Jimmy Carter was a pretty buttoned up guy. He was known, even under the stress of the Oval Office, to be remarkably poised. The angriest an aide ever saw him though, came over a last minute scheduling change. It wasn’t the poor communication that bothered him. It wasn’t that he was going to be late–something the ever punctual Carter despised. It was because the secretary had bumped Carter’s plans to take his daughter to the circus.
“I’ve never seen him as put out,” an aide wrote in their diary. He was angry because he knew, as Charles De Gaulle said (and we wrote about here), that the presidency was temporary but family is forever. Some people might be comfortable putting their loved one’s last–assuming that they’ll be the most flexible and forgiving, but Carter wasn’t.
And neither should we. We get mad if someone cuts us off in traffic. We get mad if someone screws something up at work. Where is that report I asked for, we say. We get mad if our flight is delayed. But when something bumps up against a family commitment, we’re way too quick to accommodate. To accept it as the way things have to be.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It can’t be that way. We have to protect this time. We have to fight for it. We have to make sure people know where we stand on it…because if there is anything to get upset about in this life, it’s a missed opportunity to do something with the people you love.