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Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians: Lessons from a Lifetime in the Church- A Memoir

Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians: Lessons from a Lifetime in the Church- A Memoir

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Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians: Lessons from a Lifetime in the Church- A Memoir

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493 pagine
9 ore
Sep 1, 2011


For the past half-century, C. Peter Wagner has been at the leading edge of the key spiritual paradigm shifts that have been accompanied by major moves of the Holy Spirit. In the 1960s the missionary movement in South America was at its peak--and Dr. Wagner was there. In the 1970s he was a recognized authority in the church-growth movement. In the 1980s he taught a popular course at Fuller Seminary with Vineyard movement leader John Wimber that advocated praying healing for the sick, spiritual mapping, identificational repentance and spiritual warfare. Dr. Wagner coined the phrase Third Wave to describe this fresh move of the Holy Spirit--the impact of which is still being felt today. In the 1990s he became a leader of the New Apostolic Reformation, and in the new millennium he has championed the Dominion Mandate, adopting the Seven Mountain (or 7M) template for reclaiming the culture for God's kingdom.

For five decades, Dr. Wagner has led the church from one great move of God to the next, riding the wave of the Spirit through changes he never imagined when he first answered God's call to ministry. In Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians, Wagner tells, for the first time, his personal story of ongoing transformation. Readers will get a close-up view of the seismic shifts in the church's recent history, through the eyes of one of the only people to have seen it all unfold.
Sep 1, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

C. Peter Wagner (1930-2016), Ph.D., authored more than 70 books, founded Wagner Leadership Institute and ministered regularly all over the world. With graduate degrees in theology, missiology and religion from Fuller Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Southern California, he served as a field missionary for 16 years and taught on the faculty of Fuller's School of Intercultural Studies for 30 years.

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Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians - Peter C. Wagner



Born and Raised


Why not start at the beginning?

This was at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital located at the foot of the George Washington Bridge on Manhattan Island. My father walked into the hospital, excited to see his newborn son for the first time. He got my mother’s room number from the reception desk, located the elevator and pushed the button for the tenth floor. On the way up, the elevator stopped on the fourth floor, and a nurse wheeled in a crib containing a little baby.

Here’s the way I heard my father tell the story: "I looked at the baby. It was so ugly! It had a pointed head and it was all covered with hair. I said to myself, I’m sure glad it’s not mine!"

You guessed it! It was! It was me.

True, I don’t remember the incident, but I heard my father tell that story so many times that I feel like I do. Whenever he told it everybody would laugh, including me. Fortunately, the way I turned out, I have a fairly round head and not much hair where it shouldn’t be. It didn’t take long for my father to be glad that the baby he saw was actually his after all. We ended up having a great relationship.

That was back in August 1930. My parents had married on what turned out to be the infamous Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929. This was more than unfortunate for the new Wagner family because, at the time, my father, fresh out of college, had landed a job on Wall Street. They lived in nearby Greenwich Village. Ten months later, I came along. I was born in the Presbyterian Hospital because that’s where my mother, originally from North Adams, Massachusetts, happened to be working at the time.

Why This Book?

Eighty years have gone by since then. For most of those years, writing a book of memoirs never even crossed my mind. In fact, I never had much of a taste for either biographies or autobiographies. As my personal library grew over the years, I ended up with a shelf of maybe 30 or 40 biographies, but I had read almost none of them. The moving story of missionary Jim Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty, was one of the few exceptions. I imagine that my anti-biography bias might have gone back to my early days as a Christian when I would read books like Praying Hyde or the story of David Brainerd, after which I would always feel miserable. Not only had I decided that I could never be like them, but deep down, I never really wanted to be like them. What did that feeling produce? A major guilt trip plus a gnawing sensation that I might be destined to end up a second-class Christian for the rest of my life because I could never live up to their standards.

