Learning What’s Important by George Merrill

One of the highlights of my life is a bi-weekly meeting I have with a small group of elders. We are men and women of “riper years” who, in the latter days of our lives, remain curious and wonder what this business of being alive is all about. Some of us are religious in the conventional sense. Others more eclectic, some atheistic and agnostic, but none nihilistic. The thread that connects us all is a feeling of wonder at being alive, the mystery at the heart of it and as we watch the shadows of our days lengthen, we examine what the afternoon light reveals in the landscape of our lives. The conversations can be moving, funny, or sad, but always life-giving.

For me, it’s an opportunity to grow in wisdom. I once thought wisdom was knowing something about everything. It isn’t. It’s knowing what’s most important.

Dr. Lucy Kalanithi is a physician who has learned what is important.

She’s a lovely young woman who exudes heart felt authenticity. She met her husband while studying at Yale. He, too, was a physician. They married. Shortly into the marriage he was diagnosed with stage four cancer; tumors in the lungs and bones. In a presentation she made in a TED talk, our group watched and listened as she shared how she learned what was important. It was not easy to hear, but her message was clear and convincing; knowing what is truly important is doable, because if we can remember it, we always have some choices in how we live. Making those choices together with those we love leads to wisdom, and in themselves become expressions of that love.

“Out loud” was a pivotal metaphor in how both she and her husband negotiated their lives in the face of the husband’s impending death. The metaphor arose when one day he looked at her and said, “I want you to marry again.” She was floored at the directness, the generosity and love implied in his wish. “Whoa,” she exclaimed. “I guess we’re going to have to say things ‘out loud’ from now on.” And so, they did.

In preparing advanced directives, she spoke of their conversations as an affirmation of their love for each other, something about advanced directives that had never occurred to me in that way. She described how she felt when discussing the particulars in what he wished to have happen and what he would need from her. It was a statement about how neither would have to live this tragedy alone. As each spoke “out loud” the hopes and fears of their hearts, they grew closer in an unexpected way. Advance directives became for them not just an exercise in organizing their affairs, but also tangible expressions of their love story.

A particularly moving piece of their story was about making choices, specifically, within the limits of time they had together. Should he undergo extraordinary measures to sustain life? Should they have a child? They measured the time scrupulously to consider the realities of such a move. They calculated that with his life expectancy, he would be there for the birth for sure, but little beyond that. The decision was made to have a baby and she delivered a baby girl. About the time she delivered, he was failing rapidly. He told her he wanted no extraordinary measures. He asked her to bring the baby so he could hold her. Four hours after he held her, he said “I’m ready.” He died.

Light shines through some people. They transmit the light like saints in stained glass windows. The light can be generated in the crucible of white-hot suffering. Wisdom is refined in that crucible and it is offered for us to see, or in the case of Dr. Kalanithi’s story, to hear her account. She speaks “out loud”, too.

She speaks of a life lived fully not as one free from suffering, but because of it. An adversarial relationship to our suffering is often expressed by “fighting” the cancer, “beating” the heart disease, or “conquering” the illness. She does not see us as victors by winning battles. What she and her husband experienced was the discovery that there were shepherds there to guide and sustain them, not soldiers to fight for them. That is something very important.

Freedom, I once read, is not the absence of constraints, but the art of living freely within them. Dr. Kalanithi goes at some length in describing how living in the constraints of the illness, their oncologist worked with them as a co-creator in framing a medical regimen that realistically supported the ways the patient chose to live the remainder of his days. Her husband once told her that things would be OK. Was that to mean that they’d return to the things had been? They were OK if one understands, as she had come to understand, that to live a life fully, is to recognize that we are free enough to make the choices offered under the circumstances. There are typically more than we first imagine.

The opportunities that we have to compose a life in the face of adversities is getting more recognition. As a society, we’re beginning to accept the inevitability of suffering as a condition of being alive. As physicians, both Dr. Kalanithi and her husband knew this, but she says, “It’s another thing to actually live it.” The other message that we gleaned from her talk was the importance of candor, the ability to speak directly to the suffering and not hide or deny it. What grows from the open and shared acknowledgement of pain, the “out loud,” she describes as an increasingly deep intimacy following in its wake.

I know that everyone in the room that day was engrossed in listening to Dr. Kalanithi’s story. Most had been through significant loses; spouses, children and friends and many knew the anguish involved. But for all of us there was something hopeful in her story. I think it was the thought that when tragedy strikes, we’d remember the essence of what she said. And if I could summarize it I’d say, that at end of the day, it’s loving well that’s most important. The unendurable is endurable if we have someone there who loves us enough to walk with us in the time of shadows.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

English Major Caroline Harvey Wins Washington College 2018 Sophie Kerr Prize

Caroline Harvey, an English major and creative writing minor from Arlington, Virginia, whose writing frequently examines otherness through the perspective of the insect world, has won the 2018 Sophie Kerr Prize. National Public Radio book critic and author Maureen Corrigan announced the winner of the nation’s largest undergraduate prize, this year valued at $63,711, at Washington College this evening.

