Sunday, August 23, 2015

One Good Term Here On Earth

 One Good Term Here On Earth

I have always felt a special connection to former US President Jimmy Carter, and for the dumbest reason possible.  Some years after his presidency - a presidency I was pretty much oblivious to due to a shallowness resulting from my young age and the sort of self-absorption that blooms with profusion when one is lacking in life experience - I found myself on an airplane from Los Angeles to Atlanta.  It’s a four hour plus flight, so to spend the time profitably I had brought along a piece of needlepoint that I was doing as a Christmas present for a family member.  Somewhere over the mid-west I was happily stitching away, cozy in my normal state of inattention, when I felt bit of electricity in the air around me.  Looking up from my aisle seat I saw my fellow passengers sitting a bit straighter, all eyes directed to the front of the plane.  The recirculated air was quiet, but electric, with expectation.  Suddenly, as though someone had opened up a jar of irritated flies, black-suited men began to pour down both sides of the plane, gravely serious faces turning this way and that, sharp eyes focusing everywhere and nowhere at once. This managed to capture my interest.  

As one particularly tall member of this line passed my seat I found myself looking up into the face of former president Jimmy Carter.  To my stunned amazement, he stopped.  Smiling, he bent forward to better see the needlepoint I had suddenly forgotten I had.  He asked me who it was for, and I think I told him.  Then he looked at me, directly into my eyes, and in a warm, grand-fatherly way he reached out and touched my cheek.  “You’re very pretty”, he said.  

Now, I don’t take compliments well, especially those about my appearance.  I have a tendency to argue with the those kind enough to bestow one upon me.  I’ll point out my flaws, make a flippant remark about the inadequate strength of their eyeglasses, and blush like a beet, all of which makes the person fervently rue their kindness.  However, faced with a compliment like this from a man like this, I did not launch into my usual list of rebuttals.  I’m sure I blushed brightly, and I hope, God how I hope, I managed to thank him.  I only told The Songwriter about it and, though I’m well aware that we’re all pretty when we’re that young, I have held that compliment in my heart like a secret ever since.

Through the years I have, thankfully, become more aware.  I now know my place in this big crowded world and each day I try to make a small difference in the way that it spins.  I have also watched this former president make his faith in a good God tangible and real.  Jimmy Carter has filled every day in happy effort to effect a positive change.   Rather than spending his evenings on the banquet circuit reeling in high-figure honorariums to flesh out his bank account, or his days painting by numbers in the sunshine, this former president as been working to eradicate a hideous disease in Africa.  He has been traveling far and wide in his effort to ensure countries in conflict have free and democratic elections.   His has been building houses for the homeless.  He has been a tireless champion of the rights for women.  He has written twenty-nine books.  His professed faith has been quickened by his tireless, hopeful, work.

Naturally, like many others, I was saddened to hear of Jimmy Carter’s recent cancer diagnosis.  It brought me back to the day on that plane, which seems like only yesterday, and  it reinforced how fleeting our time really is.  But it also reminded me of the grandness, the sheer scope, of life and how shameful it is to waste a minute of it in incuriosity or cynicism.  He began treatment yesterday and there is every hope that President Carter has many, many days left to serve out his term here on Earth.  Oh, and he will be teaching Sunday School this coming Sunday in his home church in Georgia.  

 Signs lining the roadway to welcome President Carter's return home today.

Find Jimmy Carter’s latest book, 
A Full Life - Reflections at Ninety, HERE.


  1. This is a wonderful post, Pamela. History will decide what kind of president he was, but I have always felt that he is a truly good man, with a big heart.

  2. My, you live such a charmed life!
    He is a wonderful man and amazing in his faith.

  3. He will be remembered as a good president and statesman and above all, a good man. They don't make them like him anymore.

  4. Despite being a good man he was a lousy president - being much older than you I remember! However, since then he has been a terrific humanitarian dedicating his life to helping others as you have outlined here Pamela. I've never flown in Jimmy's company but did share a ride on a small prop plane in Africa with Rosalyn. She was a true lady and so excited to see the photos we'd taken on our safari in several African countries - birds being her great love. She told us, in that lovely southern drawl, that she was 'birding' whilst Jimmy was working in Jo-Burg.

    I do wish him a return to good health and, being a cancer survivor myself (although they didn't put signs along my street!), I know what he's facing and pray he will do well in his treatment and be able to continue his good work for many more years. This country, and the entire world, need more men like Jimmy Carter.

    1. Mary, One might say he was too good a man to be a good president!

  5. Over here in the UK Pamela your presidents seem to come and go and little seems to change. But it is good that you have happy memories of him - and that you can post about them at a time when he may be needing a bit of support.

  6. He was an under-rated president..."lousy" should be reserved for those that engage us in war under false pretenses. He is a fine man of high intelligence and moral conscience. Lucky you to have experienced that smile up close.

  7. He probably meant you were pretty upon many layers in addition to looks...


  8. What a lovely post! Indeed, he has accomplished more than any other President in his post-Presidential years!

  9. what a wonderful memory to have.
    i have admired him so much ... as like you... in my older years of knowing the value of people... and the lack of quality in most politicians... i came to know him really. i think of him as a true statesman. and one we will sorely miss.
    he is a true gentleman in every sense of the word. and the way he has handled himself and his love of humanity since he was president is nothing short of remarkable. he said he was hoping to get to build some more houses before hearing this latest news.
    such a beautiful spirit... at 90!

  10. Hello Pamela
    What a delightful story of meeting the former president Jimmy Carter. I have tremendous respect for him, his work, beliefs and tenacity.
    I was living and working in Canada when he was elected President of the USA. My work-mate and I felt there was a need to celebrate. At lunch we went to the local hotel and requested peanut butter sandwiches and drank Southern Comfort. (he was a peanut farmer).
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    I will be praying for a complete recovery for Mr Carter.


  11. Pamela, I love your story about meeting the former president. My thoughts are with Mr. Carter as he battles this demon called cancer.

    On a side note, I thought you might find this story interesting: Renting/working in a bookstore in Scotland.

  12. I have admired his dedication to good works and I wish him a recovery. You always tell the best stories.

  13. This blog is so thoughtful and beautifully expressed. I read it to my husband who is an Episcopal priest and he was so taken by your words that he said, "print that out." I'll let you know if it ends up in a sermon.

  14. I have always admired president Jimmy Carter, he was just to good of a spiritual man to endure all rudeness back stabbing political arena that happens, to be president.
    I sent him a card last week of encouragement on his battle with cancer

  15. What a charming story! Your beautiful tribute to President Carter is truly heartfelt.

  16. I loved this Pamela! What a lovely story. Thanks for this tribute to a wonderful man.

  17. What a fun brush with fame! I adore Jimmy Carter as a president and even more as an ex-president. The world is a better place for his democratizing/human rights work. I do hope he survives cancer.

  18. Such a lovely post of your wonderful memory and a touching tribute to a true humanitarian! I pray President Carter will be successful in his battle against his cancer and be blessed with many more years. What a shining example he is to all of us.

  19. This is a wonderful post, Pamela. History will decide what kind of president he was, but I have always felt that he is a truly good man, with a big heart.

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