Service of Sayings

May 22nd, 2016

Categories: Awards, Hope


Ernie Anastos and Kathie Lee Gifford

Ernie Anastos and Kathie Lee Gifford

Hardly a month goes by without at least one email filled with beaux mots or insightful sayings. I enjoy most and wish that I could create some worth repeating.

I heard a few last Thursday spoken by presenters and winners at the 67th annual Christopher Awards.  I’ve written here about different aspects of the awards over the years. I’ve been lucky to help promote them. The awards are presented to authors and illustrators as well as film, TV and Cable writers, producers and directors whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” The Christophers, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity, is guided by the ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” which explains the gracious, uplifting atmosphere at the Awards.

Back to the sayings. One was “a tsunami in cultural change,” a powerful collection of words to describe the climate in which the series “When Calls the Heart,” [Sunday night on the Hallmark Channel], has nevertheless been successful—renewed for the fourth year and a winner of the Christopher Spirit Award. In the midst of the storm of self-centeredness, finger-pointing and negativity in much of society, this show, for family members to enjoy together, tells “universal stories with themes like forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice, courage, and banding together to help one another,” said Brian Bird, executive producer who also spoke the words above. “The characters on our show reflect those virtues and hopefully make a lasting impression on our viewers.”

As a presenter Kathie Lee Gifford, Today Show co-host, referred to “Bringing shalom to chaos.” In referencing “shalom,” she said she meant the word in its original definition–a sense of well-being and harmony–not the now familiar greeting.


Joseph Kim, author, "Under the Same Sky"

Joseph Kim, author, “Under the Same Sky”

Many of the stories told by winners do just this. One example is the story of Bard student and author Joseph Kim [photo right]. Today he looks and sounds like most college students, focusing, for instance, on how he’ll cover next semester’s tuition and board. But in his book, “Under the Same Sky,” you learn that his road to college was far from routine. Kim documented his journey from starvation and homelessness–his mother and sister escaped to China leaving him behind in North Korea. His new life here was made possible by activists and Christian missionaries. He hopes, some day, to find his sister–hence the book’s title.

In his book for children six years old and up, “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” Don Tate writes about a slave who taught himself to read and became the first southern African American man to be published. Tate’s goal was to present the topic of slavery as more than just an uncomfortable word and to demonstrate the poet’s relevance in children’s lives today. Too many kids graduate from high school functionally illiterate. Tate’s publisher, Margaret Quinlin, [photo below], Peachtree Publishers, accepted the award for him.

Ernie Anastos, honored with the Christopher Lifetime Achievement Award, quoted a Greek saying that he “had a wish to die young but as late in life as possible.” This remarkable newscaster has been at it nonstop since he worked at a radio station at 16. He shared his frustration when he says, “Good evening,” to his audiences–he’s the news anchor at 6 pm on Fox 5–only to proceed to prove it’s not, which is why he focuses on positive news. He said you are measured not by what you’ve learned but by what you’ve taught.

The Greek saying reminded me of the bravery of the subjects of some of the winning books who, while young, sacrificed self for cause. Two young Jewish women in Meg Wiviott’s book for young adults, “Paper Hearts,” risk death in Auschwitz by creating a forbidden birthday card. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills lost all his limbs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He fought through painful rehabilitation and today lives a full life as husband, father and veterans advocate. His story is in the book “Tough As They Come.”

Can you name other initiatives that emphasize the positive? Do you have favorite sayings?

Jim Wiviott, author Meg Wiviott and publisher Margaret Quinlan, Peachtree Publishers

Jim Wiviott, author Meg Wiviott and publisher Margaret Quinlan, Peachtree Publishers


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14 Responses to “Service of Sayings”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Try “Death be not Proud” by John Gunther. The book details the death of his son, John, in 1947 at the age of 17. Warning: Not for weak stomachs.

    I have no favorite sayings, on grounds that most are Pollyanna-like bromides, having little to do with reality. If pressed, the caveat of “beware of false prophets,” works well.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I look to verbal bromides sometimes. I post some on my bulletin board.

    Someone sent this one to me the other day: It is clearly vintage given that we can buy roses in the US all year long, nevertheless: “God made memories so we could have roses in winter and mothers forever.”

    This one was attributed to the Greeks: “When he/she was going to ________[fill in the blank], you were already on your way back.”

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    Regrettably the wise sayings I rely on whether spoken or unspoken do not come to mind at this moment.

    The inspiring life story is that of Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger, French cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church (named by Pope John Paul II) and also Archbishop of Paris from 1981 until his resignation in 2005. He was created cardinal in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. In 1940 when the Germans occupied France his parents sent him and his sister, Annett, for safety, to a Catholic woman in Orléans. Aaron, at 13, against the wishes of his family, converted to Catholicism. He was baptized Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger.

    After the war he studied literature at the Sorbonne. He went on to the Seminary for the Carmelite fathers culminating in ordination in 1954. Cardinal Lustiger’s religious persona was a mixture of tradition and modernism. He resolved the difficult matter of moving a convent of Carmelite nuns which, to the dismay of many Jewish leaders, was installed very near the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. (His own mother had died in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943.)
    He had a crisis of faith in Catholicism in the 1970’s but his belief in Catholicism remained until his death. He never denied his Jewish origins disagreeing with the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israle, Yisrael Meir Lau, a concentration camp survivor who challenged him. In response he said, “To say that I am no longer a Jew is like denying my father and mother, my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am as Jewish as all the other members of my family who were butchered in Auschwitz or in the other camps.”