Harvey, who served as editor-in-chief of The Collegian and managing editor of the Washington College Review, submitted a portfolio that included poetry, nonfiction, and academic scholarship from her thesis, entitled “Poetics of Otherness: The Marginalized Experience Through the Insect Lens.” She attributes her fascination with the insect world to her early reading of Jurassic Park, which propelled her interest in connecting science and writing.

“Caroline’s work is gorgeously detailed and specific. As a poet and academic writer, she takes as her subject matter things that others may find distasteful and difficult and finds the beauty in them. As an editor, she has worked to facilitate of the writing of others and to build a dynamic and supportive literary community on campus,” says Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.

“I had the distinct pleasure of directing Caroline’s thesis, which incorporated complex literary and identity theory with contemporary poetry in order to posit that Otherness can be owned and deployed in subversive and empowering ways,” says James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House. “Her own poems find new metaphors to think in striking ways about gender, faith, and representation. Caroline uses traditional forms like sonnets and villanelles to subvert patriarchal assumptions about who has the right to speak. Reading Caroline Harvey’s work, I’m reminded of what Wallace Stevens said about how every poet has to reinvent the language for herself.”

At the announcement, Harvey thanked her family, friends, staff of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, and her professors, especially James Allen Hall, from whom she took her first undergraduate class and who advised her senior thesis. She also thanked her former professor, Jeanne Dubrow.

“She was the first person to sit me down and call me ‘poet,’ and that was so important,” Harvey said. “And finally, I have to thank my cohort. Everyone I grew up with in this community, everyone who wrote with me, who read with me, and especially Rhea, and Brooke, and Mallory, and Casey [fellow Sophie Kerr Prize finalists], all of whom came together in this moment. There’s so much about this place that I love, and so much I would like to change. But the one thing that I hold on to at all times is the people—the wonderful people who helped me get where I am.”

A member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honor society, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, Harvey plans to take a gap year before pursuing an MFA in poetry and a PhD in English.

Harvey was among five finalists chosen from a number of student portfolios, encompassing essay, poetry, non-fiction, journalism, academic scholarship, and print projects. Although the Sophie Kerr Prize is not limited to English majors, this year’s finalists were all majors in English with one who double majored in political science. Several were creative writing minors, and all represented multiple honors societies and campus leadership activities. Several have worked on College publications including the student newspaper, The Elm, the student review, The Collegian, and Cherry Tree, the College’s national literary journal.

“It is always a privilege to read these portfolios. They illuminate the best of the literary culture and the commitment to writing that is the heart and soul of this College,” Moncrief says. “These students and their outstanding work highlight their diverse interests and approaches, their promise in the field of literary endeavor, their dedication to craft, and their shared passion for the written word.”

Sisterhood of Scraps by Elisabeth Tully

Over the past few weeks, I have spent long afternoons sorting, washing, starching, pressing and organizing the extensive fabric collection of Leonilla (Lee) Horsey, a woman I never met who died in 2013. During the many hours spent in intimate contact with the artifacts of her lifelong passion, a strange thing happened. I went from being somewhat resentful to have been saddled with a tedious responsibility to forming a profound and affectionate connection with a fellow quilter.

It began while I was driving to South Carolina and received a call from someone I didn’t know. She told me her car was full of books and fabric belonging to Lee Horsey and that someone had suggested that I could go through them and determine which fabric the Olde Kent Quilters Guild members could use to make charity quilts for needy children and elders. “Sure,” I said. “Drop them by, my son will let you in.”

I had almost forgotten this interaction until over a week later when I returned to find twelve large boxes that completely obscured my dining room. Not since I was “Cookie Captain” for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, had so many boxes been in my house. I was immediately overwhelmed and ignored them for several days. Then I gingerly began to open the boxes.

There is a saying among quilters, “She who dies with the most fabric wins.” Lee has to be in contention for a prize. Her enormous collection contained some contemporary fabric and recent books, but most were datable back to the seventies when quilt cloth was harder to come by, and the patterns were more traditional. The quilting books included some that I remember from my first incarnation as a quilter during that decade—before children and life intervened, and I gave up quilting for many years.

In taking inventory, I found that like many creative quilters, for whom fabric is a palette, Lee was impeccable in the care of her stash. She had washed, starched, pressed, and folded each piece, before carefully arranging them in the boxes. But in storage for five years after her passing, the material became musty and needed to be refreshed. Which is where I came in. This is not a job for the faint of heart; fabric care is a labor of love.

