THE IDLE AMERICAN: Room for One More?

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, December 6, 2018

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury


‘Tis a puzzlement. Can anyone on the planet engage us to the degree that a 20th-century icon did?

More specifically, can anyone “grab” us visually the way he did–that prolific author, painter, and illustrator who reached Americans’ innermost cockles with a paintbrush and canvas?

That icon re-defined sentimentality with engaging covers on The Saturday Evening Post 321 times during the publication’s 66 years of weekly magazines. His name was Norman Rockwell. Some well-known critics refused to take his works seriously, even failing to call him an artist. Rockwell agreed but still turned out more than 4,000 original works, capturing the hearts of a grateful nation, up to and including U.S. presidents.

“Have you seen Rockwell’s Post cover this week?” was a question heard often from border to border and from shore to shore. His covers sparked convivial conversation across backyard fences, in barber and beauty shops and thousands of other places across the land.

He painted happiness–claiming that his own delight came from putting paint to canvas–producing works that tugged on the heartstrings of us all.  Yep, warm “fuzzies” were his specialty. I doubt if there’ll ever be another person who will match his artistic touch.

With new technology, however, graphics on TV and computer screens perhaps have a similar impact, but only for a second, or even a split second.

I saw such a graphic this very day, thanks to Google. The computer image ushered in the year’s final month, showing two mountain goats, each on tiny ledges poking out from a gargantuan mountainside.

It appeared that the two live, identifiable creatures–perched on just enough rock to accommodate four feet–were happy enough. And somehow, we assume those goats will find ways to move on. In many ways, we share these goats’ plight. As culture closes in, the tiny space each of us occupies grows smaller.

Christmas–that day annually observed to acknowledge the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ–can’t come soon enough this year. We pray that our ledges will somehow be expanded–comforted with the assurance that the same God who has intervened in the affairs of man throughout history–is still in charge.

If “all the world’s a stage”–as Shakespeare claimed in his play As You Like It–we are players moving far too fast on whirling stages where tiny mountain ledges seem far apart—it remains our challenge to seek out “positives.”

Even while tossed about in a world where too much is wedged into the living of each day, there still are many folks who are constantly in the “doing good” mode.

These “brother’s keepers,” however, continue to expand ledges and offer hope on life’s mountains. Tons of the good being done by individuals, churches, organizations, and agencies never make it to the scales for weighing. Thankfully, though, some unselfish deeds come to light, and many of them deserve spotlights and unending applause.

Let’s focus on one individual whose generous heart must have might near burst out of his overalls. How else would one explain his decision to help almost 1,100 folks, none of whom he knows by name or is involved in any way in his business enterprises?

His name is Bob Wilson, who, upon learning of the devastation of Camp Fire at Paradise, CA, High School, decided to write personal $1,000 checks to each of the 980 students and 105 faculty/staff members. He lives 500 miles from the victims. Yet, he decided within minutes to respond positively to the call of his heart.

Mr. Wilson wanted to help restore a sense of hopefulness to youngsters who seemed suddenly robbed of happy, high school years. He remembers his own so fondly. He personifies whoever said, “Don’t give ‘til it hurts, give ‘til it feels good.” Through such generosity, this wonderful philanthropist has magnified the size and number of ledges on life’s mountain.


Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” roundabout. Comments/inquiries to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don Newbury