustain the basic life conditions of Delmarva. Into this massive transformation of Delmarva, we must include deterrence of the destructive effects of global warming and climate change, appropriate economic and real estate development, the impact of increasing vehicular traffic, the hospitality of the region to waterfowl—and the list can on and on.

At this point, before readers consider this subject as pie-in-the-sky meanderings, I suggest attention be paid to the New Jersey Pine Barrens as an example of conservation of a prized piece of geography. Known as the New Jersey Pinelands National Preserve, it comprises historic villages and berry farms amid vast oak-pine forest, extensive wetlands and a wide range of plants and animals of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion. It is protected by state and federal legislation and managed by local, state and federal agencies, as well as the private sector.

Established in November 1978, the Pinelands consists of 1,164,025 acres, all but 24,000 acres of which contain pin-oak forest. The area crosses seven counties and includes all or parts of 56,000 municipalities; the population as of the 2010 census totaled 870,000 people.

The ecological diversity encompasses 580 native species of plants—54 are threatened or endangered. The Pinelands Reserve is home to 299 species of birds, nine fish, 59 reptiles and amphibians and 39 mammals.

Agriculture defines the Delmarva Peninsula. According to a document produced by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), Delmarva “is the largest contiguous block of productive farmland on the East Coast from Maine to the Carolinas.” This fertile terrain lies within an overnight drive of 60 million or one-third of America’s consumers.

For full disclosure, I am a member of the ESLC board. ESLC has been a catalyst in the preservation of nearly 60,000 acres since 1990.
As Tony Hiss said in his Spy interview, the Delmarva Oasis is an audacious initiative. If it happens, it will bring towns and cities, farmland, marshlands and wilderness under one umbrella of sustained preservation. It will ensure that the Delmarva Peninsula will not be over-developed, as has happened in Middletown, DE, where land use has gone sadly and messily astray.

The question now is how does this alluring concept become a hard reality? Not easily, for sure. At least at this embryonic stage, ESLC will lead the charge in determining its feasibility. It will coordinate a slew of partners and funders to determine whether the public and private will exists to undertake such a complex initiative.

As I get older, I focus more and more on the value of legacy. Simply, I constantly think about how to preserve and conserve a quality of life that my family and I have been privileged to enjoy on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for nearly 42 years. I realize that we have a regional citizenship in Delmarva.

Delmarva Oasis will become common nomenclature in the near future. I hope it will capture the imagination and buy-in from government and private funders and partners. I hope it will succeed, realizing that the effort will be long and intricate.

The Delmarva Peninsula is a special place to live, play and pray. It can become a protected region. The Pinelands Reserve exemplifies what’s possible.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Mindless in Florida by Howard Freedlander

For three days last week, my friend, Paul Cox, and I watched Grapefruit League spring training in Dunedin and Sarasota, FL, repeating what we had done in the first days of March 2017 at the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fl. In both cases, our three-day immersion enabled us to watch America’s pastime while escaping the unpredictable wintry weather in the mid-Atlantic region.

In Dunedin, which adjoins Clearwater, we experienced a venue far different than the modern ballpark housing the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros in West Palm Beach. When we traveled to Sarasota to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Toronto Blue Jays at the 8500-seat Ed Smith Stadium, we again found ourselves in a spacious and more comfortable setting than the Blue Jays temporary home in Dunedin.

Of course, the ballpark may make no difference. In two games at the Dunedin Stadium and one at Ed Smith Stadium, the Blue Jays convincingly hammered the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Orioles. So much for size and pizazz.

What got my attention in Dunedin was that most fans seemed to walk from the surrounding community to the ballpark, as we did from our hotel. An asphalt walkway, which likely ran along the right-of-way for a former railroad, was a major route to the stadium.

The community feel was unmistakable. It was as if we were walking to a neighborhood park. It seemed like a throwback to another time, though the 5,500-seat facility was built in 1999, 20 years ago. It once had 6,000 seats.

This cozy ballpark also was remarkable for its fans. We sat amidst Canadians, who naturally would flock to Florida to escape frigid weather colder than we normally experience in the United States. When both national anthems were sung, I heard far more Canadians than Americans singing the words.

On a personal note, I deliberately wanted to watch the Orioles, as I did growing up in Baltimore. In recent years, my allegiance has wavered, as I’ve seen far more Nationals than Orioles games. Perhaps it’s because one of the Nationals’ principal owners is a college friend. Both of my daughters have chided me for what they consider my disloyalty to the Orioles; they have reminded me that one of my guiding principles is loyalty, as often expressed to them.

