Humility

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

November 18, 2017

Thank God I’m a Catholic Boy

In March 1975, during my senior year in high school, country music singer John Denver released a new single record with the song, Thank God I’m a Country Boy. That year, only six songs made it to the top of both the Billboard Hot Country Singles Charts and the Billboard Hot 100.

At that time, the Billboard Hot 100 included the week’s most popular songs across all genres. Rankings were based on record sales, radio airplay, and jukebox activity.

To this day, whenever I hear Thank God I’m a Country Boy, my spirits are lifted and I feel grateful for what I have.

There’s a video on YouTube of a 1977 TV special, where John Denver performed the song with a backup group that was made up of three additional great country music performers: Johnny Cash, playing the guitar; Roger Miller, playing the fiddle; and Glen Campbell, playing the banjo.

In the area below the YouTube video is a comment from one of Denver’s fans: “I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back and be there.” Most people who were teenagers during the 1970s (including me) would love to go back and “be there” for a performance of their favorite musician.

Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy came to my mind last week when I realized that Thanksgiving Day was right around the corner.

While it’s good that we have a day set aside each year to reflect and be thankful for everything that we have, one day a year is not enough. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy that it’s easy to go several days without consciously giving thanks for what we have.

If you’re familiar with Thank God I’m a Country Boy, you’ll recognize a refrain that’s repeated throughout the song:

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun’s comin’ up I got cakes on the griddle
Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle
Thank God I’m a country boy

July 22, 2017

Is Facebook A Trojan Horse?

I subscribe to a handful of monthly marketing newsletters. One of the newsletters is written by Dan Kennedy, a business consultant and marketing expert who has more than 40 years of experience helping business owners grow their businesses.

Ever since the advent of Facebook, Kennedy has repeatedly warned his subscribers not to trust Facebook. He insists that businesses that advertise on Facebook must have a process in place that immediately transfers all new customer data from the Facebook platform to a website or database that is owned by the business.

Kennedy has never wavered in his warnings about Facebook. His argument is that Facebook can, at any time, decide that a business is not complying with its guidelines, in which case it can, without notice, immediately shut down the page of any person or business.

I thought about Kennedy’s warnings last week when I read a Catholic News Agency (CNA) article that reported that within a 24-hour period, Facebook had removed more than two dozen “conservative” Catholic pages from its website.

One of the pages belonged to an American Catholic priest, Fr. Francis J. Hoffman, who is commonly known as “Fr. Rocky.” Hoffman is the Executive Director of Relevant Radio. At the time that his Facebook page was removed, he had more than 3.5 million followers.

Another popular page that was removed was known as “Catholic and Proud.” The page had more than six million followers, and belonged to Kenneth Alimba of Nigeria. Alimba told CNA that his page had been taken down by Facebook without any warning or explanation.

Alimba had another page, “Holy Mary Mother of God,” that had more than 200,000 followers, that was also removed by Facebook. He told CNA that he had spent more than five years working on his Facebook pages and that the loss of the pages was “extremely heartbreaking” and “horrible.”

April 8, 2017

The Empathy Switch

Whenever I give a closing argument to a jury, I include comments about the importance of empathy. I tell the jurors that while the law does not permit them to have sympathy for my client, it does permit them to have empathy.

A person who has empathy toward another person is able to develop a deeper understanding of what the other person is going through, by mentally putting himself or herself in the place of that person.

We often hear about how important it is to step into the shoes of another person so that we can understand what that person is going through. That’s what empathy is.

Empathy is different from sympathy. The definition of sympathy is “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Feeling sorry for someone is different from understanding what the person is going through by mentally putting yourself in the place of that person.

The opposite of empathy is callousness and cruelty. Can a person who is generally empathetic turn into a person who is callous and cruel? The answer is yes. It happens all the time.

There is the equivalent of a “switch” that is inside each of us that immediately turns off our ability to have empathy for another person. That switch is triggered when we become angry with that person.

During the time that we are angry, we are not able to mentally put ourselves in the place of the person we are angry with. Without the filter of empathy available for us to utilize, our thoughts, words, and actions can become callous and cruel.

Whenever I become angry with someone, I have to mentally remind myself that if I allow myself to remain angry, I will do and say things that can hurt the other person and cause grave harm to our relationship. If I don’t release my anger by practicing the virtues of humility, kindness, and forgiveness, I will not be able to understand where the other person is coming from.

