published Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Roberts: Search for life's simplest gifts

Audio clip

Dalton Roberts’s podcast about why he wrote the song "I'm the Only Mistake She Ever Made." 10/02/09

Barney Morgan worked with me a few years at the county. He was incorrigibly independent, and when I had a decision to make I'd ask Jerry Turner, my staff attorney, for a Republican perspective, then I'd get a Democratic view from Ruth Harmon, an astute politician. Then I'd ask for Barney's thoughts. The longer I worked with him, the more I admired and trusted his judgment.

It may sound silly, but the Barney words I remember best came in this little short comment he made one day: "My refrigerator gets my milk as cold as Jack Lupton's gets his."

He didn't know it, but at that time I was in the throes of making a decision on whether to remain as county executive or retire. I cannot explain how a person can burn out in a job he finds fulfilling but that was exactly what had happened to me.

I had accomplished my major goals and the little aggravating cockleburrs of the job were getting to me. The bottom line financially was that I would be leaving a good salary for an unpredictable one.

Barney's statement stayed with me and assured me that the simple life can be good. When you think about it, our basic needs are not all that complicated or difficult to meet.

My personal situation had changed in ways that made a simpler lifestyle look more attractive. I was single and my son and daughter were doing well, so my needs were much simpler than at any other time in my life.

With a cozy and comfortable house, a refrigerator to get my milk cold, a great area to feed my birds and a stove to boil water for tea and fry an egg, I felt I had all the necessary ingredients for an uncomplicated way of life.

I knew it would be a more frugal life but for many years I had been scaling back and actually finding more joy in my life. Due to a kind and thoughtful hospital visit by Alfred Thatcher of the local Friends (Quaker) congregation, I had gone on a binge of reading great Quaker books. A common theme was "the simple life." I was strongly drawn to that.

Just how strong is reflected in my book, "Kickstarts." Just breezing through it today I found these quotes:

"Those who find joy in everyday things will find joy every day."

"Abundance does not consist of what we have but what we enjoy. We can be rich in toys and poor in joys."

"The ancient human need to stuff is getting to be serious stuff. We buy more stuff than we need and have to stuff it. The cost of stuffing it is cutting into our available capital to buy more stuff. It's like a snake eating its own tail,"

"We exhaust ourselves with exotic vacations, alcohol and other emotional, physical and financial excesses trying to find a few great moments. Is happiness a few great moments? No, happiness is stringing the beauty of many small moments on the Rosary string of the heart."

I love my parents for showing me that a simple way of life can be satisfying. They demonstrated that when a mother and father love each other and show it by gentleness and kindness, their children feel secure and loved.

Our foods were simple and remain my favorite foods to this day. Our pleasures were simple. Table conversation at mealtime, neighbors coming and going, horseshoe tossing, climbing one of our 27 apple trees for a big juicy apple, and books. We always had money for books.

When you enter my home you will see these words on the door: live well, love much and play often.

I am in fine company. Speaking of Albert Einstein, a close friend wrote, "He was one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known, yet if I had to convey the essence of Albert Einstein in a single word, I would choose simplicity."

E-mail Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com

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