A news videographer friend I met long ago in Toronto was always amazed — and exasperated — by how myopic all of us down here in the United States are.
"It's as if there's a two-way mirror on the border between our countries," he said. "We can see you, but all you ever see is a reflection of yourself." Ouch. That hurt.
He knew all about our government. He knew which senators were Democratic and which were Republican; he knew which were right wing and which were left. Today, I'm sure he knows which politicians send pictures of their junk over their phones and which of them favor the right of a woman to choose, favor the legalization of pot and oppose eavesdropping on private phone conversations.
Me? When we met, I knew the name of the president of Canada, the approximate standing of the Blue Jays, the fact they gave us Dan Aykroyd and a few other details I'm ashamed to admit … like you can see Niagara Falls much better from Canada, and it's a pain having Canadian pennies in your wallet.
I was embarrassed to be one of those people from the United States who care only about themselves.
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Renate Schulz of Clearwater is a 73-year-old woman who has lived in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer twice in her life. She was in Nigeria in 1962 and in Mali in 2011.
She sandwiched a life as a mom and a professor in between. She was a researcher, lecturer, writer and scholar.
When being interviewed for this month's cover story about serving in the Peace Corps after retirement, Schulz was asked, "Why would you encourage older people to serve in the Peace Corps?"
"We need to be reminded there are other places in the world," she said. "It's not just the United States and our preoccupation with 'things.' "
It was as if she had flung those words out of a bucket, and as they washed over me, I once again felt the embarrassment of being just another American rube — unaware of the ways the rest of the world lives.
Thank heavens for compassionate, adventurous and wonderful ambassadors like Renate and all her fellow Peace Corps volunteers who put a face on the United States we rubes can be proud of.
A love story — for us
There is no dearth of love stories on TV.
Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary on Downton Abbey.
Jim and Pam Halpert on The Office.
Phil and Claire Dunphy on Modern Family.
And even Homer and Marge Simpson on The Simpsons.
Different stories, different lovers, with one thing in common: They are all relatively young couples.
What about the rest of us? We fall in love, too.
Enter Last Tango in Halifax, a six-part series produced for the BBC about a pair of retirees who rekindle an earlier almost-romance late in life. It's a well-written, well-acted story about the joining of two people — and meshing of their two rather dysfunctional families.
The series won best drama series this year at the 2013 British Academy Television Awards.
After the awards ceremony, 78-year-old actor Anne Reid, who plays Celia to 74-year-old Derek Jacobi's Alan on the show, said, "I am so happy the BBC has decided to do love stories about people who are over 35 because some of us do have quite interesting lives when we get to 70."
Last Tango in Halifax will air locally at 8 p.m. Sundays starting Sept. 8 on PBS station WEDU.
1 in 10; 1 in 4
Last month, the LifeTimes cover story was about the rising divorce rates of people over 50.
A misinterpretation of the data provided by the Bowling Green State University researchers who conducted the study resulted in an embarrassing error.
The story should have said: In 1990, one of every 10 people who were divorced was 50 or older; in 2010, that number grew to one in four. The numbers were in the wrong context.
The part that wasn't wrong is that there are a heck of a lot of us over 50 — and the number keeps growing — who aren't in it for the long haul.