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A Heartfelt Thanks to Andy Rooney

February 2012
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“There’s something wrong with anyone who’s never been fired from a job,” so states Andy Rooney in Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit(Public Affairs, 2009, p. 121). I found this gem of a book in hardcover yesterday at Books-A-Million for $5.97, and for an unemployed book lover like myself, it was a major find. Andy’s wit and wisdom always cheers me up and I smiled after I read that line because of the sting of being fired almost three years ago in Houston by my former boss who had a heart of stone (I’m still dealing with trust issues). And I was almost 57 at the time. And it hurt like hell. And I’m still unemployed.

Andy Rooney died on Nov. 4, 2011 at the age of 92 just three weeks after “retiring” after his 1097th appearance on “60 Minutes.” That’s the way I’d like to go if I ever find another job again, not that “60 Minutes” would ever hire me but that he kept busy making people think and challenging assumptions right up to the end. He was never afraid to state his mind and when he made mistakes he acknowledged them, even reading letters from some of his harshest critics on the air. And he apologized when he went over the line. That trait is quite rare. He was truly “one-of-a-kind.”

As quoted from a New York Times article written at the time of his death, “Mr. Rooney frequently said he considered himself ‘one of the least important producers on television’ because his specialty was light pieces. ‘I just wish insignificance had more stature,’ he once said.” There was no greater champion of “insignificance” than Andy Rooney, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the stature he gave to it. Life is lived out in the “insignificant” moments of our lives–insignificant to the world, maybe, but not to us. He wore our shoes and wasn’t afraid to tell others exactly how they felt. And, even though we knew how they felt, he championed our cause. There was absolutely nothing insignificant about Andy Rooney.

I really related to a section in his book titled “It’s A Writer Who Makes A Fool Of Himself” (pp. 108-110). I love to write although I’ve never been able to make a living at it. I’m a creative type in my own little world and in my younger years spent a lot of money trying to be an artist (my bachelor’s degree is in art and design). However, acrylics dried too fast and oils dried way too slow and watercolors, well–mine came off looking like mud. However, I always got high grades on the frames I had to build from scratch to frame them. Sometimes my analytic side takes my creative side hostage. Drawing, however, was my forte whether in pencil, ink, or charcoal. I could draw with the best of them.

Over the years, though, my favorite mode of creating has been with words. It doesn’t require a lot of money, like creating artwork does (just price art supplies if you don’t believe me). I’ve been known to scratch out notes on napkins in Denny’s for future reference. And, technology has been the greatest invention for writers. Who knew blogging could be so much fun? My laptop screen is like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with words (and pictures and YouTube videos of music to go along with those words). And all for the price of an inexpensive laptop and internet connection. Sweet.

But back to Andy Rooney . . . . He states, “Writing is difficult. That’s why there’s so little of it that’s any good. Writing isn’t like mathematics where what you’ve put down is either right or wrong. No writer ever puts down anything on paper that he knows for certain is good or bad” and a little further down on the page he asks, “When do I arrive as a writer?” (Ibid, p. 108). At the end of this short essay, he concluded “If writing is difficult, it’s also one of the most satisfactory jobs in the world…. I already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a writer. I wish I was a better one (‘were a better one,’ if you prefer, I don’t) but I enjoy being the one I am. If I was forced to choose between appearing on television and writing words to appear on paper, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. I’d give up television” (Ibid, p. 110). However, as we all know well about him, he was great at both.

At the moment my greatest note of gratitude to Andy Rooney is an essay in this book in a section titled “Plain-Spoken Wisdom” on the topic of “Trust” (pp. 141-143). I’ve had some rather significant issues with “trust” over the past several years, and it had reached an all time low point just this past week (you can read about it in my last blog post titled Love Never Fails).

