“Bert & Ernie.” Illustration courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

What I learned from Bert and Ernie | On Faith

Last month I officiated the memorial service for a friend who recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Bert Pound moved into Covenant Shores about the time I began working there as chaplain. As I became acquainted with Bert, I also began to spend time with a retired college professor by the name of Ernie Dawn who was two years younger.

Both Bert and Ernie were remarkable men. In spite of their advanced age, they had a childlike enthusiasm and an ability to unwrap each day as if it were a gift. The more time I spent with them, the more I discovered aspects of their life I wanted to incorporate into my own.

While my three daughters watched Sesame Street religiously as preschoolers, they are not the only ones who owe a debt of gratitude to characters by the names of Bert and Ernie. I can honestly say my life is richer from the lessons the Bert and Ernie on Fortuna Drive modeled for me. Let me identify a few.

1) Celebrate past achievements.

Bert never tired of talking about being part of the University of Washington marching band. Bert took pride in knowing he was part of the UW during an exciting time in school history. As “The Boys in the Boat” were taking gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the boys in Bert’s percussion section were providing a cadence that found the football team headed to Pasadena. Bert proudly displayed his Husky letterman’s jacket that included a patch commemorating his participation in the 1937 Rose Bowl.

Bert’s look back at his accomplishments motivated me to follow his lead.

2) Invest in present opportunities.

Although crippled by a spinal injury and forced to use a walker, Ernie was no couch potato. The professor was an active member of the Covenant Shores investment club and a political think tank. Reading the New York Times and watching cable news programs were essential ingredients in Ernie’s daily diet. He found joy in a good debate on current events with other residents.

Watching Dr. Dawn greet each day with curiosity taught me the importance of remaining engaged with the world around me.

3) Let faith guide your future.

By his own admission, faith had not played a key role in Bert’s life. His wife had been the devoted churchgoer. But when she died, my friend expressed a desire to explore the spiritual dimension of his life and became a regular participant in my Sunday services. Offering unsolicited critiques of my sermons, Bert often noted I spent too much time challenging my flock to love the Lord and not enough time encouraging them to love their neighbor.

Bert taught me the importance of balance. After all, both “loves” were part of the Great Commandment. Perhaps it was his many years at Boeing that found him focusing on the fact that it takes two wings of a plane to fly.

Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is the full-time chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island. He is the faith and values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter and contributes original poetry each Blue Friday to KOMO news radio.