As is the case with an archeological dig, you can learn a lot about a person by examining the tools of their trade or craft. Lee had a serious side and possessed a quantity of fabric in muted and dark tones. But there was also a playful side that came through in her selection of whimsical cloth suitable for children. Like many ‘fabricaholics,’ she was ecumenical in her tastes. Besides quilting cotton, her collection included fake fur, bright yellow polar fleece, cotton knits, upholstery fabric and even five yards of beautiful Thai silk. As I held each piece, I found myself wondering what plans and dreams she had harbored for each new cloth she purchased. Quilters are by nature optimistic, feeling it is never too late to get one more piece of material, even if you don’t have a specific plan for it at the moment. Through quilting, a quilter is immortalized both by the projects she completes during her life and by those fabrics left in her reserve when she is gone.

Like most of us, Lee had her share of UFOs (UnFinished Objects). I wondered what kept her from putting the final touches on an adorable baby quilt? Why did she cut out thousands of perfect triangles? Who were the intended recipients of two unfinished aprons made of colorful orange fabric? What was she planning to do with all the coordinating Christmas prints?

Many of the fabrics were small pieces remaining from prior projects. I would love to have seen some of them and would have been delighted to find ‘my’ scraps represented in her creations. As I completed my work, my connection with Lee grew until it became almost spiritual. Is it a coincidence that I live right around the corner from Horsey Lane? I wanted to know more about who she had been. Networking with my quilting sisters, I discovered Lee’s obituary. I was not surprised to learn that she had been a remarkable woman. I was delighted to find that she had been a founding member of the Olde Kent Quilters Guild.

Now that her fabrics have been returned to pristine condition, the current members of that same guild will cut and piece them into dozens of small quilts. As part of the guild’s Deborah’s Angels charity quilt initiative, these are donated to sick and needy children and individuals in hospice care. I am confident that Lee would be pleased to see her beloved collection repurposed in this way. Quilters are, after all, the ultimate recyclers. If there is an afterlife, Lee must be looking down on our labors with a big smile on her face. Five years after she left this earth, she is still making a difference in the lives of many people she never met.

Elisabeth Tully retired in 2015 and moved to Chestertown, where she lives in the historic district less than two blocks from her oldest son and daughter-in-law and 4 of her 11 grandchildren. She loves the vibrancy of her adopted town, has more friends than she has had at any time since high school, and is delighted to be able to walk everywhere she needs to go. She is an avid cyclist, a Olde Kent Quilters Guild and a Trustee of the Kent County Public Library.

Cycle of Inspiration: A Tale of Two Mentors by Sheila Buckmaster

“Here’s an idea. I can take Dulce on the Rails-to-Trails path to the silos—that would be a great subject for a photo,” Merrilie tells Jazmine (“Jaz”).  Both women are mentors, and they are discussing an exciting photography-and-poetry project their mentees—Dulce (10 years old) and ‘Lai (8 years old)—are enjoying.

Pictured in the attached photo are (left to right): Merrilie Ford, Jazmine Gibson, Dulce Galvez Perez, Lai’Aurii Brice.

Dulce and ‘Lai are benefitting from the guidance of two individuals who have known each other for a long time. And under very interesting circumstances. You see, 12 years ago Merrilie (now an 80-year-old Long & Foster real estate agent who paints her nails two shades of blue) became Jaz’s mentor. Now 24, Jaz—who works at Talbot Mentors—has had ‘Lai under her wing for a year and a half.

The girls draw pictures while their mentors talk with me about their ever-widening mentoring experiences.

“Do you still consider yourself Jaz’s mentor?” I ask Merrilie.

“A little bit,” she says, “though she teaches me as much as I teach her.”

What I see are two equals, two mentors devoted to widening the horizons of two girls who clearly revel in their attention. 

Merrilie and Jaz banter like best friends, finishing each other’s sentences, validating ideas, and smiling a lot. Each never seems to miss a chance to extol the other’s virtues.

What has Jaz learned from Miss Merrilie? Are there things she picked up that now inform her own style of mentoring?

“Patience,” she offers.

“That’s interesting,” Merrilie adds. “I don’t consider that my strong suit. It’s nice to know that I am seen as someone who exercises patience!”

“Kindness. . .how to be a good listener,” Jaz continues.

Merrilie jumps in: “Jaz is a good listener. On a bus ride to New York City, many years ago, we talked—and listened—for hours.  When we drove to D.C. on art trips we never turned on the radio. We had conversations.”

