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Narrow perspectives and low expectations, Part 2

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

(Continued from last week.)

I may have left you last week with the idea that the resolution to travel distances involves going a long way. This is not always the case.

My grandfather Willard Beekman (1886-1968) was a painter in Portsmouth, Ohio. He painted anything and everything to feed his wife and 10 children. One thing he painted was church steeples. I’ve been told when he had one of those jobs, he tried to hide it from my grandmother so she wouldn’t worry.

I have to hand it to my grandfather – that is one distance I could not travel – 100 to 200 feet straight up.

About 10 years ago, I had a project to install a “crow’s nest” on an industrial chimney in Middletown so the customer could do sampling for EPA requirements. I let the contractor do the work and take photos of the areas I wanted to see up close. Heights are one thing, try as I might, that I cannot overcome.

I was reminded of this recently when Laura and I were on vacation in the Palouse region in eastern Washington state. This is a fascinating agricultural area. In the middle of it, there is a sole natural mountain that has been turned into a state park, “Steptoe Butte State Park.”

From the surrounding countryside, it does not look so tall. There is a road that spirals around and goes to the top. Laura was driving (thank goodness). I was nearly frozen in my seat. From above, it looked far more formidable than from down below.

I have no problems with airplanes at 44,000 feet. I can look out the windows with ease. But climbing a few hundred feet off terra firma, I can’t do it no matter how hard I try. You may have similar distances you can’t travel.

There is another distance you may have trouble traveling, but that I would urge you to try. It is the distance to that family member or former friend with whom you have had a falling out. All sorts of things happen in families to cause hard feelings and silence.

In all of society today, one of the causes of silences among people, I don’t have to tell you, is divergent political views. I have been as guilty of cutting people off here as anyone, and I’ll be the first to admit I am ashamed of my behavior. Granted, there are some people who just won’t reconcile, no matter how hard you tried, but it is worth a try.

In my own family, there were circumstances that kept closely related portions of our family apart for decades. However, we finally got through that (it took the previous generation dying off to really clear the air), and now we talk regularly and see each other as regularly as possible – even though there is some physical distance between us.

The question, though, is this: What is keeping you from reaching out, whether it be to the church steeple, the high-altitude state park or the human being? We get in the habit of having these thoughtless barriers between ourselves and something that might be enriching for our life experiences and someone else’s, too.

At one time, we knew what the barrier was but now so much time has passed, the reason has become invisible, and all we are left with is the “I can’t.”

Dare to explore your “I can’ts.”

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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