Archive for December, 2015

Edward Glenn Biggs, 1932 – 2015

“What kind of banker are you?” a rancher asked Glenn Biggs when he arrived at First National Bank of San Antonio in 1970.

Biggs replied, “Well, a bank is like a heart that circulates money throughout the -”

“I’ll tell you what kind of banker you are,” interrupted the rancher. “You’re just like the one who renewed my loan for years, but when times got tough and I couldn’t pay, he called my note!”

“What did you do?” Biggs wondered.

“I begged and begged and he finally said, ‘I’ll make you a deal. You didn’t
know this, but I have a glass eye. If you tell me which one it is, I’ll extend your note.’

“When I picked the correct eye, he asked, ‘How did you know?’ I said, ‘Sir,
I perceived an ounce of compassion in that glass eye.’”

Each time Mr. Biggs told that story, it was better than the last. His jovial
yet commanding presence hung you on every word.

Edward Glenn Biggs died on May 26, in the year of his Lord two thousand fifteen. He was 82.

I first met Glenn when he interviewed me for a job at Texas Heritage Bank
where he served as chairman. We met at Denny’s. He obviously wasn’t concerned about impressing me.

But I left breakfast impressed by him and would be almost daily for the next six years. And not just by his contact list which included Fortune 500 CEOs, university presidents and U.S. senators, but also by the way he treated the cleaning crew and the receptionist.

“Once we boarded a flight from Dallas to San Antonio,” an associate recalled. “Glenn walked down the aisle high fiving dozens of people who knew and respected him. I slipped to the lavatory. When I returned, Glenn was embracing a flight attendant who was going through a tough time.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. You felt like his best friend because you
were. His heart was that big.”

Readers may remember Biggs as San Antonio’s CPS Energy board chair or as CEO of an effort to bring high speed rail to Texas in the early 90s. How nice would that be now when I-35 is a parking lot and airport security is a zoo.

“Glenn walked among leaders in the community,” a friend of forty years remembered. “They knew him and he knew them, but I but I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him. Usually standouts get crossways with some people, but that never happened with Glenn.”

Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher thwarted the high speed rail project, for example, but Biggs still called him friend.

That didn’t mean the six-four, 250-pound frame stood without principle. Once he came into the break room looking for a soda. As he closed the fridge I said, “Mr. Biggs, there was a Pepsi in there.”

He declined. The chairman of Pepsico had berated him and other Texas bankers in the mid-80s for causing the nation’s financial woes, Glenn explained.

“I haven’t had a Pepsi product since.”

As you might imagine, Mr. Biggs was quite quotable. “She’s stronger than
a Mexican plate lunch,” he might say about a determined woman.

Or this one, particularly poignant at the moment: “I hope you live forever,
and I’m the last one to say good-bye.”

Good-bye, Mr. Biggs. Your best friends miss you tremendously.

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Bottling Christmas

If there were ever a time to freeze frame time, it’s most certainly the week of Christmas. Bottle the spirit of this season and become a billionaire. Easily.

Nights are cold. Hearts are warm. Days are short. Light strands are long. The anticipation of a gift received is surpassed only by the joy of giving.

If you’re like me, your list of people to buy for is longer than you ever imagined. Six months ago, you had no idea you cared about half of them. Suddenly, like an angel in a dark sky, you want to say thank you. Maybe even I love you.

It’s a season of miracles. You find a unique gift at a department store. You find an affordable one at a boutique. Traffic is lighter than you expected. You don’t mind hearing Carol of the Bells for the 234th time.

You think about families who have too little and people who have no families. You think about bare cupboards and sparse fridges. You consider trees with no gifts and homes with no trees. You even do something about it.

You grab a paper angel off an artificial tree. You fill a shoebox and wrap a gift. You wonder what it would be like to receive them. You remember life is relative and that kids in trailer parks laugh as hard as kids with a view. It’s about joy, not stuff.

You drop a few bucks into a kettle and say a prayer for the man at the stop light. You might also lift one up for his dog. Even animals get prayers this time of year.

