by Ed Shadid
Oklahoma City – The day after Bob Lemon’s passing on October 22, I was riding in my car with my teenage children. I was explaining why I was sad at his death: That Bob was humble, tried to make the world a better place by investing his financial resources in the community rather than purchasing material goods for himself, and that he greatly extended his lifespan by disciplined diet and exercise.
To which, my daughter said, “You should be more like Bob Lemon.”
The irony is, I was thinking the same thing – that Bob’s life, perhaps more than any other I knew, provided a blueprint for how to achieve health and happiness.
And, while one could discuss dozens of Bob’s attributes I want to mention three:
Bob knew that if you are healthy you are wealthy, and that you have to be in the game to make a difference. He was told at 19 years old that he had Juvenile diabetes and that the best case scenario was that he would like in his 40s.
Despite that, he went to law school and raised children. With the help of his loving wife and daughter Robyn, he used the discipline of a healthy diet, diabetes management and exercise to extend his life four decades further than predicted.
There is a phenomenon where those whoa re able to elude death see an accentuation of their personal traits such as altruism, and I think Bob may have had that.
The second attribute was the way in which he invested in community. Although he may not have received the same notoriety, he was a philanthropist as important as any other in Oklahoma City. He obviously learned at an early age that investment in experiences and in community was more important than material wealth.
I love the story of Bob traveling, on his way to Booker Texas, more than 50 years ago. He stopped to help an African-American family whose car had broken down on the way to the Liberal, Kansas, airport. Bob said, “Drop me off at my stop, and just take the car and leave it at the airport with the keys inside.” He never knew their name or contact information but gained an experience which gave him and his family joy for decades.
Finally, Bob took the extra stop that many of us are unwilling or unable to make. Bob knew that to make lasting change he needed to reach out to those who didn’t see the world the same way, and find common ground; that, as progressives, we can’t just speak in an echo chamber amongst ourselves.
About ten years ago, Bob invited a wealthy businessman from edmond who had withdrawn his financial support for a seminary because of their LGBT advocacy.
Bob invited the businessman to hear Robin Meyers give a talk at Mayflower Congregational Church about LGBT rights. At the end of the sermon, the congregation stood and gave a standing ovation. On any other Sunday, Bob would have been the first to stand and the last to sit – but seeing that his guest was uncomfortable, he sat with him and did not rise, out of solidarity and respect. Bob knew that if his guest heard just one thing he could accept, progress would have been made.
Bob knew that change requires that we plant seeds of trees whose fruit we will never see. He gave us a blueprint for health and happiness, and if we follow it – if we all become a little more like Bob Lemon – we will ensure that his impact on the world continues for generations.
Note: Dr. Ed Shadid is the Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council