Thursday, April 25, 2024

JUST LIKE IT IS – An exemplar

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On behalf of the entire Simmons clan,I extend deepest condolences to Mara, the children, parents, siblings, extended family, friends and the government and people of Barbados on the death of Prime Minister David
Thompson taken from us at anearly age and deprived of the opportunity to grow old with us.
As we share our thoughts and prayers in the midst of the voluminous homage and tributes in the media with the recurrent theme that the best was yet to come, I recalled the parting words of Jackie Kennedy in 1963 on the death
of President Kennedy, also in his 40s: “So now he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.”
Though the signs and prognosis were pessimistic, the finality of the news in the early hours of Saturday morning that he had gone the way of all flesh was overpowering. The spontaneous outpourings of grief and the pervasive
pall of sadness at our national loss which engulfed Barbadians at home and abroad have been overwhelming.
Congratulations to fellow Philipian Honourable Freundel Stuart on being passed the baton of leadership. In these most trying times, it promises to be a rough road to travel. A voracious reader, I am sure he is familiar with
Dante’s apposite and sobering exhortation “thou shalt know by experience how salt the savour is of another’s bread and how sad a path it is to climb and descend another’s stairs” .
Of the plethora of tributes, homilies and comments, the ones which touched me most capturing the true essence of the humanity of David Thompson, were from his housekeeper and gardener. The former said he never left the house or came back without greeting her.
 That speaks to stellar human qualities – respect, civility, humility and humanity – basic components of a proper legacy.
The gardener’s story moved me to tears. After 16 years in prison, he had difficulty finding a job.  
He approached Mr Thompson who took him on asgardener/handyman at his St Philip home and continued his employment until his rendezvous with death.
That speaks to his over-arching kindness and trusting nature to have a convicted armed robber on his domestic staff in a household of six females.
The gardener’s grateful memory of what he did for him isolates an exemplary mentor securely grounded in the best Christian ethos and traditions. It also acknowledges his belief in the power of redemption. Both employer and
employee would have come to recognize that, as Francis Bacon said, the virtue of adversity is fortitude.
That resonated powerfully with me as one who grew up at the Government Industrial School at Dodds where my father was the principal, my mother the housemother. So my siblings and I were eyewitnesses to their daily
commitment to working beyond the call of duty shepherding hundreds labelled juvenile delinquents turn around their lives.
Their long, happy lives were enriched by the knowledge that their mission was largely successful. Dodds has produced a senator, a lawyer, an astute political activist, accountants, businessmen and numerous entrepreneurs who got a second chance.
In my travels as a student and diplomat in England, Europe, America and the Caribbean, I met numerous “Dodds boys” whose lives my parents touched positively.
Please pardon the digression, but the “Dodds experience” is etched indelibly in our psyches as a powerful conditioning agent in the lives of the Simmons siblings, nurturing a strong sense of social justice and trust in redemption.
You would understand therefore my tears at the gardener’s thankful testimony that he was given a second chance by an exemplar worthy of emulation.
The death brought out the best in the electronic media. I heard when Starcom broke the sad news at 4 a.m. supplemented by regular updates. It was brilliant and fitting broadcasting that at that early hour CEO Vic Fernandes
and vacationing news director David Ellis came on air, their solemn voices lending gravamen to the breaking news.
I am not a fan of CBC TV, but congratulations are in order for their Saturday programming. The special hosted by Peter Wickham with Bobby Morris and Rev. Guy Hewitt wove a rich retrospective and contemporary tapestry of
the life of the fallen political hero. This was TV at its best, enhanced by tributes from studio guests, regional and extra-regional political leaders.
On the downside, there were howls of protests all week, particularly from females, over pre-empting the addictive Days of our lives. I do not watch it so I cannot comment empirically. However, I am told by devotees that they
could think of nothing likely to offend sensibilities during the official mourning period.
 I was not surprised that the only soap I watch, the often risqué Royal Palm Estate, was shelved Tuesday night, I was appalled that the Caribbean Media Corporation, headquartered in Bridgetown, had no qualms Saturday night
programming raunchy scenes of scantily clad women rolling their bumpers leaving little to the imagination.
It was perplexing that CBC radio thought it prudent to blank the historic tied 50/50 cricket final from Sabina Park between Barbados and the Leewards. It would have been an enervating palliative lightening the encircling
gloom. David, a dedicated cricket follower, would hardly have approved. Ironically, I was able to follow the action on Trinidad’s 105FM when their team was not even involved.
That impaired judgment  suggests that as a template for the future, it may be timely to develop a broadcasting protocol to regulate similar eventualities.
Farewell, David. Rest peacefully in Christ and rise in glory with Him!
•Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.

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