Turnabout is fair play, I guess. Yet loyalty does not have last a lifetime.

I hope my daughters are satisfied.

As most people know, Florida offers sun, warmth, retires galore and many different American dialects, as well as the English spoken by our North American neighbors. I sense that spring training is a favorite pastime for Florida’s large population of retirees.

I also noted some young families. Perhaps they were retirees’ children and grandchildren. Maybe they live in the neighborhood.
Watching baseball nearly 1,000 miles from Easton has a special attraction. I’ve already mentioned the warmth and lack of fear about an upcoming snowstorm. It’s refreshing too to talk about on-filed action, a good for bad pitcher, a good or bad call by the home plate umpire and even some of the noisy fans sitting nearby.

No politics at the ballpark. Thank goodness.

I mentioned earlier in this column about the difference in the ambience at Dunedin Stadium, compared with the Ballpark at the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, or Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fl. It makes no difference. Baseball compels attention, slow moving that it is.

This is my second spring training column. It’s not very profound. I’ll probably write another one next year.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Turn for the Better in Annapolis? Farewell to a Museum Stalwart by Howard Freedlander

In January, I suggested that readers look to Annapolis and not be distracted solely by the noise, chaos and ill-advised actions emanating from the unstable White House and polarized Congress.

Among the substantive policies being discussed in the Maryland General Assembly is what one report characterized as a “frat-boy” culture that has produced egregious behavior toward female legislators, staffers and lobbyists. It must come to a stop; at the very least, it must be acknowledged, yielding a process whereby the accusers can feel comfortable reporting degrading sexual harassment and feel assured that the legislative will take action against the alleged perpetrators.

An article in the Friday, March 2, 2018 edition of The Baltimore Sun reported that State. Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County legislator, claimed that a lobbyist inappropriately touched her during a karaoke night Thursday at a local bar in Annapolis. The lobbyist, Gil Genn, a former legislator, denied Kagan’s claim. Kagan further said that when she and Genn served together in the House of Delegates in the late 1990s, he touched her improperly. He refuted this allegation.

According to the Sun, “Although Maryland’s female legislators published a report describing anonymous accounts of sexual harassment in the General Assembly, Kagan is the first sitting Maryland lawmaker to publicly accuse someone of inappropriate conduct.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s chief of staff contacted Sen. Kagan after seeing her Facebook post and recommended she report the incident, according to The Baltimore Sun. The General Assembly changed its sexual harassment policy late last year to encompass tracking of complaints and an annual report that noted “sustained cases of harassment,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

Ironically, House Bill (HB) 1342, introduced Feb.9, 2018, amends existing law governing the State Ethics Commission, to include instances when a lobbyist sexually harasses a General Assembly member or legislative employees, or when a delegate or senator harasses a lobbyist. The bill also includes use of an independent investigator, submission of finding; maintenance of records concerning workplace harassment training and a bi-yearly survey of legislators and employees to gauge the extent of discrimination and harassment, the effectiveness of prevention and reform and the sufficiency of the complaint and reporting process.

It might be that public embarrassment is the most effective punishment.

During the past six months, we have read and heard about the revelations of unconscionable behavior on the part of entertainment, business, military and political figures who used the power of their positions to exercise control over vulnerable women concerned about their jobs and retribution should they report the abhorrent behavior. Women now feel empowered to step forward, bravely and uncomfortably, identify those men who believed they could continue extracting sexual favors by using fear and intimidation—and money to silence those who might reveal the names of their perpetrators.

The fact that Sen. Kagan is the first lawmaker to go public with what she claimed was inappropriate and insulting is telling.

Maybe the culture is changing. Maybe Cheryl Kagan’s charges will spur others to come forward and spotlight misbehavior.

On the good news of the ledger, I am impressed, though not surprised, that five out of seven Democratic candidates for governor have chosen women as their running mates. This is remarkable, a great commentary on the times and competency of women. I am well aware that these choices by five men were politically smart, and, as noted, in line with the times. Nonetheless, it is precedent-setting.
Maryland has had one female lieutenant governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who served eight years with Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

She then ran for governor in 2002. It was her campaign to lose, and she did. Nevertheless, this Kennedy scion is a terrific person, whom I like very much. Running for office is not her forte.