April 1, 2017

April Fools and The Blind Spot

With another April Fools’ Day having come and gone, I thought I’d share some thoughts about how we fool ourselves. April Fools’ Day is all about dreaming up ways to fool other people, but on every other day of the year, we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re something we’re not.

About 20 years ago, while I was attending Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria, I heard a homily from a priest about how we all have a way of fooling ourselves. The priest was Fr. Marne Breckensiek, who at that time was the pastor of Sacred Heart Church.

Fr. Marne started his homily by talking about how when we drive a vehicle, we have to always make sure to check our side view mirror before we change lanes. He reminded us that when we check our mirror, there is always an area to the side and back of our vehicle that is not picked up by the mirror. That area is customarily called “the blind spot.”

After he reminded us of the blind spot, Fr. Marne pointed out that each of us has one or more blind spots (faults) that may be obvious to others, but that we are unaware of. He indicated that we have an obligation to ourselves and to the people around us to identify those faults and to work on eliminating them.

My daughter Teresa recently told me about a boy in one of her college classes who is incredibly lazy. She said that everyone in class, including the teacher, knows that he’s lazy. The problem is that the boy doesn’t realize how lazy he really is, and he isn’t aware of the fact that everyone around him has noticed how lazy he is. I expect that the boy would be horrified if he was made aware of the fact that his teacher and classmates have noticed that he has a serious problem with laziness.

Because of our fallen human nature, each of us has faults that are tied to one or more of the seven capital sins: pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, and sloth.

March 25, 2017

So Unfair Dad

After I published my recent article about how various local politicians, businesspeople, and former Caterpillar employees behaved after the announcement that Caterpillar was moving its headquarters to Chicago, I received an email from a man who is employed by Caterpillar in an upper-management position. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “James.”

James is in his 50s, and I’ve known him for more than 20 years. He began working for Caterpillar after he graduated from college. James has always been a loyal and dedicated employee of Caterpillar. He is very knowledgeable about the company. Here’s part of what he wrote in his email:

I agreed with all your points regarding personal reactions to the Caterpillar announcement to move its headquarters out of Peoria. I’d like to offer you a macroeconomic perspective, because corporations also have a responsibility to the communities wherein they reside, especially Caterpillar.

The entire central Illinois region is what it is today because of Caterpillar: good, bad and ugly. Caterpillar’s 92-year legacy in this region has created the community, and Caterpillar’s untimely departure will leave a hole that cannot be repaired. It’s not entirely wrong for people to be upset about that. I’ll give you one example that shows Caterpillar’s impact over this past century.

****

[W]e have a 92-year history of being the most technologically isolationist company on the planet. For the first 70 years it was a perfect strategy. Today, it would seem like lunacy, but consider what Caterpillar did in the post-WWII period. Caterpillar petitioned the local, state and federal governments not to build the interstate highway system through Peoria. Instead, a little watering hole called Bloomington became a thriving community that pretty much has never seen a real recession since then.

February 25, 2017

A Trip to the Theater

Topol - Farewell TourThere are a handful of people in America who are so well known that they are recognized by only one name. Some examples are Cher, Madonna, Hillary, and Rush. For people who have paid attention to theater for the past 40 or more years, there’s another man who is recognized by only one name: “Topol.”

His full name is Chaim Topol, and he’s an Israeli theatrical and film actor and singer. He is best known for his role as Tevye in the stage and film productions of Fiddler on the Roof. In 1972, he won a Golden Globe Award for his performance in the film.

During the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Topol reprised the role of Tevye in London, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. In 2009, he played the role of Tevye in a “farewell tour” that took place in the United States. In June of that year, my wife and I took several of our children to see Topol perform in Fiddler on the Roof at the Oriental Theater in Chicago.

The show was magnificent. Although Topol was 73 years old, he had the energy and stamina of a 25-year-old man. During intermission, we all agreed that God created Topol to play the part of Tevye.

If you’ve ever been to a production at a theater, you know that at the end of the show there is a “curtain call.” Wikipedia defines a curtain call as a final bow that “occurs at the end of a performance when individuals return to the stage to be recognized by the audience for their performance.”

The curtain call at the end of Fiddler was what you would typically see, with one unexpected twist. As usual, the performers paraded onto the stage to be recognized by the audience. Of course, the last performer to appear and take a bow was Topol. Then he and all the performers held hands and bowed one last time. The curtain then came down.

But the curtain call wasn’t over. Within five seconds, the curtain was raised again. Standing in the center of the stage, facing the audience, was one man — Topol. There was an immediate, deafening roar of applause from the audience that lasted for more than two minutes.

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