Steering the conversation to the nuts and bolts of mentoring, Jaz notes that the crux of it revolves not around grand excursions to D.C. or New York but rather on the “just being together, in the moment,” she says. “When I was a young mentee, we would walk Miss Merrilie’s dog. I loved that. I also remember a trip to the post office, where I got to go behind the scenes.” Fast forward to the present: “One day with ‘Lai, I started to sing, something that is not my strong suit!” ‘Lai, marvelously unfiltered, started to laugh at her, but Jaz wouldn’t stop singing—“poorly”—until she herself succumbed to giggles. That was a moment.

It’s collections of small moments—between adult and child—that powers mentoring. 

Jaz joined Talbot Mentors in 2015 as an AmeriCorps service volunteer. Today, in her staff role as Match Support Specialist, she screens mentor and mentee applicants, helps with mentor training, makes match decisions (she calls it “initiating friendships”), and supports the relationships along the way. She and her colleagues on the TM team are available to help the volunteers to become stronger mentors.

“Being a matchmaker,” Jaz says, “involves looking at personality traits, interests, and location.” Let me add that it also hinges on having a great big heart and a passion for helping others. Indeed, being “part of the solution” seems to be in Jaz’s genes. She is a natural-born giver. In order to receive her high school diploma, for example, she had to complete 75 hours of community service; she graduated with more than 700 hours to her credit.

Merrilie—a former Talbot Mentors board member—and Jaz star in a 12-minute “See Our Story” video that can be seen on the TM Facebook page and YouTube. Careful viewers will note something very fun and endearing as they watch. Spoiler: It’s the footwear.

“I knew Jaz had sparkly tennis shoes—she actually wore them with her prom dress. When I found a pair at St. Vincent de Paul, I bought them immediately!  ‘Why not wear them for the video?’ I said to Jaz. 

Among the challenges Jaz has faced on the job, perhaps none has been more intimidating than matching Merrilie with a mentee. Jaz recalls, “I felt that as your mentee, pairing you with a mentee was. . .”

“I guess you wanted to please me,” Merrilie breaks in.”

The all-grown-up mentee ended up making quite a match. It’s only several weeks into Dulce and Merrilie’s mentor/mentee relationship. It’s amazing how fast a bond can form. Getting together one or more times a week, they have thus far taken advantage of local cultural offerings—including a Friday night gallery walk through Easton followed by a stroll through the Tidewater Inn, and an Earth Day art project at the Academy Art Museum. Add to that the photography-and-poetry project, a six-week affair with mentors and mentees getting together once a week. Each mentee was given two disposable cameras and a “scavenger hunt” list of things to shoot, from family members to scenics. Beyond the list, the kids could photograph whatever they like. Merrilie and Jaz let the girls lead the way, offering suggestions gently.

What made Merrilie jump into a mentoring position again? It’s simple. “Mentoring has enriched my life.” In addition, after her tenure on the Talbot Mentors board ended, she “missed everyone—the staff, the mentors, the kids.” Plus there’s Jaz’s role as a mentor herself. Merrilie saw a new way of enjoying what she and Jaz had successfully experienced through the years. (Not surprisingly, with what can be called “mentor’s pride,” she relishes seeing Jaz in her new roles as TM staff member and mentor.)

Dulce joins us at the table. “What’s it like having a mentor?” I ask her.

“It’s good. It’s really good. Miss Merrilie takes me to new places. We do projects. We have fun.”

Dulce goes on to say that Merrilie is “kind, smart, helpful, beautiful, and nice.” (By the way, the name “Dulce” means “sweet” in Spanish, the girl’s first language.)

Merrilie sets up her dates with Dulce via texts to her mom. “I write in English and it automatically gets translated into Spanish,” she says. Yet tech prowess, sparkly tennis shoes, and blue nails aside, Merrilie is a smidge old-fashioned. For one, she’s not happy that today’s kids aren’t taught cursive writing and plans to teach Dulce how to write a few things in cursive, including her name. Dulce is game. And she suggests that Dulce could teach her some Spanish. “Maybe we can work that out,” she tells the child.  

The Talbot Mentors photography-and poetry project is drawing to a close. The pictures taken by the kids will be showcased at Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton—the opening is June 1 at 5 p.m. In the meanwhile, if you see a child taking photographs with a disposable camera, you just might be seeing Talbot Mentors in action.

The conclusion of the project, however, will not see the end of the Merrilie/Jaz/‘Lai/Dulce quartet.  They will plan get-togethers on their own and also take advantage of Talbot Mentors–generated programs and events.

Says Jaz, “Dulce and ‘Lai are starting their own friendship. I really like it when we all get together because I get to spend time with my mentor as well. Plus it is so nice for ‘Lai to see that I have a mentor too and to understand what our relationship can become.”

This time as a mentor, Merrilie gets to enjoy Jaz’s support, confident that “Jaz always has my back. We share a wealth of past experiences, and now there are her mentoring and staff skills. Who could have predicted that this is where we would be a dozen years after we met?