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I must mention a retirement event that I recently attended for a long-term employee of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM). He is Richard Scofield, a well-known, well-respected anchor in the museum’s shipyard.

I’ve attended many career farewells in my life, some better than others. Sometimes the toasts and testimonies are sincere, sometimes not.

Last Wednesday night, a room full of more than 150 people at the Miles River Yacht Club paid tribute to a person who cared about volunteers and, of course, his craft as a shipwright. Perhaps 80 percent of the attendees were volunteers, who learned valuable skills from Rick, who lives with his wife Robin in St. Michaels. I was amazed at the turnout.

The event combined good humor and genuine appreciation for a person who devoted 33 years to CBMM. He reflected the best attributes of a skilled boat-builder and patient teacher.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Eloquent Fighter by Howard Freedlander

He was a nobody, simply viewed as chattel. He wasn’t content. He willed himself to become a somebody, armed with keen intelligence and steely resolve.

Even when he became known and revered, he still faced threats of being consigned to nothingness, to serving others involuntarily.

He escaped his country of origin, living in a country where friends raised sufficient money for him to become permanently free of the suffocating and dehumanizing restraints of slavery.

Of course, I’m describing Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey), whose 200th birthday was celebrated February 14, 2018. This anniversary was celebrated widely throughout the country two weeks ago.

I joined more than a 100 people as a living history interpreter and storyteller, Bill Grimmette, portrayed the 77-year-old Douglass on Feb. 12 at the Academy Art Museum in Easton. It was moving and thought-provoking. As intended.

Talbot County’s native son and former slave, who spent time as a young boy at Wye House on Bruff’s Island Road, came alive in Grimmette’s superb and nuanced performance. Douglass’ wisdom, determination, eloquence and humor permeated the room for an hour.

As is well known, Douglass became an accomplished and renowned writer, orator and abolitionist. He achieved even more prominence as a trusted confidant of President Abraham Lincoln. He provided a voice of conscience about the terror of slavery to a president during our nation’s regrettable Civil War. He successfully urged Lincoln to prod Confederate forces to treat captured black Union soldiers as prisoners of war, not mutilate and kill them. He threatened to stop recruiting African-American troops into the Union army if President Lincoln didn’t speak out against the treatment of black prisoners.

Convinced early of his self-worth despite treatment as a “nobody.” he experienced some lucky breaks–though they must be judged in the context of being mentally and emotionally repressed in an often violent, bigoted environment. Some examples of fortunate circumstances that came Douglass’ way were:

He leaves Wye House to become a slave to Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. At first, Sophia treats him well, teaching him to read. When her husband Hugh instructs his wife to stop educating Frederick, explaining that education can implant subversive ideas, Douglass learns the importance of knowledge. He also understands the utter necessity to escape slavery.

When he does decide to escape, he receives advice to pretend he is a sailor while sailing to his freedom. He understood he had to hide his slave status to become an ex-slave. He knew he had to flee the relentless slave-catchers.

He eventually went to England, becoming a popular speaker and unrepentant abolitionist. He gained his freedom, his manumission, through financial support from his British. Ironically, he had to travel abroad to gain his precious and legal freedom in his home country.

As Douglass became famous, courted by American political leaders, he never forgot his roots. He remained an unabashed advocate for civil rights. I suspect that he was discouraged by the regressive practices of Jim Crow. After Reconstruction, blacks faced stifling discrimination, often subtle but destructive nonetheless. Separate but (supposedly) equal education epitomizes Jim Crow at its cruelest.

I must admit I love learning history through historical actors, as I have done for years during periodic visits to Williamsburg, VA. I’ve gained invaluable insight into George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison—and slaves seeking freedom. Bill Grimmette gave me and others a view into the magnetic personality of Frederick Douglass.

Though Douglass wasn’t one of our nation’s founders, he gave voice and emotion to the stain of slavery. The founders had ignored this scourge, approving a U.S. Constitution that papered over an explosive subject.

One of Talbot County’s own became a national treasure.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Retirement—Too Soon? By Howard Freedlander

I read with interest recently The Star Democrat article about Judge William Hugh Adkins III’s retirement, particularly his thoughts about having to retire as a Talbot County District Court judge at age 70. I would opine that, if possible, he would have ruled against the state-mandated decision.

He also said he would miss the clerk’s staff. He said in the interview that ‘that (working with his staff) is probably the one thing I miss the most.’ He retired on Nov. 9, 2017. His 70th birthday was the next day.