    The Cardinal died at 80 after a long and multi-faceted life, which comprised, as the New York Times said, being “An early champion of interfaith relations. “I believe he saw himself as a Jewish Christian, like the first disciples,” said Gilbert Levine, the conductor and a close friend of the cardinal.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What an inspirational story, very much up the alley of the Christophers and the winners this and in 66 prior years! People whose parents come from different cultures can relate to the Cardinal as well as those who come to this country from another one and become citizens here. If I went to live elsewhere, I am not sure I would be able to change nationalities…and if I did, I’d always be an American at heart.

    This year, in addition to “Paper Hearts” that takes place in Auschwitz–the book for young adults that I mentioned in the post–there was a winning book for pre-school children, “One Good Deed,” published by Kar-Ben that publishes children’s titles with Jewish content. I don’t have a clue, and I don’t think that the people who select the winners know, what the religions of many of the winners are [unless a book is written by a Catholic priest or nun, a rabbi or other religious person, obviously]. Awards are given for the positive, uplifting message–be it a book, film, TV or Cable show–not according to the creator’s religion.

  5. hb Said:

    Ever since I first heard it quoted in childhood many years ago, my favorite aphorism has been one attributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, prince de Bénévent, then prince de Talleyrand, the long enduring and most flexible French bishop, politician and diplomat: “Surtout pas trop de zèle.” (Above all, not too much zeal.)

    We are far too eager to approach changes, especially in the sciences and technology, with the reckless abandon of “Damn the torpedo’s, full steam ahead!”

    Goodness knows what sort of trouble we will end up in as a consequence.

  6. Hank Goldman Said:

    Sorry but I have to get negative on you. No that’s not the catch phrase!

    For the most part catch phrases sound great but do they really help? Like saying about the deceased, they have gone to A better place? Who really knows?

    And all of these, pick yourself up and dust yourself off, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, phrases, sound good but are very very very tough to perform.

    Wish I had more positive thoughts, Jeanne.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You make a good point which is why The Christophers honor stories, be they in print or on film, that inspire hope because many really happened or are based on things that happened–the ultimate lemonade from lemons situations.

    I’ve written before of a Sunday night ritual of mine many years ago when, as I did the week’s ironing, I’d listen to the replay of that morning’s sermon at the Marble Collegiate Church by Norman Vincent Peale–who is long dead. His “you can do it” attitude appealed to me.

    As for telling people that their loved one has gone to a better place, regardless of belief you could say this with assurance if they were suffering from disease before they died, or were starving or tortured as anything would be better. Choosing words to respond to death is like choosing words to fire someone from a job: Nothing will be right, but being there for the living or the person who has lost her/his job is what counts.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Funny, perhaps because my dad was a Frenchman who vigorously defended his viewpoints with more zeal and passion than most Americans in the day, I relate “Surtout pas trop de zèle” with the approach of New Englanders.

    As increasing numbers of giant businesses and national banks are hacked, not to speak of friends’ computers who work for small companies and lose everything because they won’t play ball and pay ransom to retrieve their files, I agree that we raced into the Internet scene without knowing how to keep out the bandits. New Yorkers are especially prone to the HURRY UP, but clearly, we are not alone. Newscasters want to be the first to declare election winners or any news at all before confirming the facts and now we have a candidate for President who declares that terrorism took down a plane over the Mediterranean last week before the information is confirmed. Speak of an example of “Damn the torpedo’s, full steam ahead!” at its most reckless.

  9. hb Said:

    It’s interesting that you bring up hacking and the presidential campaign.

    Were you aware that President Eisenhower in his farewell address, famous for his warning against the growing power of the military-industrial complex, just as forcefully warns the country against the dangers of our losing control of the advances we make in our scientific and technological capabilities? (Listen to the speech on the Eisenhower Library web site. It is short and quite moving.)

    As the late William F. Buckley was fond of reminding his readers and listeners, the president was a firm believer in “Surtout pas trop de zèle.” And he was from Kansas, not New England.

    Had we listened then, we wouldn’t have the mess we have now.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I knew what President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex but not the implications and impact of speedy advances in technology and science. Where it affects curing disease, I’m all for moving as quickly as possible, with “as possible” being the key words. We don’t want to end up with repercussions similar to babies born with abnormalities as a result of their mothers taking Thalidomide. I was reminded of this horror on a recent “Call the Midwife” program.

  11. Ernie Anastos Said:

    Thank you so much, what a wonderful evening with the best people!

  12. Martha Takayama Said:

    Congratulations! SINXARITIRIA Mr. Anastos !

  13. DManzaluni Said:

    I suppose current republican tribulations with their looney demagogue would exemplify the old Russian proverb

    ‘The Blaze in my neighbour’s hayrick warms the tea in my samovar’

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’d not heard that one! And I had to look up “hayrick” which is, as I’d guessed, “hayrack.” What a powerful image.

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