So, a long time ago, I simply quit reading biographies. When I began thinking about it, I couldn’t help but notice that the biographers, by and large, had apparently been conditioned to highlight the accomplishments and not the blunders of their subject. Yes, some failures were mentioned from time to time, but only those carefully selected in order to set the stage for a subsequent victory over adversity, which ended up actually making the subject a hero. To me there was an uncomfortable distance between what was on the pages and real life. So one day, I decided to give my whole shelf of biographies to my colleague at Fuller Seminary, Bobby Clinton. Bobby had determined to read all the biographies he could get because he was constantly distilling material for his courses on leadership. I’ll get back to Bobby more than once in what is to come.

When I wrote my book Humility, I put my thoughts into print. I said, My close friends and my publisher have known for a long time that I will not allow a biography to be written on my life. I personally cannot get interested in reading Christian biographies because of their propensity toward living in the achievements of the past.¹

Not long after that, my publisher, Bill Greig III, began bringing up the subject of memoirs. My initial response was, Absolutely not! I referred him to what I had written in my book on humility that his own company, Regal Books, had published. However, that didn’t seem to faze him. He was probably thinking that if I was humble enough, I could admit that I had made at least one mistake in my book on humility! For about five years he persisted. He argued that over the years many people had come to regard me as a leader in the Body of Christ, that I had accumulated a measure of wisdom, and that I had a responsibility for an intergenerational impartation. Because I was an experienced author, the best vehicle for that impartation would be a book. He also pointed out that autobiographies are different from biographies. He admitted that biographies are sometimes exaggerated, but he challenged me to do an autobiography that would reflect humility rather than exaggeration. When he had worn me down enough, Bill one day persuaded me to promise him I would pray about it. I promised, but I must confess that I didn’t pray very much or too hard.

However, I must have prayed enough for God to enter the picture and begin to change my mind. I hadn’t talked about it with others before, but then, at one point, I decided to begin asking a few close friends what they thought. Without exception they urged me to launch out with the project. Eventually, I opened up enough to concede to Bill Greig that I would agree to write a book of memoirs, but sometime in the distant future. Mañana! But then when I mentioned this to my friends, they gently reminded me of the biological facts of the aging process. They pointed out that some people around my age range were beginning to check into nursing homes and couldn’t remember who visited them yesterday. They urged me to get going while I still had some of my wits about me. So when I was 76, I agreed to start moving on a book of memoirs; but I asked Bill to give me until my eightieth birthday to release the book.

Not long afterwards, my decision was reinforced by a word from Rick Joyner. I consider Joyner one of the most brilliant of our contemporary Christian leaders, so I pay careful attention to what he says. In one of his articles in The Morning Star Journal, Joyner promised his readers that eventually he would give them details of his early life, which is another way of saying that he would write memoirs. One of his reasons was based on Paul’s admonition that believers should recognize those who labor among you (1 Thess. 5:12). Rick helped me to feel that I have good biblical justification for this book.²

Older and Wiser

The other thing about the aging process is that as we get older, we almost involuntarily get wiser. I realize that wisdom is relative, so I could not claim that I am particularly wiser than anyone else my age. But what I do know for sure is that I am wiser today than I was when I was 30 or 40. From that I can probably assume that if I do write some things that I have learned through the years, they might be useful to others who are still 30 or 40. I, hopefully, could help them avoid some mistakes and also encourage them to break some new ground and shift some paradigms that otherwise they might not be inclined to do.

It was only after I had gone through that lengthy process that God specifically gave me a verse of Scripture as the foundation for this book:

Words from wise people are like spurs. Their collected sayings are like nails that have been driven in firmly. They come from one shepherd. Be warned, my children, against anything more than these.... After having heard it all, this is the conclusion: Fear God and keep his commands, because this applies to everyone (Eccles. 12:11-13, GOD’S WORD).

