Let musician Eubie Blake be your guide

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Column: Tales from Exit 22, by Al Batt

I hate you for all the right reasons.

I heard a teen girl say that to a teen boy. I believe it to have been a fragment of flirting.

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Will Rogers said that he’d never met a man he didn’t like.

Eubie Blake, a musician, composer, lyricist, and ragtime and jazz piano player, had four rules of life, “Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind. Listen to the birds. Don’t hate nobody.”

Those are great rules. Life’s rules on a stick. Paying thunder no mind might apply primarily to men. When tornadoes hit our area a few years ago, my wife retreated to the basement. She had enough canned food to survive for three months. She had blankets and pillows. She had one of those radios that you wind by hand and had a flashlight on one end. She went to that secret corner of the basement that no man is really sure which corner that is. It was there that she safely sat out the storm. I walked to the end of the driveway and stood near the mailbox. I looked for the tornado. I saw it. That’s why women outlive men.

I agree with Rogers and Blake. I don’t hate anyone. It’s a waste of time. I don’t dislike anyone. What’s the point? Hating someone is one of the easiest things to do badly. Everyone makes a better friend than an enemy.

I don’t feel that way in a feeble attempt at sainthood. That ship has long since sailed. I believe that grudges can and should be put behind us. Once there, they quickly disappear and we will be better off for it.

Buddy Hackett said, “I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.”

You can’t get ahead by getting even.

It feels good to forgive someone, whether they ask you to or not. When I played football, we had to carry another player piggyback up a small hill, with both of us wearing full uniforms.

I’ve heard an old saying, “That ain’t no hill for a stepper.” It was a hill, but I wouldn’t have worked up a sweat had I not been carrying a teammate.

It’s the same thing when carrying a grudge.

Once I got that fullback off my back, I felt great.

Letting go of a grudge gives that same feeling.

One of my favorite writers, E. B. White, author of “Charlotte’s Web,” said that all he ever wanted to say in his writing was that he loved the world. I know how he felt.

Whenever I think the world a bit noisome, I consider a portion of the “Prayer of St. Francis” that goes like this, “Grant that I may not try to be comforted but to comfort, Not try to be understood but to understand, Not try to be loved but to love.

Because it is in giving that we receive, It is in forgiving that we are forgiven.”

We tend to want people to stop liking the things that we don’t. If we had that power, no one would like barbecued potato chips. I think they are the cheese puffs of the potato chip world, but I’m happy that others enjoy them.

We shouldn’t look for perfection in others until we find it in ourselves.

A neighbor was visiting her well-to-do aunt. They were having flavored coffee on the veranda of her lavish mansion.

“When my first child was born,” said the aunt, “I decided to do something especially nice for myself. So I had this exquisite home built.”

“Well, isn’t that nice,” said her younger visitor.

“And on my 40th birthday I bought myself that beautiful Mercedes parked in the driveway. Why, I think it’s the most gorgeous automobile in the world.”

“Well, isn’t that nice?” said her niece.

“And then for no reason at all, I decided I needed a special gift, so I acquired the most amazing collection of ridiculously expensive art that I show to only my most cherished friends. I hope you can see it someday.”

“Well, isn’t that nice,” came the pleasant response.

“Now tell me, what have you done for yourself lately?” The aunt asked.

“I went to charm school.”

“Charm school! Whatever for?” asked the aunt.

“So whenever I feel like saying, ‘Who cares?’ I smile and say, ‘Well, isn’t that nice.’”

No matter what we think, do or say, we cannot help but make a difference.

Eubie knew.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.