Two weeks ago, a county friend asked me about my nearly seven-year retirement, prompting my normal response that I am engrossed by my non-profit board participation and university alumni activities. That’s my hobby, along with writing this earthshaking column. I told him I do not fish or hunt or garden or boat or play golf or paint landscapes or cook or build furniture or do crossword puzzles.

This friend said he had read that there is a direct nexus between longevity and social connectivity: you live longer if you have constant human contact. Human relations provide lifeblood; without constant contact, you can die too early.

Depression brought on by loneliness is a killer. Studies have confirmed this assertion.

Familiar with studies about living longer through multiple human relationships, I suggested to my friend that being alone gardening, for example, might provide life-extending happiness to an introvert. He seemed surprised since he and others know that I am a card-carrying extrovert.

Introverts have a crying need to be alone while understanding that some human contact is nourishing and necessary. It would seem logical to me that solitary activities offer life-giving sustenance to people with hobbies that involve no more than one person.

Now, I realize that all of us are amalgams of outgoing and introverted personalities. We fill our needs differently and, I hope, happily.

When I retired, I dreaded the idea of being alone for hours on end. Like Judge Adkins, I missed the human interaction implicit in my job. I worried about the onset of depression. I worried about being useful. I worried about being a burden to my working wife, daughters and former associates. Though I love to read, I can’t do it for hours on end. Some people can.

Now, my days are filled with activity and conversation, sometimes too much so. Depression is a distant concern.

Back to Judge Hugh Adkins. The judicial age limit of 70 is arbitrary, based on a different theory before modern medicine and sensible life choices changed the once debilitating aging process. I recall some years ago speaking with a just-retired airline pilot for a major airline, who complained bitterly about having to stop doing what he loved doing and presumably did well. At the time, the retirement age for commercial pilots was 60; it now is 65.

Adkins’ argument, as stated in the newspaper article, is even stronger and more logical when you realize that retired district and circuit court judges continue to have busy schedules; if they wish; they serve in other county courts experiencing case overloads. They are not comparable to substitute teachers (no offense intended); they are still expected to render justice in a competent and unimpeachable manner—while 70 and older.

And they are entirely capable of doing so.

An age limit of 70 for Maryland’s judges seems foolhardy to me. It ignores the mental acuity and deep experience of our judges. It should be raised.

A good friend serves on the federal District Court. He is 70, with no compulsion to retire.

When I worked especially hard (though it was mostly fun) in 2016-2017 as class president and reunion co-chair of my 50th college reunion, I was surprised by how many fundraising calls I made to classmates at their offices. They seemed only remotely interested in my life as a retiree. They were fully engaged in their legal, corporate and real estate development careers. Our conversations were short and sweet They were busy earing a paycheck.

So, what have I learned since I retired nearly seven years ago?

Your skills and brain are still sharp at 65 or 70 or 65. Names may be harder to remember. At times, thoughts may be more challenging to complete. Thanks to modern medicine and healthy lifestyle, one’s numerical age matters less than it did in days of yore.

Your need, however, for human contact has no age limit, maybe less so for introverts. Loneliness can lead to depression, as often stated by experts.

I love retirement. I love my non-profit and university alumni engagement. I love glorifying my age, not bemoaning it.

And it’s fun to travel outside the constraints of a prescribed vacation—and also spend time with grandchildren who like designated babysitters and constant encouragers.

As for human contact, I’ve got plenty. I even enjoy some quiet time. But not too much.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of) Friendship Howard Freedlander

Last week my wife and I traveled to Jacksonville, FL to spend a few days with the widow of a friend whom I met when I was an 18-year-old college freshman. He died suddenly on June 6, 2010 of a heart aneurysm.

We became very good friends as adults, as I participated in his wedding, he attended mine and we attended children’s weddings. We talked frequently. Our politics were similar.

He also served as a mentor during my conversion in my late 40s from Judaism to Episcopalism. Shortly after he graduated from college, he converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. I never knew he was considering what would have seemed to me at the time to be a radical step.

His death deeply affected me. Still does. I delivered one of two eulogies at his funeral nearly eight years ago. Last week, at I walked into the family house in which his wife and daughter still live, I choked up a bit. I’ve visited several times since 2010; this time I felt his presence, more than ever. I don’t know why.

I often think about friendship. I wonder why it’s important for me and my wife to visit Jacksonville and spend time with my friend’s family and friends. Why not let go and strengthen the living friendships and forsake the past?