I can say up front that since the day I was born again, I have feared God and kept His commands. Perfectly? By no means! At times I have misunderstood Him, I have pushed ahead in my own ways before I heard His specific orders, I have shifted priorities upside down, I have made stupid decisions, and I could go on. But through it all, I did fear God, I kept the faith, I ran the race, and my foremost desire was to do His will 24/7. I can truthfully say with Paul, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).

Beginning Life

Back to the Great Depression. The decade of the 1930s was an unforgettable hinge point in American history. Never before had a modern industrialized nation suffered such an abrupt and prolonged economic free fall. Herbert Hoover was president when it began, and then he was defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, shortly after I turned two. I still clearly remember the words and music to the ditty: President Mr. Hoover says now’s the time to buy, so let’s have another cup of coffee and let’s have another piece of pie! That is probably my earliest memory, along with dropping my cash-register-shaped coin bank out of the fourth-story window of our apartment in Jackson Heights, in the New York City Borough of Queens, and seeing it smashed on the sidewalk below. Those were the days when replacements for things like that were out of the question, but all of us in that generation learned how to do without. Doing without became a very useful, ingrained characteristic; first, during the rationing of everything from sugar to shoes during World War II, and later, when Doris and I went to Bolivia as missionaries.

Although unemployment was hovering around 20 percent, my father somehow always managed to find enough work to make ends meet, even though our dinner at times consisted only of bread and gravy. Those were hard times, but I can’t remember anyone in the family ever complaining.

My grandmother, a recent widow of a country doctor from Upstate New York, where my father was born and raised, spent a good bit of time with us in the city. She was a trained nurse, an immigrant from Great Britain. Mum, as I called her, had a strong influence on my life. We never referred to the Bible, but she had me memorize some sound extra-biblical proverbs, such as, Waste not, want not is a maxim I will teach. Let your conscience be your guide and practice what you preach. Do not let your chances like the sunbeams pass you by, for you never miss the water ’til the well runs dry. I still recite this mentally on a regular basis.

Part of my nature has always been to have a strong work ethic, and my grandmother played a key role in ingraining this in me. One thing at a time, and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell was another of those proverbs that I have taken seriously and practiced ever since. My friends know that I have a one-track mind, which is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a burden. Even minimal dual-tasking is for me all but out of the question. Another big favor my grandmother did for me was to teach me to read before I enrolled in kindergarten. I believe this, more than anything else, is what enabled me to stay at the head of my class most of the way through school. I recall that in second grade the teacher excused me from the daily reading class and allowed me to develop my own personal reading program.

Just before I enrolled in kindergarten, my family moved across the Hudson River to New Jersey. It was in New Jersey that my father eventually found his career niche, namely, in the retail business. Those were the days when dress codes were different. Men wore suits and ties and hats even when riding trains and attending baseball games. Women also wore hats, which were much more diverse and colorful and extravagant than the men’s. Women’s hats were called millinery, and that became my father’s business. He managed outsourced millinery departments in large department stores. Whenever he was promoted, it would be to a larger store in another city. Around this time, my sister, Margo, came along, and we ended up as the only siblings.

My father’s frequent transfers established a family lifestyle that greatly benefited me for the rest of my life. I attended 13 different schools through my K-12 experience. Every time my parents would call a family meeting and inform us that we were going to move again, I would get excited. I loved the experience of making new friends, meeting new challenges, moving into a new home, studying under new teachers, trying out for new sports teams and exploring new cities on my bicycle. Even today I find that I have a hard time understanding parents who resist opportunities to move to a new location on the grounds that it might pull their children out of their comfort zone, although I realize that others have different sets of circumstances from mine.

I think that one of the reasons I have managed to find myself on the cutting edge of many new trends through the years is that as a youngster I never had the opportunity to settle very deeply into a comfort zone. Change for me was simply an acceptable and normal way of life, and I learned to enjoy it, even going so far as to desire it at times.