. . .it’s always good to be with her.”

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a mentor or would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to Talbot Mentors, please visit www.talbotmentors.org or call the main office at 410-770-5999.

 

Suggested Reading: Is there Honor Beyond Honesty by Al Sikes

Is There Honor Beyond Honesty?

America at its best is not intensely ideological. Today is not the best of times. Too many in the political and communication’s elite shape their messages or stories to fit their political intentions—knowledge is secondary.

Michael Bloomberg’s address to the graduates of Rice University speaks to a code of conduct that is needed well beyond the campuses of Rice:

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-12/michael-bloomberg-at-rice-university-an-honor-code-for-life  

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Delmarva Review: After Phillis Wheatley Sailed To England by E. Ethelbert Miller

After Phillis Wheatley Sailed
To England

Master took me into town
where the big boats dock.
I stopped loading the wagon
and stared at the water.
The horizon had a familiar
glow. I touched my skin
and remembered chains.

An elder in the square
was weeping. He said we
could only return home
after the invention of the
airplane. Is this true, Phillis?

Until then, must we stand
in the middle of fields
with our arms open?

Editor’s Note: Phillis Wheatley is known as the first published African-American female poet. She was shipped to America as a slave. Her poetry collection was published in London in 1773.

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist whose poetry has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, German, Norwegian, Tamil, and Arabic. Emery and Henry College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Literature degree in 1996. He is a frequent guest on National Public Radio and co-editor of Poet Lore magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Delmarva Review publishes compelling new poetry, fiction and nonfiction from writers within the region and beyond. In it’s eleventh year, the nonprofit literary journal is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For information and copies, visit: www.delmarvareview.com.

Out and About (Sort of): Comeback and Setback by Howard Freedlander

Good news came about two weeks ago with the announcement that aerial scientific surveys showed a 27 percent increase in acreage of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay. Why does this matter when some folks at this time of year might wish they had less grass to cut on their property?

Bay grasses are a barometer of health for the estuary that we love and cherish. They need sunlight to survive. When the water is dark and gloomy with algae blooms or sediment, they struggle to exist. Dependent on clean water, the grasses also help clean it up. They absorb nutrients that sustain algae blooms and filter out sediment.

At the risk of simplifying the significance of abundant Submerged Underwater Vegetation (SUV), I suggest that an environment featuring healthy grasses provides a better, healthier home for oysters, crabs and other species by offering food and habitat. They also impede erosion.

The most recent report produced by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science estimates that bay grasses now exceed 100,000 acres. The goal of the bay restoration project is to grow grasses on 180,000 acres of bottom.

Why does this somewhat esoteric information please me?

One, controversial and gutsy actions by government officials have contributed to a healthier Chesapeake Bay. Republican Governor Robert L. Ehrlich successfully promoted a “flush tax,” which over the past 13 years has provided funding for the enhancement of existing sewage treatment plants and construction of state-of-art ones. Consequently, water quality has improved.

The ‘rain tax” imposed by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley forced local jurisdictions to update their stormwater systems to filter out pollutants. And, yes, water quality has improved.

Two, property owners and farmers in the Bay watershed began using best practices in terms of limiting or eliminating the use of fertilizer. Farmer established buffers along rivers and streams.

Three (my last point, though there are more related to land use), policymakers and citizens began to pay attention to scientific research produced by Horn Point Lab in Cambridge, the Chesapeake Biological Lab in Solomons Island and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester, VA and to persistent advocacy by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Policy and politics aligned. Concern for, and about the Chesapeake Bay preoccupied government leaders, scientists, advocacy groups and the recreational and commercial users of the Bay.

A recent editorial in the Baltimore Sun opined that “not every voter likes every regulation and fee, of course, but it’s clear a majority favors clean water and an upgraded Chesapeake Bay. And Marylanders understand that such improvements don’t happen by accident, they happen because of the little sacrifices we are willing to make from paying a little more for sewer service to “smart growth” limits on land development, and, yes, a tax to clean up stormwater runoff.”

Now that I’ve written about a comeback, I must address a setback. The Trump Administration’s decision to award guest worker visas by a lottery system, instead of first-come, first-served, threaten the economic viability of crab-packing houses in Dorchester County. In a recent interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood in Fishing Creek in Dorchester County, said this about the shortage of H-2B workers:

“Well, we have 50 visas every year, and probably 42 of those are crab-pickers, and we have a couple of guys that help us on the docks, unload the crabs and steam the crabs. But without these workers, we are literally out of business as far as doing any business with crab meat. We tried everything to hire Americans, advertising right now, as we speak, in the papers, and not one person has applied. So a lot of people are going to be touched by this as far as being of work or receiving a lesser income. It’s kind of like a domino effect. It just trickles all through the community—the stores, the railway. So, many, many hundreds of people are going to be affected without these crab pickers.”

