Notes of thanks

Sandhill cranes on Perrin lake, Michigan. Spotted from a boat ride at the home of John and Jan Schwartz a week ago.

Cogitation 35/212 Saturday 31 August 2019 Three notes of thanks surface this week.

One. Celebration with friends

We had lunch with friends Maynard (Mike) and Phyllis Weaver on Monday. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this week. They live nearby, having moved to a condo in Goshen 15 years ago. We’ve been part of the same church, a small group, on-going friendship.

After lunch we showed them our home at Greencroft Goshen. Mike said he could live here. The green space in our back yard was immediately appealing, as was the single level, open plan layout of our home.

The green space would give Mike a chance to reconnect with his love of birding. His appreciation of the space also increased mine of the same. I’m still transitioning. I do marvel at the presence of mature oaks, the expanse of green and bordering trees and bushes. At the same time I miss the expansive riverside location we had for 42 years in Elkhart. Some called it a lake. We had a 2000 meter view upstream. Still, I am getting to appreciate nature’s out-of-doors setting right here in our new home. Thanks, Mike!

Mike has been a real friend. At a time when I was unemployed for an extended time, he was the one person who regularly asked, “How’s it going?” I think it was he who offered me a temporary job as sexton of Prairie Street Cemetery in Elkhart. Phyllis and Mike have enriched our lives as friends and mentors. They’re helping to smooth our transition to living in a new community. Thank you, Phyllis and Mike!

Also, thank you John and Jan Lauver Schwartz for a tasty, conversation-rich, and pontoon ride blessed family cookout a week ago on Perrin Lake.

Two. Classic car cruise-in and parade

Last Sunday afternoon Greencroft hosted a classic car cruise-in, followed by a parade around campus. It was fun. The weather was perfect. One woman said how much she appreciated seeing and hearing the cars that reminded her “of our era.” Thank you, Greencroft and classic car enthusiasts, for this memorable fourth annual event.

Three. Sears and retailers of yore

I wanted to walk through the second last full-fledged Sears store in Indiana. As part of a walk along the Riverwalk in Mishawaka, we visited the Sears store in University Park Mall. It is scheduled to close in November. Many shelves were empty, but new merchandise will come from the warehouses. Markdowns at the moment were from 10-30 percent, some more. The offerings include clothing, appliances, sporting goods, kitchenware, draperies, what have you, Sears had it. One salesperson has worked at that Sears store since graduating high school.

We rode the escalator to the second-level in search of a belt. Found it, bought it. Felt a sense of an era ending as we exited. We’ve had the same experience with other retailers, including Robertson’s, Drakes, Cooks, Grants, Montgomery Ward, Ziesel’s, Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s, Elder-Beerman and Carson Pirie Scott. In 1955, I had my first escalator ride at Montgomery Ward in South Bend, while visiting my aunt and uncle in Goshen. I bought a pair of denim jeans that time.

There are other retailers that I remember from my 50 years living in the city of Elkhart, it’s just that their names escape me at the moment. I know other people have similar “moments.” Not to worry. The names might return and if they don’t that’s O.K. for the moment, too. Oh happy day, I just recalled the name of a once-upon-a-time retailer in Elkhart that’s had me puzzled since last evening: G. L. Perry.

Thank you, salespeople, buyers, merchandisers, investors, service personnel, all those invested in providing for our interests over these many years. With some of you we were on a first name basis. Our spending was, I believe, more in line with our needs than our wants, though I did want that top hat I got at Ziesel’s when such were in vogue. It’s gone to the thrift store, as did a fine (classic) suit. I still shutter at the thought of the leisure suit I bought for a trip to Europe in 1975. I still smile with some appreciation for the era of bell bottoms. Moments.

I’ve kept a few ties, but gave more than two dozen to a quilter. Ties were part of more than half my life, as required wear at college and then throughout most of my working years. One year at college I paid another student to iron my shirts, 10 cents per shirt. Thanks a million!

This photo is from my early employment years, 1969 or 70, as a writer-editor in the Information Services office of Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, Elkhart, Indiana. It expresses my outlook on life: God is love. God loves all creation and seeks the well-being of the human species and every other species on Earth. We are newly aware of not only the dire straits we face in meeting the needs of humans and the needs of a nonhuman environment, but of our capacity to change to bring healing, hope and health to ourselves and the biosphere. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” I may still have the eyeglasses, but not the tie.

Bonus. Books from the library

Being the change (New Society Publishers, 2017) is the story of Peter Kalmus, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s the story of how he and his family made changes to lessen their carbon footprint. It’s challenging, heartening, not just pointing but jumping in the right direction for humans to live in harmony with the biosphere through acts of repentance and regeneration that brings healing and love for all beings. It reminds me of how our grandparents lived.

I’ll quote a subsection on Storytelling from his chapter on Community:

“It’s not enough to change our own lives. It’s not even enough to engage with the community. We must also be storytellers. Stories bind communities. They teach us, inspire us, and give us a way of making meaning out of the chaos of life. They direct our actions in powerful ways. Stories capture our imaginations, and global warming is the result of the greatest failure of imagination the world has ever seen.

“Every one of us can tell this new story of living aligned with the biosphere, each other, and ourselves. This is the story of leaving fossil fuels far behind. this is the story of connection, of seeing ourselves within the biosphere and not above it.

How you tell it is is up to you, whether through speech, song, poetry, or comedy; whether through teaching children, or running for office. But I can promise that no matter how you choose to tell the story, your first step will be to live it.”

Cheer up, I tell myself

I conclude this weeks reflections with a quote from Shakespeare’s Richard II: “Lay aside life-harming heaviness, / And entertain a cheerful disposition.”


4 thoughts on “Notes of thanks

  1. Thanks, John. Looks like you had a fun Classic Car Parade! We have Sandhill Cranes in Florida that we enjoy watching all winter long. I can tell you miss your River Home!

    Monty & Ginger

    My iPad says that a smile always increases your Face Value!



    1. Thanks, Monty. You catch the marks of transition. The river was a big part of our late home, but the whole picture includes the lengthy time we lived there. That included planting trees and flowers, much updating of the old while maintaining the character and integrity of the 1929 structure, doing the addition that created an indoor-outdoor living space on water, entertaining, interacting with neighbors, turning the physical house into a home built with memories. Now the same holds true for creating memories at home at Greencroft Goshen and in our “home from home” travels. Best! -John


  2. I hardly recognized that handsome young man in the picture with the dark hair and dark framed glasses. The things you learn; having someone iron your shirts for 10 cents. When Willard came home from Ryerson mom would boil his white shirts on the stove to get them clean before ironing. I don’t remember if I ironed them or not. I don’t recall getting paid. Remember when you could order a house to be built from the Sears catalogue? Viv told me about that. One thing I do know is that I don’t have to go to school on Tuesday!


    1. Ha, ha, ha, Kaye. I’d have had trouble recognizing the chap in the photo had it not been for the glasses. Or any number of glasses From wire rim to various styles of plastic and titanium. Memories serve us well. We’ll have to ask Will about his school attire and if he kept it up when he and Dave started the concrete products business. Wow, 2 September and you’ll not know what to do. How can that be? Keep a daily journal for the first week. And don’t answer the phone if you think they’re calling for a supply teacher. Maybe you’ll track down a Sears house that would serve well as a retirement cottage. Be well! -John


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