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Handshake told all

We lost a good friend this week.

Kenneth Reynolds was almost 40 years older than I am, but our relationship was proof that friendship has no generational boundaries. His family had long standing ties to both Seminole and Decatur counties. He was known for his work with Farmer’s Home Administration, Reynolds’ Landing, and the many community activities he shared with his wife, Annie.

My grandfather always told me to shake a hand firmly; that people would judge you by the strength of your grip. Even after advancing years had made Kenneth more feeble, he would shake my hand with a grip worthy of a strapping farm boy. My friendship only confirmed what his handshake had always told me; Kenneth was a real man.

Old-saying reminder

“March roars in like a lion and out like a lamb.”

Our childhood memories are full of sayings like this. What continues to amaze me is how often they turn out to be true. The last week of February was teasing us with pleasant temperatures and blooming flowers that make us believe that spring is here.

March brought temperature drops of 30 degrees in one day, followed by fierce winds that made the wind chill even lower. Thundersnow, something I have honestly never heard of, made an appearance in Atlanta. It is essentially a thunderstorm with snow rather than rain. It sounds like something I would rather read about than experience.

Sunday I walked my dog while wearing shorts only to see snow flurries before church began. The brutal cold snap was quickly followed by warming trends that within days brought our temperatures back to the high 70s.

I am not fooled though. With so many fat robins flying by, spring has to be just around the corner.

Can’t afford to let them go

Monday brought an 11-year low to Dow Jones Index. It was largely due to the record quarterly loss of AIG. You might remember them as the world’s largest insurer that has already received bailout funds three times from the United States to the tune of $150 billion. The company’s fourth quarter loss equaled $61.7 billion. The number is so large I can’t even begin to explain it in terms that make sense to the average American. Let me just say that it is approximately a half million dollars a minute.

The spokesperson for the company explained that only $2 billion was actually lost by the company during the quarter. The other $60 billion was a reduction in value in their credit default swaps. Is that supposed to make me feel better?

In order to prop up the company further, the United States has pledged an additional $30 billion with the likelihood that more funds will be needed in the future.

Years ago, our family’s peanut company had the unfortunate practice of loaning employees money to be deducted from future paychecks. Some employees would borrow as much as they could, considering it “employment insurance.” In other words, if they owed enough money the company could not afford to terminate them.

Somehow it seems that we have allowed companies like AIG to become like these employees. We can’t afford to let them go. I just hope we can afford to keep them.

‘Good day!’

In the seventh grade, I started attending school in the Dothan city school system. Along with my brother and sister, there were two other families whose children also made the commute from Cottonwood.

The parents would drive the car pool a week at the time. Depending on which school you were attending, the ride could take up to 30 minutes. Most of the parents would let us choose which radio station to listen to. The exception was Mr. Lamb, who would insist on turning the dial to WOOF at 7:55 a.m. That was when I first heard Paul Harvey.

It wasn’t too long before we listened to Harvey regardless of who was driving. His stories and news were appealing to both the adults and the kids in the car. Soon we could all mimic the closing phrase, “Paul Harvey, good day.”

It was the same voice that attracted listeners for more than 60 years. To do anything professionally for six decades is admirable. To attract generation after generation from the infancy of radio to the day of the Internet is amazing.

Opportunity unequaled

Much has been made in the last few months of the fact that Barack Obama is this nation’s first black president.

Following his recent speech regarding the budget, you could also make other observations. Sitting behind him were Joe Biden, the nation’s first Roman Catholic vice president, and Nancy Pelosi, our first female speaker of the House.

Among his cabinet nominees were two Chinese-Americans, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Chu replaced Bill Richardson, the nation’s first Mexican-American governor who earlier had withdrawn his name from nomination. Locke was the first Chinese-American ever elected governor when he won the job in the state of Washington.

The person giving the Republican response to Obama’s speech was Gov. Bobby Jindal, the first Indian-American ever elected governor of a state when he was chosen in Louisiana.

There isn’t much positive being said about our country right now. However, regardless of our short-term problems, America remains a nation of opportunity unequaled in the world. If you don’t believe it, just ask one of the people above.

Finally, no matter how much I write about my grandchildren, children and even my dogs, it remains Mary Lou who has been at the center of my life for the past 31 years. Happy anniversary.