Choosing a Culture

One of the unusual privileges I had in life was the opportunity to choose my own culture. I grew up biculturally, namely, immersed in the cultures of both urban America and rural America. I found myself in an interesting situation. To some I was looked upon as a hick, and to others I was regarded as a city slicker. Those who don’t recognize the cultural differences between the two would have difficulty passing a test in anthropology. They are very significant. From the beginning I leaned toward the rural culture. That is why when the time for college eventually came, I enrolled in the Rutgers University College of Agriculture, majoring in dairy production. I loved the sight and smell of cows!

How did all this come about?

My parents socialized, as was the custom of the day. In those simpler days, the stimulant of choice was alcohol. When they married, Prohibition was in effect, but where there was a will there was a way. Speakeasies were plentiful in New York City, and so was bathtub gin. Another of my earliest memories was watching my father use coiled copper pipes and funnels and burners to produce homemade liquor. It had to be the early 1930s, because Prohibition ended about the time I turned three.

Life in the city was very hectic, and my parents felt that I would be healthier physically, and probably mentally, if I spent some quality time in the country where my grandmother lived. When I was about five, I clearly remember my father taking me to Grand Central Station, accompanied by my teddy bear. He had pasted a sign with my name on my shirt and tipped the Pullman porter $20 (a very generous tip in those days), launching me on my first solo train ride to St. Johnsville, nestled in the Mohawk Valley and the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains eight hours to the north. I loved it! This became a greatly anticipated annual event for years.

My grandmother enjoyed a good social position in the town of St. Johnsville, population 1,500. She had always been like a second mother to me. But she saw a wider horizon for me than just being in town. She happened to be aquainted with the Claus family of the adjacent farming community of Oppenheim. One of the daughters, Kate, had worked for my grandmother for a time as a maid. Mum made arrangements with Charles Claus, a widower, and his two daughters, Mary Ann and Kate, to take me for the summer as if I were a member of their family.

Charles Claus, whose nickname of choice was Shorty (even for me!), farmed about 100 acres with horses and milked eight cows. I still stand amazed at how families like that could survive in the middle of the Depression with so little. But they had milk, cream, butter, cheese and eggs from their cows and chickens; and they had fresh fruit and vegetables from their garden in the summer and canned fruit and vegetables in the winter, fish from the creeks and lakes, a deer in the fall and canned meat from butchering hogs and calves. Trips to the grocery store were mostly for flour and sugar.

On this farm there was no electricity, no tractor, no running water, no indoor plumbing, no milking machines, no barn cleaner. The only internal combustion engine was in a 1932 Plymouth coupe with a rumble seat, which provided the bare essentials of transportation. Few things have had a greater influence on my life than my years on the Claus farm. Even though I had to go back to the city for school, by then my preferred culture was rural, somewhat to the consternation of my urban parents. Social scientists would label the culture of Oppenheim as Northern Appalachian; but in common language, it was pure hillbilly. I clearly recall one trouncing I received when I came back from the farm one year and started using some of the rather earthy rural vernacular in my parents’ home!

What life-shaping influence did this have on me? I would say that first and foremost it taught me a solid work ethic. America was in a survival mode at the time, and on the farm, survival demanded work from dawn to dusk. There were no exceptions, not even for a five- or six-year-old boy. Play was reserved for occasions like Fourth of July picnics.

I graduated from Suffield High School in Suffield, Connecticut, in 1948. This is my yearbook photo at age 18.

My mother and father, Graham and Mary Wagner, are holding one-year-old Karen at Christmas, 1955.

At first, jobs were simple, like sitting on a stool and holding the cow’s tail while Shorty milked. Then I graduated to carrying milk and dumping it through the strainer into the milk can. Then I could bunch hay in the windrow so it could be pitched onto the hay wagon. Then I could turn the wheel of the grindstone while Shorty sharpened the blades on the cutting bar of the mowing machine. Then I could go down the road to the day pasture by myself and bring the cows home for evening milking. Then the big day came when I could drive the team of horses and even harness them. Meanwhile, I could shovel manure and clean the barn with the best of them. I was happiest when I was working, and I still am.

