As with last night’s debates, so often when I hear Joe Biden talk I get happy. It’s less about his politics, with which I don’t always agree, and more about two things that stand out with him:
First, the guy has heart enough for a community of people. He lost his wife and youngest child just as he turned 30 and he responded to that heartbreak in ways that most of us could never have done. He elected to commute daily, by rail, an hour-and-a-half each way, to Washington so that his sons could stay and grow up at their home in Delaware. They had lost half the foundations of their lives; he didn’t force them to give up so much else of what they knew and could trust for the sake of his career. He has said he “liked to [walk around seedy neighborhoods] at night when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight … I had not known I was capable of such rage … I felt God had played a horrible trick on me.” He continues to honor the wife and daughter he lost (he never works on December 18, the anniversary of the car accident that took them). At the same time, after five years, he managed to walk on, meeting and eventually reforming his family with Jill Tracy Jacobs, to whom he has been married 25 years. There’s a bit of old wisdom that you don’t get more tragedy and heartbreak in your life than you can handle. Most people in our country could not handle the heartbreak that he’s born with a lot of grace.
The other thing I like best about old Joe is a trait that is often portrayed as a weakness: his lack of a working filter. He’s portrayed in the media as a gaffe machine. What I see is a guy who says out loud what he’s thinking, the way we expect almost anyone in our lives to do – except, for some reason, for our politicians. He’s probably a nightmare for his handlers or for the people who try to manage a consistent message and I’m sure he gives the opposition plenty to play with. If you actually listen to him, you know what he’s saying and that’s not usually the case.
Whether you agree with Joe’s politics or not, you have to at least grant him for being a bigger human being that is usually stuffed into a politician’s suit. We need more leaders like him.