Saturday, May 10, 2008

One never forgets a kindness

About 25 years ago, George Wortley took my ten-year old son’s hands and placed them on the podium that stands in the well of the House of Representatives.

“You are standing,” he said, “in the exact spot where every President since Woodrow Wilson has stood to address Congress.” He then proceeded to name each President in sequence, concluding with Ronald Reagan who was then in office.

Mr. Wortley was the Congressman representing the Syracuse area from 1981 to 1989. In the early 80’s my older son and I visited him one day while we were in Washington, DC during the spring school break. Without an appointment we stopped at his office at noontime. When I introduced Mr. Wortley to my son, he eagerly said, “Let’s me show you the House,” then led us across the street for a cook’s tour of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Wortley handed my son his electronic voting card and asked him to swipe it, just as he did for Congressional votes. He showed him a table used by the Whips that still had bullet marks from a terrorist attack on the House in 1954. He took us to a room off the floor where Members of Congress used to smoke cigars and stay abreast of breaking news from teletype machines. He escorted my son to the Capitol rotunda and demonstrated how clearly one can hear a mere whisper.

I knew Mr. Wortley before his election to the House of Representatives. As a Syracuse businessman, he worked with me on projects for Community General Hospital and for my previous employers. I had not been politically active, nor was I a campaign contributor. I was just a constituent to whom he showed kindness when my son and I stopped to say, “Hello.” Mr. Wortley's enthusiasm for the Congress and for US history was contagious.

Mr. Wortley was kind to my younger son, as well. He provided a reference letter to the adoption agency when my wife and I were in the process of adopting our younger son, who is foreign-born. Later, after our son arrived in the US, Mr. Wortley sent him a touching personal letter of welcome.

I haven’t seen Mr. Wortley in many years. Since he left the Congress, he has worked in Washington, DC, and he lives in Florida. He recently co-chaired a fund drive for the lone sailor project in Fort Lauderdale (see the photo).

I keep tabs on Mr. Wortley through his brother, Ed Wortley, whom just about everyone at Community knows as the employee pharmacist. Ed tells me that George keeps tabs on Community too, occasionally reading my blog postings.

The kindness and enthusiasm of George Wortley came to mind when Ed and I visited for a few minutes on our way out of work yesterday. It prompted me to share these fond memories of our former Congressman.

One never forgets a kindness – it lasts forever.

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