According to NPR’s Michel Martin, Congressman Andy Harris said that immigration officials have announced they will approve 15,000 new guest worker visas. This news didn’t console Harry Phillips. The visas will be awarded by lottery and cover a whole wide range of workers, including those who pick apples, peaches and strawberries.

I’m unhappy that Congressman Harris and Senators Cardin and Van Hollen have not done more to alleviate this crisis. For years, the determined, feisty and effective Sen. Barbara Mikulski successfully fought for guest worker visas. Crab houses stayed in business. People had jobs. Maryland crabmeat was sold throughout the United States. Seasonal workers did jobs that Americans didn’t, as Phillips said in his NPR interview.

I implore Harris, Cardin and Van Hollen to keep crab houses in business. It’s a Maryland enterprise that warrants a full political press.

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.

Maryland 3.0: A New Kind of Garage for the Car Lovers of the Mid-Shore

One relatively recent trend on the Mid-Shore that sometimes goes unnoticed in comparison to the region’s passion for such things as sailing and art, is the remarkable growth in historic cars and the collection of specialty automobiles. From the annual Ridgely Car Show to the fancier Concours d’Elegance, and more recently, the opening of the Classic Motor Museum in St. Michaels, the Shore is booming with car collectors.

To date, some 2,000 vehicles in the five-county area are considered “historic” by the Maryland DMV, and one can easily doubles that number if including the hundreds of performance and other rare cars that are not old enough for that designation.

The challenge for all those car owners is where to safely keep their pride and joys.

For the very wealthy, the answer is an easy one; simply build more garage space. And perhaps for those on the lower end of the scale, its simply replacing the family sedan with one’s beloved 1970 Volkswagen convertible for example.

But for a significant number of Mid-Shore car enthusiasts, there were very few options in-between for secure storage facilitates that would not only keep these unique museum quality automobiles safe but also well maintained.

That was until now.

Just a few months ago, Mike Kealy, owner of Bay Hundred Auto in St. Michaels which specializes in the maintenance and repair of rare cars, partnered with a customer and friend to solve this gap. Their solution is now open for business in the back of a nondescript commercial warehouse with the appropriate name of Prestige Auto Vault.

The concept is simple enough. Customers park their cars there until they feel the urge to drive them. But unlike many other storage facilities, the Vault takes a few extra steps to ensures the autos are not only secure but also frequently maintained.

Every month, each car in the Vault has a service check. All fluids are inspected, tires are properly inflated, batteries charged, all for the sake of making sure that the vintage car actually works when the client does have the impulse for a Sunday drive in a thirty or forty-year-old car.

The Spy talked to Mike last week to understand more about this entrepreneurial experiment.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Prestige Auto Vault please go here.

Why Do Christians Put Up With Trump? By W. David Montgomery

“How can practicing Christians support a President as immoral as Donald Trump?” The question has become a popular one in certain literary circles, and more important to me it is one that serious friends ask me.

The answer to the question seems quite simple:

Donald Trump offered the hope of making right what was going horribly wrong in our country. Alternative candidates stood for policies that would make things worse, and were beset with deep character flaws of their own.

Candidate Trump was unabashedly pro-life and willing to defend religious freedom. He stood for a stronger national defense after 8 years of appeasement and neglect. He understood and stated clearly that Western Civilization is under attack from Islamic militants. He supported Israel unreservedly and was willing to lead from the front. He saw how excessive taxation and regulation combined to give us the worst recovery from a recession on record.

His brash style was not only attractive to those alienated from mainstream politics, but also provided a deeper resonance that he understood their feelings of being left behind economically, of increasing government intrusion into their lives, of schools that taught children things that parents did not believe and put them at risk to sexual deviants, and of being ridiculed by celebrities, media and his opponent.

I hold that Trump was wrong to promote the myth that immigration and imports kill jobs and hurt Americans, and I have already written enough on that. We can try to convince him on those topics over time.

Turning from policies to words and personal behavior, his denunciations of Hispanics, tasteless remarks about women and sex, and marital infidelities were also negatives for many of us who voted for him. On the other hand, we support his efforts to scrutinize entrants from countries that breed terrorists as prudent policies not evidence of some personal bias against Moslems.

Allegations about Trump’s lack of truthfulness have been rampant but remain unproven. His obvious willingness to exaggerate facts and numbers in support of his own opinions contrasted to Hilary’s memorization of the most minor detail and skill at devious answers, and for that reason was probably as much a successful tactic as a character defect. “It was a feature, not a bug” to quote Microsoft.