When I first started on the Claus farm, my grandmother paid my room and board. Soon, however, I was useful enough to earn my own room and board. Later, I was elated when Shorty would give me $20 for my summer’s work. In my mid-teens, I was offered a summer job by George Matis, who lived in St. Johnsville and farmed 250 acres, had electricity and a tractor and milked 35 cows. I took the job. George was paying me $20 per month, and I was feeling quite well off. I had been promoted!

While I did arrive there with a good work ethic, George taught me over several years how to work well. He taught me how to prioritize, how to persist until the job was done and how to pick up and put away my tools at the end of the day. Ever since then I have never been satisfied with a job half done or done poorly, and I have never been comfortable living in a mess. On Florence Littauer’s The 4 Temperaments personality profile, I turn out to be a choleric–melancholy. This clearly indicates my bent to leadership and organization and reflects what I learned from George Matis. I’ll tell more about the most important thing George and his wife, Frances, did for me in the next chapter.

Back to the City

While rural culture was my culture of choice, nevertheless, I was forced to live 75 percent of my life in the city. I have already mentioned that one thing that made this interesting to me was that our family kept moving to different cities and different states. Fortunately, my family was a functional family, which was still the American norm in those days. We loved each other, but we expressed our love by deeds rather than words. I never heard the words I love you from either of my parents, nor did I expect to. Neither my sister nor I found reason to display any serious teenage rebellion. Corporeal punishment was freely practiced in those days.

The work ethic I had developed was a bit more difficult to apply in the city than on the farm. In the city, children were supposed to play and grownups were supposed to work. I did manage to apply my work ethic to some extent in school where, combined with a desire for excellence, it pushed me to be first in the class for grade-point average, with only one exception that I can recall. In my freshman year in high school, in Buffalo, New York, I was beaten out by Richard Shushinsky. Richard happened to be Jewish, and ever since then, I have had a very high regard for Jewish people in general.

Later, a close call came as I was graduating from Rutgers University College of Agriculture, where the first in the class would receive the Borden Prize, given by the Borden Milk Company. Malcolm McVeigh and I were neck and neck, and I happened to squeeze him out by a point or two. That to me was justice, because Malcolm had never milked a cow, and I had been milking them since I was eight, so I felt I was the one who deserved the prize from the milk company.

Looking back, I must admit that my achievement at that point was a bit dimmed by the generosity of Mr. Keller, the professor of my senior course in agricultural economics. Somehow, I was not catching on to that course at all, and I was clearly headed for a C or worse. One day, Mr. Keller called me aside. He said, Peter, why didn’t you tell me that you had been elected to Phi Beta Kappa in your junior year? I simply shrugged my shoulders. So he said, I am not going to stand in your way of staying at the top. Your grade in this course will be an A! By then, I was a Christian, as I will explain later, and that became one of my best real-life examples of grace!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

One of my father’s passions was baseball. In those days, baseball was regarded as the undisputed National Pastime. The National Football League had started in 1920, but it didn’t gain public recognition until the 1940s. The National Basketball Association didn’t even begin until 1946. The World Series then was equivalent to what the Super Bowl is today. Those were the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Christy Mathewson and Bob Feller. Sunday morning the family would go to the city park where Dad played softball. One of my milestones in life was when I was allowed to be the oficial scorekeeper of the games. I remember seeing the Yankees playing in Yankee Stadium, the Giants in the Polo Grounds and the Brooklyn Dodgers in Ebbets Field.

Naturally, I went out for baseball in high school. I earned a varsity letter in my sophomore year, then added basketball and soccer and had three letters my final two years. All were team sports. I couldn’t get interested in individual sports such as track or tennis or golf or bowling or swimming. Looking back, I believe this helped to mold my character as a team player. I knew I could never win the game myself. Every win involved people on my team who could do some things better than I could. This made it relatively easy later on to understand what the Bible was teaching about spiritual gifts and also how apostolic ministry was to function. But more about those topics later on.