Most of my life I’ve trusted people, even people I didn’t know well. Mr. Rooney states, “It’s amazing that we ever trust each other to do the right thing, isn’t it? And we do, too. Trust is our first inclination. We have to make a deliberate decision to mistrust someone or to be suspicious or skeptical. Those attitudes don’t come naturally to us” (Ibid, p. 141)I felt better after I read those words and I realized that my basic instinct to trust had not been wrong as the attitude to mistrust doesn’t come naturally to us. Our first instinct is to trust. He goes on to state, “it’s a damn good thing, too, because the whole structure of our society depends on mutual trust, not distrust. This whole thing we have going for us would fall apart if we didn’t trust each other most of the time . . . . We do what we say we’ll do; we show up when we say we’ll show up; we deliver when we say we’ll deliver; and we pay when we say we’ll pay. We trust each other in these matters, and when we don’t do what we’ve promised, it’s a deviation from the normal.”

“A deviation from the normal” . . . that’s been the kicker for me for these past few years. It seems as if society as a whole has deviated from the normal when it comes to trust especially in the past decade or so. People say, “you can trust me,” with their fingers crossed behind their back. Trust, like truth, has entered “the Postmodern Zone.” People have become sincerely “insincere.” And it’s hard to trust insincere people, even when they smile brightly.

“It happens often that we don’t act in good faith and in a trustworthy manner, but we still consider it unusual, and we’re angry or disappointed with the person or organization that violates the trust we have in them. (I’m looking for something good to say about mankind today)” as Mr. Rooney continued in his essay. “I hate to see a story about a bank swindler who has jiggered the books to his own advantage, because I trust banks. I don’t like them, but I trust them. I don’t go in and demand that they show me my money all the time just to make sure they still have it.”

“. . . There isn’t time in life to distrust every person you meet or every company you do business with. . . . It’s interesting to look around and at people and compare their faith or lack of faith in other people with their success or lack of success in life. The patsies, the suckers, the people who always assume everyone else is as honest as they are make out better in the long run than the people who distrust everyone–and they’re a lot happier even if they get taken once in a while” (Ibid, pp. 142-143).

His words have given me food for thought today as I try to work my way back from the level of distrust I’ve been feeling. I’ve been hurt a lot in these past three years, and even when I’ve forgiven people who have hurt me and tried to trust in them again, some of them just turned around and hurt me again. And that, folks, gets really, really old. There are some people out there that I can forgive but cannot trust again because they have proved, on more than one occasion, that they can’t be trusted. However, the words of Andy Rooney have helped me to see that just because I know from experience that I cannot trust a few, I don’t want to turn my world into varying shades of gray on the whole trust issue with everyone I meet.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). It’s hard to live at peace and get along with everybody holding a wary eye of distrust at the outset. As Andy Rooney stated in his essay, “There isn’t time in life to distrust every person you meet or every company you do business with” and that’s so very true.

I think I have my perspective back on this issue of trust, and for that, I owe Andy Rooney a debt of gratitude. And even when all else fails, we can always:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
   and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways acknowledge him, 
   and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6)

Photo credit here


1 Comment

  1. drcristy says:

    Thank you for your honesty. It is rare to find people who will talk about things like this and share the wisdom you have shared in the process. I pray for you often, that God would bring you to a place of great blessing and give you a platform to affect and influence others. What you have to say is needed by so many people!
    Just yesterday my husband and I led a retreat for men and women at our church. We do this every other month and have seen amazing freedom to come in the midst of the drama that life has dealt the participants. Yesterday was no exception.
    By far, the most freeing thing is to be able to forgive those who have wronged you, a topic that you often write about. If most people understood the cancer that unforgiveness creates in our souls, they would run to the altar of forgiveness. You articulate very well with humor and wisdom your own journey to forgiveness. It is definitely a choice that our emotions don’t always agree with. And trusting those people again can be hard – and might not even be required from God in some cases (abuse comes to mind). But trusting others is a gift that we can give them before they ever have a chance at offense.
    If I can encourage you in anyway, it would be this: “don’t stop!” Your words have impact and we need to hear them. I now have yet another book to read…..thank you!
    Dr. Cristy


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