My older son, Patrick [the famous chess Grandmaster], and his wife, Diana Schneider, started a charitable fund several years ago. They raise money by putting on an annual conference that business people pay to attend and they distribute the funds they raise to worthy educational projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they live. I have from time to time mentioned University Scholarships for South African Students, a charitable 501(c)(3) fund which I started to help Black students to attend historically Black universities in South Africa. I think Patrick and Diana have raised more in the several years they have been running their conference than I managed to raise for USSAS in a quarter of a century.
This put me in mind of something once said to me by my younger son, Tobias. Tobias is not only a brilliant legal scholar. He is also in spectacular shape. When I see him and give him a parental embrace, I feel as though I were hugging a tree. He works out at gyms wherever he is. Eight years ago, when Susie and I moved to Chapel Hill, I started going each morning to the nearby Wellness Center, where I would walk for a half hour on the treadmill, slowly increasing the speed and raising the angle at which I was “climbing.” Like as not, right next to me would be a trim young man or woman running full tilt at an even greater angle. When I mentioned this to Tobias one day, he said, “Dad, there is always going to be someone faster or stronger than you. You must concentrate on your personal best.” That makes me feel better when I compare my rather feeble fund-raising with Patrick and Diana’s much more spectacular success.
I had occasion this morning to call up Tobias’ wise words yet again. My standard morning walk here in Paris takes me along the quais on the Left Bank, a favored route for runners. There are always dozens of men and women pounding past me, some wearing shirts with the message “Finisher in 20k Race” and the like. That does not bother me. I never liked to run even when I was a young man, so I just stand aside and let them breeze past me. But this morning a young woman in high heels, hurrying to work passed me, and that sort of depressed me. So I bethought myself of Tobias’ wise words, and concentrated on my personal best.
Of course, at my age, even that has slipped somewhat. My daily walk in Chapel Hill used to take me exactly one hour, but now it takes an hour and twelve minutes. I have, as they say in baseball, lost a few steps. I imagine that when I am ninety it will take me an hour and a half or more. I will cling to Tobias’ wisdom.