Sports teamwork also taught me about the true nature of leadership. Leadership is not all about the achievements of the leader; it is about helping every member of the team be all that he or she is supposed to be. The team is the winner, not any of the individuals, including the leader. This is the meaning of servant leadership. Somehow, I was never a stranger to leadership. More often than not, when the class would vote for a president or a student council representative, I would be the one. I never campaigned for these offices; they just seemed to come to me.

The first time I learned about campus politics was in my freshman year in college. A vote for the class president was scheduled, and I hadn’t been giving it much thought. One day a person I knew only slightly came up to me and told me he was running for class president. Would I be his campaign manager? I was a bit flattered, so I told him that I would, not really knowing what I was supposed to do. As it turned out, I didn’t have to do anything. He was sharp enough to recognize that I might be his strongest competitor, so he skillfully took me out of the running, and he went on to win the election. It was one of my first lessons in manipulation. I decided then and there that campus politics was not for me!

Finding Work in the City

With all I had going on, I still maintained a lingering desire to work. I landed my first city job when I was 10 or 11. That was when every drugstore had a soda fountain where customers could get sparkling drinks or ice cream sundaes or milk shakes. A drugstore hired me to tend their soda fountain for 10 cents an hour plus all I could eat. I loved the job, but I soon began looking for something that would pay better. We lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, at the time, and I got word that a newspaper delivery route for the Cleveland Plain Dealer had an opening. I had a good bicycle and was ready to go except that the minimum age was 12, and I was only 11. However, my father was able to speak to a decision maker somewhere and convince him that I could handle the job. So every afternoon, I folded my papers, tossed them on the customers’ porches and made the rounds once a week to collect the money. When I paid for my papers, what I had left over was mine, and it was not a bad income.

After we moved to Buffalo, New York, I expanded my business and landed two paper routes, one morning and one evening. That meant I had to get up at 5:00 every morning and deliver my papers before school. No problem for a boy who was accustomed to getting up to milk cows on a farm!

During my last two years in high school, we lived in the rural community of Suffield, in the Connecticut River valley just north of Hartford. The region was widely known for the highest quality of shade-grown tobacco used for cigar wrappers. I spent hours upon hours stripping leaves off the tobacco plants because it all had to be done by hand. Then I discovered an easier way to make spending money.

My dad had always been an avid poker player, and he taught me how to play. I became interested, so I bought some books and studied the science of the game, including the odds. Make no mistake about it, poker is much more a game of skill than it is gambling. It wasn’t hard to get my circle of friends interested in playing poker on a regular basis. There was no such thing as Texas Hold ’Em back in those days. We played simple five-card draw. My friends all loved the game, but I was the only one who had studied the odds. I don’t think anyone even noticed that over the period of maybe a year and a half, I never lost a sitting! They were having a good time, and I was enjoying their money! Everybody was happy.

Another job that lasted for more than a year came up at that time when, for some reason or another, radio station WTIC in Hartford asked me to appear on their Saturday morning teenage show, Mind Your Manners. The host was Allen Ludden, who was just beginning his rather illustrious career in media. Mr. Ludden and I hit it off well, so I became one of the permanent members of the panel of six, while most of the other panelists changed from week to week. I attribute whatever skill I might have had in manners to my British grandmother who was very meticulous and proper about how all things should be done. In her home, for example, all men—no matter what they had been doing during the day—were required to dress in a suit and tie for cocktails and dinner! WTIC paid me $10 per Saturday, and I think it was good training for the public speaking I would need to do later on in life.


