He coughed.
I couldn’t believe it. On a quiet Saturday morning, rather than just appearing in my doorway and scaring the living daylights out of me, John Hammer coughed . . . and let me know he was there without the usual heart attack.
He had a present in his hands as well. We both knew from the nice ribbon and elaborate bow on top that he didn’t wrap it.
“Just wanted to drop this off,” he shrugged. The missus thought you and your family might enjoy it.”
“Thank you so much, John,” I managed. He didn’t know it but his would be delivered at his house any day. “Got big plans for the holidays?” I asked.
“Nah,” he rumbled. “We’re right where we want to be.”
I wasn’t surprised. I simply don’t know anyone more grounded than the giant of a man called Hammer. But I also couldn’t let him leave without asking for his take on our new president and the turmoil surrounding the transition.
“Problem is, we have too many conservatives in this country,” he said.
Whoa! I expected a lot of things. Didn’t see that coming.
“We have too many liberals,” he continued. “And the real problem is we don’t have enough Americans.”
Too many conservatives, too many liberals . . . not enough Americans. Leave it to Hammer to wrap it up so perfectly.
“We got to get away from lines of disagreements turning into lines in concrete,” he said. “We’ve got to acknowledge that you and I think differently. There. Is. Nothing. Wrong. With. That. I can think we should go left and you can think we should go right and we shouldn’t get mad at each other. I’ll tell you what it’s about, Timmons. It’s about respect.”
I always listen to Hammer, but sometimes when he talks I truly wish more people were listening.
“Somehow, somewhere in this country we lost sight of the fact that we’ve always been a nation of disagreements. We disagree about an awful lot of things. Hell the country was founded because we disagreed with a king about the big ticket items, money, religion and politics.”
He stopped. As big as he is, it seemed like he shrunk just a little bit.
“We’ve lost that ability to disagree and still respect each other,” he said, his voice a little quieter. “I don’t know why and I’m not real sure when, but it’s surely gone and I don’t know if anyone knows how to get it back.”
“Maybe it’s not as bad as you think,” I offered. “Maybe this is one of those things that we remember through our own eyes, like walking to school, uphill, both ways.”
Humor wasn’t working.
“I wish,” Hammer said. “It doesn’t matter which side, things go from zero to ugly in about two seconds. We’ve got mean-spirited people in the media, on Facebook, in person, you name it. They’re not getting fewer, they’re multiplying.”
“So what is the answer, John?”
“I really don’t know,” he said. “Maybe it’s as simple as listening more and talking less. Maybe it’s things like being understanding instead of outraged. Maybe we shouldn’t try to make everyone conform to the way we think things ought to be.”
He paused. “I do know this, Timmons. I know that the older I get the more I appreciate things. I hope maybe that’s contagious. Merry Christmas, Timmons.”
“I hope so, too, John. I hope so, too.”

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at ttimmons@thepaper24-7.com.