Commentators differ on whether this is a reasonable point of view or evidence that conservative Catholics and evangelicals have become homophobic, xenophobic and otherwise deplorable. My conscience is clear in supporting Trump for these reasons.
There are enough positives and negatives in my own assessment that this result was not pre-ordained. Despite efforts to caricature him, President Trump presents a complex picture of sound and unsound policies and personal virtues and vices.

Some might claim that I am myself co-operating with evil by concluding that President Trump’s actions as President on balance advance the common good and violate no moral laws. That is not how my moral education sees it. For this I take guidance from Pacem in Terris by Pope Saint John XXIII, who discussed at length how in this world most leaders do not share the moral framework to which we as Christians adhere. That makes it necessary to work for as much good as possible in public affairs, recognizing that we must as Christians settle for less than perfection and work with the moral infirmities and motivations of those in power. While at all times trying to change their moral framework.

Of primary importance, President Trump’s policies are consistent with moral laws regarding the taking of innocent life, sex and marriage, and freedom of conscience, no matter how his personal life may differ.

His policies on the economy, foreign policy, immigration and healthcare do not directly run up against moral absolutes, and are matters of prudential judgment of how best to accomplish what moral law prescribes.

Applying the tests of adherence to moral laws and practical effect, I conclude that President Trump’s policies contain no grave moral errors, do some practical harm and achieve a great deal of practical good. Far better than I could have expected of anyone else.

But the question about supporting the President, once all this is out in the open, reverts to his personal, allegedly immoral behavior. Put this way, the question suggests that Christians are hypocritical in supporting someone who blatantly violates their moral prescriptions. A writer in the National Review put it that “Christians had good reasons to vote for Trump but that does not mean they had to join his tribe” and goes on to express dismay at religious leaders appearing with, praying with, and complimenting the President.

It is not that Christians are indifferent to sexual immorality. As one theologian put it recently, “The premise of the Sexual Revolution is antisocial, and its effects are socially destructive, as every pope since Leo XIII has shown, including Francis.” This includes sex in any form outside of marriage, pornography, and the entire LGBTQ agenda.

There is no question that we believe that the acts of which Trump is accused are gravely immoral. Ironically, those who are most preoccupied with President’ Trump’s alleged sexual immorality have for the most part been vocal supporters of the sexual revolution and demanded freedom for consenting partners to engage in any kind of genital activity they enjoy. The question is what our faith and moral compass require us to do about it.

Those who question how “conservative Christians” can support Donald Trump seem on the most part to be working with a caricature of Christian moral thought. Many of those who raise the question are Social Justice Warriors who themselves call Trump supporters “vile human beings” and condemn every utterance that might contain a micro-aggression or expression of hostility or condescension to some “marginalized group.” unless they are directed at someone who voted for Trump. They seem to expect Christians to behave in a similar way, by judging, denouncing and ostracizing any public figure who violates the Sixth Commandment.

That is an ignorant and biased picture of Christian morality and even more offensive than their hypocrisy about sexual license. There are at least three admonitions that prevent us from condemning others as sinners. They also apply to other personal vices that do not have consequences of public concern.

First, “judge not that you be not judged.” In the parable of the adulterous woman, Christ shamed their accusers with the challenge “he among you is guiltless, should cast the first stone.” The point is that we firmly believe that many matters are between a man, his spouse, his priest and his Maker, and that we should mind our own business unless directly affected.

Second, “God’s ways are not the ways of men.” David had Bathsheba, yet is still honored as the greatest of the Kings of Israel and the ancestor of Our Incarnate Lord. Trump never sent one of his future wives husbands out to certain death in battle so that he could marry her. More broadly, God does not necessarily select saints to carry out his plan for the good of his people – as the sexual infidelities of honored Presidents like Kennedy, Eisenhower, and FDR and leaders like Martin Luther King attest.

Third, the whole point is that “We are all sinners.” I am far from perfect, and I cannot expect more of anyone else. Some are more virtuous than others, but that rarely seems to include successful politicians. One of the most infuriating misconceptions is that Christians see themselves as perfect and judge the morals of everyone they encounter. No doubt some do, but they violate the explicit command of the Head of our church. We know that President Trump has not been accused of anything we have not been tempted to do.

So lets get over the hypocrisy bit. Church attendance is not virtue signaling.
We do not go to services to show off how perfect we are, we go because we are sinners seeking to do better. More precisely, since Jesus walked the earth we have been enjoined to do the latter and not the former.

Thus I feel no moral obligation to condemn or defend the President for carnal sins.

I am instead convinced that we who voted for Trump did so for valid and urgent reasons, that as President he has done a remarkable job in delivering what we hoped for, and that our concerns and Trump’s policies are consistent with Christian morality and social ethics.