English was always one of my favorite subjects, and I did most of my early writing for English classes. I was nine years old when I had my first writing published. Because so much of my subsequent career has been to write for publication, I think it would be interesting to some if I reproduced my first published article from the local newspaper:

The Day I Got Pneumonia

C. Peter Wagner, Fall 1939

One day I woke up with a little cough. We happened to have some cough drops. Mother thought I was just faking to get some so she sent me to school. At noon I had a high temperature and I went to bed. I woke up Saturday and I had a sharp pain in my left side. Mother called the doctor and he got here two and one-half hours later. He examined me and announced that I had pneumonia. He asked me if I wanted to ride in a car or an ambulance. I chose the car. I stayed in the hospital for ten days.

Well, you’ve got to start someplace!

Father and Son

If you have read this whole chapter, you will have concluded by now that the person who most shaped my character and my life during my first 20 years was my father. His full name was C. Graham Wagner. I have never been much of a counselor, and I think one of the reasons is that to this day I cannot understand the disproportionate number of people who are prone to complain about their fathers. Mine dished out plenty of discipline, and his tool of choice was the flat side of a huge wooden hairbrush applied to my bottom. Sparing the rod was something that never entered his mind. Looking back, however, I can’t remember a spanking I didn’t deserve!

One of our family crises came when I wrecked the family car. For most of the years during the Depression and World War II, we had no car. We simply walked, used bicycles or took public transportation. Finally, when we moved to Connecticut, the family could afford an automobile. It made a huge difference in our lifestyle, as one could well imagine. This was about the time I got my driver’s license. I think I was a senior in high school when I was minding my own business (of that I am convinced!) and another car and mine crashed into each other at a good speed. Our family car was totaled! I had no idea what to expect from my father, but I thought I would be in real trouble. Instead, as we began to recover from the initial shock, there was no rebuke, no guilt trip, no scolding, no discipline. The whole event was just one of those things that happens. At least for a couple of years, we once again had no family car. As much as anything else, this taught me how we could weather a family storm and keep relationships intact.

A similar memory goes back to a time, after the car wreck, when I was arrested for receiving stolen goods. This is why when I am asked if I have ever been arrested for a crime, I have to answer yes. We were playing a high school baseball game in another town, and while our team was up to bat and the players were on the bench, a man came up to me, showed me a nice wrist-watch and said I could have it for $4. I had never owned a luxury item like a wristwatch, and I happened to have $4 of my poker money in my pocket. So I closed the deal, thinking I had just made the best business transaction of my life. A couple of days later, a police officer showed up at our house, demanded the watch and handed me a summons. I never needed my dad more than I did then. He took the day off work, called my uncle, who had a car, and accompanied me to court. The judge saw that I was remorseful, and he acquitted me. But through it all, my father never scolded me. He supported and encouraged me, knowing that I would not make the same mistake again.

Decision Making

Perhaps I am most grateful to my father for his ability to take a hands-off approach and allow me to make important decisions early in life. I now see that this enviable characteristic rested on two premises: (1) he himself harbored no personal insecurities, and (2) he trusted that I would learn valuable life lessons both from my good decisions and my bad ones. A memorable crossroads came when I graduated from eighth grade and was ready for my freshman year in high school. In Buffalo, New York, where we lived at the time, there happened to be an elite private preparatory academy called Nichols School. Probably because of my grade point average in elementary school, Nichols School got in touch with my family and offered me a full scholarship. Should I go to Nichols or should I go to the public high school?

This surfaced a fascinating difference of perspective between my father and me. At the time, we clearly were not affluent, but we were upwardly mobile. He was raised the son of a physician, so he was used to moving in the upper levels of society. The Depression was a severe setback, but he never lost his desire for social status. Because he had studied for a year in Union College, he qualified for membership in the University Club of the cities where he was working. That was where he always began building personal relationships. While never at the top of the social ladder, he at least was usually on one of its rungs. When his son was offered a scholarship to Nichols, this became a major status symbol in his circles. His friends who did have children in Nichols would all have been

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