I wish I had an answer.

Friendship is a transitory passage. Once strong relationships oftentimes weaken or dissipate. It just happens. Explanation is unknown, or at least mystifying. What was the breaking point? And then, just as mysteriously, a friendship reawakens, or a new one emerges.

For me and maybe others, friendships often can be easier to maintain and cultivate than relationships with family members, who sometimes can be constant irritants. Friends provide a wonderfully satisfying dimension to life. In fact, life is emptier and less fulfilling without friends who feel no need to be as judgmental and burdensome as family members.

When I think about my longtime friend in Jacksonville, where he was raised and reared his family, I retain memories of a top-quality person who liked to smile, exuded optimism, reveled in the real estate development business and devoted himself to the community he loved.

I recall the night before the funeral, during a visitation at the funeral home, that a young woman stood up when the priest welcomed testimony and spoke about my friend’s gentlemanly demeanor when she would help him at a clothing store he patronized. That this young lady would take the time to attend a solemn event and then talk about a customer who treated her nicely—and liked to buy expensive clothes— that left a lasting impression on me. Bill’s kind treatment of others never wavered.

He died too young. He left family and friends grieving the loss of an exceedingly good and decent person who rarely spoke ill of anyone.

As my wife, my friend’s widow and I walked the Ponte Vedra Beach outside Jacksonville on a cool, breezy day, looking at the rippling waves and foam-covered beach, I thought that friendship doesn’t end at the water’s edge, that a person’s soul surrounds you whenever memories penetrate your mind and heart.

Some say that the good die young. Perhaps that’s true in too many instances.

The obverse is that the nasty folks remain to contaminate the world with their belligerence. I’m just not sure that that observation is accurate, or even helpful facing a friend’s death. That is not to say that I didn’t feel angry about the death of a person who improved, not degraded and besmirched the world in which we live.

I did and still do.

So, I was happy to continue my friendship in Jacksonville. I could quietly pay reverence to a longtime friend and enjoy his family and friends. I even agreed to take two of his books about Winston Churchill. He loved to buy thick tomes, though I don’t know if he read them.

I grieve by smiling internally. My friend would have disliked sadness.

Good friends are still alive in our memories—and funny stories that grow more humorous with time.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Rest for a Shepherd by Howard Freedlander

The past Sunday was the last day as worship leader for the Rev. Dr. Bill Ortt, our rector at Christ Church, Easton, before he embarks on a four-and-a-half-month sabbatical.

What is a sabbatical, a reality for the academic and religious communities and a mostly foreign concept for all other occupations?

Rev. Dr. Bill Ortt

Knowing for months about Father Bill’s planned absence from ecclesiastical duties at the Episcopal church at Harrison and South streets, I began to wonder about the meaning and value of a sabbatical. It’s a break, a respite from daily work responsibilities. It’s intended, at least in the religious world, to offer a minister or priest a leave of absence to pursue reflection and personal and professional renewal.

It can and should be fun, with time for serious, soul-searching thought mixed in as the person sees fit.

When I think about the life of a parish priest, I realize it’s satisfying on one hand and ceaseless on the other.

Your flock never stops needing you. You help people navigate personal crises and maybe find God amid distress. That fills the heart with gratefulness for the chance to help and sustain a person in urgent need.

You deal daily with life and death situations. You also are leading and managing an enterprise dependent on paid staff and earnest parishioners. And your secular duties are driven by a budget and financial challenges.

Your life as a religious leader requires a 24-hour alert status. You must be ready at any time to respond to congregants’ personal emergencies. However hard you establish professional and personal boundaries, you constantly and continually serve God by serving others.

You punch no card at the beginning or end of the day. You don’t work overtime. You work all the time.

Your own family may suffer.

Your own needs are secondary at times.

You have chosen a life of interminable, heartful service and fealty to others.

Sometimes, you need a respite. Sometimes, you need to refresh and renew yourself. Sometimes, you need to allow your flock, your parish, to take a break from you and use a sabbatical to examine itself and its relationship with God and its messenger. You grow, and the congregation grows.

From my scant knowledge of sabbaticals, they seem slightly akin to vacations that all of us have enjoyed during our careers to “recharge the batteries.” I think, however, that sabbaticals for religious leaders differ significantly.