His personal failings, and likewise mine, will be judged by a Higher Authority than even The Atlantic magazine.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

The Physical by George Merrill

I’ve often wished that I had the temperament of one of my dearest friends. He is faithful in all that he undertakes. He eats sensibly, exercises regularly, never smoked, drinks moderately, prays often and at specific times of day. He never seems put upon when others ask him to perform tedious tasks on their behalf. He is as virtuous a man as I have known – very credible – and although it does him no honor for me to say this, I do envy him his God-given disposition. He has an amiable relationship to himself. Mine tends to be more erratic.

A psychiatrist I know understands envy in this way: if the virtues that we see and admire in others were suddenly bestowed on us, we’d have no idea what to do with them.

I thought about this recently after my annual physical with my primary physician and cardiologist. Overall, I’m doing well. A problem has arisen in the last few years: I weigh more than I should, now to the tune of about twenty- five pounds. Of the invasive and other undignified diagnostic procedures I have been subject to over the years, including the universally loathed colonoscopy, the diagnostic prescription I find most difficult to hear is from not just from one but from both of my physicians; I must eat less and exercise more. At least in undergoing a colonoscopy, I’m out cold so the doctor can say anything and it wouldn’t bother me.

I find ‘eat less’ particularly hard to hear from my cardiologist. I don’t mean that he is not kind and competent. He says pretty much the same as my primary does. It’s just when he holds up one hand, points to the palm of it and with the other hand, inscribes a tiny circle, indicating this should be the size of the portions I need to be eating, I despair. I’m sure his hands are as large as any adult male but when he illustrates this particular prescription, like some ominous signing to a deaf man, I cringe. His hands seem to suddenly become diminutive, like a doll’s, and I think to myself how can he expect so much from me when he promises so little.

Both physicians recommended more exercise, one, advising specifically that walking one hour a day was best. Now this prescription did not please me much either but it was one I thought I could get behind far more than the starvation diet that the cardiologist advised. In one sense, I was prescribed two pills to address my ills; eat less and exercise more. I chose exercise over diet simply because I love to eat. But wait – isn’t contemporary medicine encouraging us to be a pro-active voice in designing our own treatment, tailoring it to the way we wish to live?

I write this to demonstrate how our unruly wills and affections can seduce us. Habits of the stomach for the aging can be even more compelling than those of the heart for the young. My reasoning: far better to burn those calories away in exercise than never to have savored them at all. I see it as unconscionable to waste their sweetness. And then, too, the calories would be gone for good that way, and would not remain available to compromise someone else’s’ health. Actually I’d be serving others.

Here’s the rub. Now, already two days successfully into my new resolve, the issue has come down to how much mettle my resolve actually contains. My challenge lies, not so much in knowing what has to be done, but in the showing up for the doing- boots on the ground, if you will. Am I really exercising for the right reasons? Am I trying to avoid the issue of eating less by exercising more? Yes! Only now I have crafted a rationale.

The great essayist, Montaigne, knew all the tricks that our minds play on us. He wrote, “Virtue will not be followed except for her own sake and if we sometimes borrow her mask for some other purpose, she promptly snatches it from our face.”

I heard a story once about a man, a recovering alcoholic who has enjoyed an otherwise successful thirty-year sobriety. He told about the games his mind used to play on him when he wanted what he wanted, but didn’t want to fess up to it.

Early in his recovery career he went into a bar and ordered six shots of bourbon. He had learned from AA that the first drink is too many, and a thousand is not enough. Just don’t take that first drink was the cardinal rule.

He claimed he never did.

He’d start drinking the the sixth shot, the last one placed on the bar. Then when he was down to the first, left it, then ordered six more, again drinking the sixth one the bartender put on the bar but never taking the first one. By the time he was wasted he had eight shots left on the bar, having left only the first one’s he correctly boasted that he never drank.

Here’s as honest as I can be at this moment in my own struggle with myself. I love eating too much right now to reduce my intake to those Spartan portions that were prescribed. I think I could knock off chocolate and deserts too (by knock off I mean eschewing not chewing) without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Scrapple should go and the skin of southern fried chicken I believe I could do without.

But the immediate challenge is exercise: what about a rainy day, or an extremely cold day, or one of those hot and sultry days on the Shore that can melt macadam on the roads. Worse still, when I just don’t feel like exercising at all. Then my unruly mind and its perverse wishes will begin plotting to defeat my resolve.

It’s time like this I envy my virtuous friend.

“Be sober, be vigilant,” writes Peter in his first epistle, “for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

It’s not the roaring lion I’m worried about; it’s the whisper of temptation.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that my wife, Jo, copy edits my manuscripts for publication. She rarely challenges content, just cleans them up. She took issue with the number I claimed I was overweight. Normally she’s a great editor although she can get picky about details.

I stay resolutely focused on the big picture.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.