You hit a movie, maybe a love story, and the popcorn tastes even better than you remember. You stay through the credits. You don’t dwell on tomorrow’s trials. You don’t dread getting up early to face them. You relax.

You recall the highs of the year but also the redemption in the lows. “I didn’t get that job, that relationship ended, my daughter struggled to carry on, but I can now see why. The smoke has cleared.”

You attend a Christmas Eve service and hear the town’s best voice belt O Holy Night. You close your eyes and it’s Mariah to your untrained ears. You go to dinner afterward. You leave 35%.

You see a child and remember what it’s like to want something so much, you can’t sleep. You try to imagine what that might be for you today. You may even write things down and review them come January.

You hear the year’s best jokes from Uncle Larry. You see Susie’s dance recital on Grammy’s smartphone. You cry with an aunt who retired too early. Her husband of thirty years just left.

You give someone the benefit of the doubt. You notice something redeeming in an in-law. You linger at the table a little longer and give more of yourself than usual.

You ponder joy and its source. You think about the sources you’ve tried and the mixed results you’ve gotten. You question whether a virgin birth really happened, and, if so, why God came so humbly.

You recall the baby who, for the joy set before him, endured a tortuous death, rejected its shame and returned whence he came to prepare a place for us. Joy – to the world and back.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Marriage makes a difference to kids

Besides getting kidnapped or being eaten by the pack of lions that routinely appeared in a recurring nightmare of my youth, my greatest childhood fear was that my parents would divorce.

Judging from the anger that some of my friends have experienced related to the divorces of their parents, I suspect I’m not alone.

Despite the periodic rationales we hear from people who argue their divorce was best for all those involved, most people intuitively know divorce is not ideal for children, abusive situations notwithstanding.

Still, many presumably intelligent people have argued over the last half-century that divorce and other nuclear family alternatives (single-parenting, blended families, etc.) have no negative impact in the development of children. That line of reasoning appears to be coming to an end.

An academic journal produced jointly by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and The Brookings Institution recently reported that the question is no longer IF marriage provides the optimal environment for kids. The question is only WHY it does.

“Most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes,” writes editor-in-chief Sara McLanahan in the fall 2015 edition of The Future of Children (www.futureofchildren.org).

The publication gives many benefits marriage provides for kids:

Parent coordination and stability, economies of scale, availability of insurance and social networks, income and net wealth, division of responsibilities, bargaining power and borrowing capacity, father involvement and parents’ mental and physical health.

Even when some of these benefits are provided in non-marriage situations through government and social programs, marriage still proves superior.

Researcher David Ribar: “Studies that control for the indirect effects of these mechanisms typically find that direct positive associations remain between children’s wellbeing and marriage, strongly suggesting that marriage is more than the sum of these particular parts.”

Contributor Ron Haskins notes that in the last 45 years, single mothering has increased by 120%, marriage rates have declined by 35%, nonmarital births have increased and half of all children will now spend at least some time in a single parent household before they turn 18.

According to Haskins, empirical data “definitively establish” that these trends have led to increased poverty, increased income inequality and harm to children’s growth and development.

Forty per cent of single mother households now live in poverty versus just eight per cent of married-couple families. And since 1974, the mean annual income of married couples has grown by $36,000 (in 2013 dollars), while single mother incomes have grown by just $8,000.

“Single parenthood affects not just children’s current economic circumstances but their economic circumstances once they become adults as well,” Haskins states.

Furthermore, family structure changes have had a spiral effect as lower income, lower educated people marry less and cohabitate more. It makes sense. A young mother on food stamps and a housing subsidy surely finds it difficult to dream of veils, flowers and chapels.

Contraception is offered as part of the solution, though birth control alone seems like offering a fish for a day versus teaching the self-control and self-respect that reels a lifetime of good decisions.

No easy answers will cure the ills created by the decline of marriage. However, intellectual honesty like that offered in The Future of Children can help reverse decades of counterintuitive family composition propaganda.

 

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 


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