As I see it, were I a clergy-person devotes to shepherding and sustaining my parishioners, I would use the gift of an unusual amount of time away from church to figure how I could better serve my parishioners’ needs as a spiritual anchor while retaining my own equanimity. Balance is difficult.

Bill Ortt has served a growing, vibrant church with tremendous and talented dedication for 18 years. Ensuring that the parish is attuned to the community’s pressing needs, Bill established a 5 p.m.service on Saturday—itself unusual for an Episcopal church—that also provides a refuge and sanctuary for the addiction and recovery community. It’s a remarkable thing to witness.

And by the way, Bill has conducted three other services on Sunday morning.

Change is difficult, as all of us know. Christ Church parishioners will face a near future without its constant worship leader. Interim priests will fill the void. Bill Ortt will face days and weeks without any responsibility as a religious leader. Adjustment will be necessary on both sides.

As I listened to Father Bill the past Sunday morning, I realized he was eager to begin his sabbatical and apprehensive as well. He seemed driven to assure the congregation that he and they will cope well with the “rest.” I thought for a moment that I was listening to a military commander saying farewell to his troops and wishing them a productive future. Of course, in this instance, the “commander” is returning; he may find the ground has shifted a bit, understandably.

For most of us, a sabbatical is not an option. We soldier on. We seek solace and contemplation where and when we can find it. We pray for self-improvement and personal and spiritual renewal. We may seek a different tack to our careers and personal lives.

Godspeed to Bill Ortt. Fair winds to staff and congregants as they face waves of change and challenges.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): “Grin of Salt” by Howard Freedlander

Nine days ago I watched my seven-year-old grandson play ice hockey at the Talbot County Community Center. It was thrilling and wrenching at the same time.

I loved his enthusiasm, his skating skills, his scrappiness, his desire to win and his positive attitude. An Annapolis resident, he was playing in his grandparents’ backyard, following in the footsteps of his mother, who once upon a time displayed her keen athletic skills on Talbot County field hockey and softball fields. I was bursting with pride—though far abler to restrain my sometimes obnoxious behavior once on full display 20-30 years ago.

I stood in the shadows, happily so.

As I watched my grandson, I thought about his age and mine. My years to watch him grow as a person and athlete are limited. In, say, ten years, I wonder if I will be able to enjoy standing around a cold skating rink. I wonder if I will require too much attention, more than I would want or like.

At this point, a friend quickly approaching his 88th birthday, would frown upon my gloomy forecast. A biker, hiker, and traveler, he would recommend taking full advantage of the moment. Rightly so, he would scoff at viewing age as an impediment or source of despair.

But I think that grandchildren compel you to look into the future and realize, perhaps painfully so, that a grandparent’s role will be restricted by time on earth—and common sense. By the latter, I’m suggesting the obvious: a grandchild’s parents are the principal actors in this production called life. We grandparents are but bit players. We are merely supporting characters who must speak our lines carefully and unobtrusively.

As I ponder the finiteness of life, I also think about my 17-year-old grandson, who is spending a high school year abroad in Toulouse, France. Before he left last August, he applied to two colleges. He asked me to advocate for him with one of the schools. He was accepted by both. He has chosen the one attended by his mother, needing no boost to gain admission.

My efforts, though appreciated, clearly did not sway his decision. He decided on his own. He’s a young man empowered to forge his own path, to achieve and fail in his own. His grandfather must accept that fact.

At the risk of courting self-pity, I have to accept that as a grandfather my influence is minuscule. Truth be known, when my daughters were college age, I came to realize that I simply was an unpaid consultant whose advice bore questionable value to them.

All of this retrospection leads me to the worthy concept of legacy. In my self-appointed status as a senior statesman, I have to place credence in hope and belief. I have to hope that my grandchildren will lead honorable and productive lives. My belief in their parents and their values gives me confidence that my grandchildren will stumble, fall, get up, achieve and repeat this sequence over and over again.

Giving up will not be an option, however tempting it might seem at the moment.

Aging, passages of time and generational transfer can easily lead to empty clichés and hopeless pondering. I will avoid that temptation. I will continue to view time with grandchildren, whether at a Christmas pageant or sports event or graduation—or a family gathering—as something to enjoy and savor at the moment.

I will always be glad to voice positive encouragement. I will assign any inkling of criticism to my “unspoken” file. The one where discretion overrules possibly hurtful comments.

To quote my favorite philosopher and legendary baseball catcher, Yogi Berra, please take my thoughts with a “grin of salt.” It’s better that way.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.