Humor is truth delivered from a fresh perspective. That’s why John Stewart and Steven Colbert are often more prescient purveyors of events than CNN or Fox News. Jean Holm, a Utah grandmother with Will Rogers’ demeanor, is funny because her no-nonsense delivery and pithy maxims are refreshing anecdotes in a world that is simultaneously overly complex and uber sensitive. The night I visited Jean’s daughter Margaret and Margaret’s boyfriend Matthew in Houston, Jean was in fine form; though I imagine her homespun euphemisms and hysterical commentary on our entitled society are funny and insightful any night of the week.
“I think what you’re doing is marvelous and I think you’re crazy.”
Regular readers will note that I’ve met many Mormons along my way, far more than their proportion of our total population. Yet I haven’t met any like Jean, a former Mormon born in Ogden, where she still lives. “I am wealthy. I have a roof over my head and a toilet that flushes.”
Margaret’s nursing career brought her to Texas. “I was a floor nurse. I wanted to see the bigger picture of healthcare: philosophy, politics and economics.” Margaret got a Master’s degree, became a hospital administrator for Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, and moved to Houston to be Director of Quality for MD Anderson Cancer Center and then for Texas Children’s Hospital.
When Margaret’s ranch house in Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood flooded during a storm on Memorial Day 2015, water came three inches into the house and ruined all the sheetrock. She moved out for six months, got a complete interior renovation, and just returned in January. Jean came to visit for a month to help move back in.
“By the yard, life is hard. By the inch, its a cinch.”
Margaret met Matthew when she contacted his antique and restoration company to have a piece of furniture refinished. He’s been in the antiques business for 30 years, though he admits to finding all kinds of things in dumpsters. “I collect junk and sell antiques.”
To which Jean retorts, “In my day and age, if you collect things, it showed you had wealth, discretionary income. Now the symbol of wealth is time.”
Matthew told the story of Jean buying groceries. The total was $1.68. “Jean took out her purse, said she had exact change, and proceeded to lay out a dollar bill, a quarter, another quarter, a dime… By the time she got to the nickel the line was long and someone offered to just give her two dollars.”
“People are in such a rush and so inexact.” Jean completed the story. “I had the exact change and that’s what I paid. No more, no less.”
Margret exhibited the same careful deliberation Jean demonstrated counting change when I asked, “How will we live tomorrow?” Before she replied, Margaret asked about each of the five words and why I selected them. Her response reflects her precise and analytical mind.
How will we live tomorrow?
“The values we learn in life and how fast you want to change will determine our tomorrow. Too many people go too fast. My philosophy is, ‘Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.’” -Jean (she declined to be photographed)
“Look at our soil and our water table. People are getting cancer every day. We have to live in a way that better reflects the reality of our world and the toxins we stir into it.” – Matthew
“I see us as a society continue to accelerate our activities. We call it innovation but I wonder if it is. In all the environments I’ve worked, people say ‘we’re so busy’. We’ll continue on that pattern for some time, but eventually we will back off and move into living, breathing, and a more calm state.” – Margaret