A good man is not that hard to find

Amanda, Michael & Ginger

A C-note for Michael Wagner

The only trouble with making Michael the recipient of my $100 today will be getting him to take it. Ask any body who knows him. They’ll tell you that he is an extraordinary dad and extraordinarily hard-working husband –made all the more exceptional because everything he does is suffused with goodwill and love for the people around him.

I know this isn’t just a face he presents to the world. Since my husband and I moved to Atlanta, we basically live with Michael & Ginger every time we return to Swarthmore. So, unfortunately for them, we are behind their closed doors. Every morning, Michael gets up early, while the house is still quiet and reads about four daily books of meditation and prayer, before his four girls (now just two at home) descend and all sweet hell breaks loose. He makes his girls their lunches, drives them to school, then usually drives back a couple of times a week to deliver the forgotten lunch, the missing instrument, the mislaid term paper. He makes his wife Ginger her lunch, then drives her to the train. Then he takes his loyal dog Lacey on a walk before he gets to work in his apartment above the garage as a high tech recruiter. Business hasn’t been good lately, which means he only has to work harder and longer for less compensation. But has this stopped Michael from endlessly volunteering to work even longer hours helping neighbors who are unemployed to search for a job? Don’t make me laugh.

I love Michael Wagner for his ridiculously kind heart, which anybody can take advantage of – and I guiltily admit, I have and I do. I love that he adores gardening and is a practitioner of the same insane extremes of it that I am—planting 8000 bulbs in an afternoon, sweating himself silly laying down a truckload of mulch, and putting in 15 trees in an afternoon. I am mystified and in awe of his ability to believe the best about everybody, even people who have reliably proven to be jerks. In short, Michael is that guy who can’t wait for it to snow so he can walk around the cold, crunchy, silent neighborhood, looking for old people’s sidewalks to shovel.

If you want the penultimate test of his character, try this: every teenager I know adores him – not because he’s so cool (he’s a self-described nerd at heart) but because even the most self-absorbed, hormone-addled narcissist recognizes a perpetual good egg when he/she sees one. Michael is the dad who works 50 hours to decorate the gym for the dance, chaperones it, drives you home if your date ditches you, and brings donuts to your house to cheer you up the next morning.  Best of all, Michael can always laugh at himself – which is one of the most ardently attractive qualities of all.

The Wagner Family

For all these reasons – and for the most hilarious fact that he doesn’t even know how much he’s loved or how clearly people see everything he gives and does …. this C-Note is for Michael Wagner.  Don’t you dare spend it on anybody but yourself! (fat chance)

7 thoughts on “A good man is not that hard to find

  1. First, Kim (if you read this) do you run with Jenny Hadfield? Just wondering.
    Second, Kyla, for you to be like your dad would be the greatest thanks he could ever have! 🙂
    Third, thank you for your inspiration, Michael!

  2. It’s all true and more. I can’t help smiling when I think of Michael and his snowblower. I sure wish I still lived around the corner so he could do my driveway. Love ya, Michael.

  3. I too know Michael, not nearly as well as does Betty, but I can second her sentiments. It is wonderful to see a purely kind and caring person lauded for those qualities. Thank you Betty and Michael!

  4. Betty!

    First of all I had no clue you started this, but after Darby sent me the link I read all of your blogs and I am in love. I will be reading this religiously because it really inspires me to do good! Everything you said about my dad brought tears to my eyes. I wish he could understand how much he truly means to me, and how much I miss his smiling face every morning. He is my inspiration to be a better person even though he doesn’t think he is as amazing as he is. I printed this out and have it hanging on my closet to remind me everyday why I am the person I am. I love you so much Betty and I can’t tell you how proud this blog made me feel to call him my dad. He really is the greatest man I know. I miss you so much! Come visit soon!


  5. Dearest Betty,

    Thank you for always being Michael’s champion.

    He is all that and much more, especially during my dad’s dark days of foggy incomprehension as he struggled with the will to live under such constant pain and discomfort. Michael always found time to be there for both my parents as the inevitable chapter of their lives together came to an end last December 26 when we said our final farewell to the best dad one could ever hope for in life.

    As we hear the growing accumulation of snow threatening over the media waves, Michael is readying his snow blower and will become the neighborhood big foot covered in white dust as he plows multiple local sidewalks and driveways over the coming weekend.

    Even the two girls ten hours away in Charleston, South Carolina counted on him this morning as he made sure they had enough money in their bank accounts to put a down payment on the house they will rent together for college next fall. The doesn’t account for the countless hours of coaching he gave them about how to ask all the right rental property questions so they really will understand what the real cost will come to at the end of the month.

    As I write now, he will work late into the early morning figuring out our taxes and praying for a miracle to manage a third kid in college in the next year and half.

    Michael and I cherish our relationship with you and Larry and love every opportunity for one or both of you to brighten our door any day, any time.

    I can’t imagine life’s better fortune than having the two of you in our lives despite the 12 hours distance in the last few years. It is always a joy to see you and all of your children.

    Betty, this blog is a testimony to your deep faith and magnanimous heart as well as an inspiration to many during a time when portions of our citizenry choose greed over generosity.

    What is really exciting about this giving mission of yours is to watch the battery of emotions that run across strangers and friends faces as I inform them about your noble New Year’s resolution. It is a rare opportunity to connect to so many people that are making this country a better place to live by honoring them with their story and then a hearty donation. Bravo!

    Hugs and Kisses…..

    Your devoted friends,

    Ginger and Michael

  6. Hi! I’m raising money for patients with blood cancers while training to run a half-marathon. This is all with Team In Training and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I work with two teachers who beat cancer, and I love them both, so I’m running for them to celebrate their lives. I’d love your donation! Check out my website at http://pages.teamintraining.org/va/shamrock10/kcrandagde
    Love so much what you’re doing whether you donate or not! k.crandall

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