Bob Garner

Bob Garner

There’s a particular verse from the Bible that’s become sort of an earworm to me, sort of like a random song. I can’t get it out of my head and seated in its proper place — and that’s the problem.

It’s Micah 6:8, paraphrased and shortened, that comes out as, “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.” It’s a cornerstone of my two favorite religious traditions and exists in some form in all major faiths.

I have a T-shirt with that paraphrase silk-screened on the front. I ordered it to try to remind me of the three main points, which it does, if only through reverse suggestion: the rip-off price, the mercy Ruthie extended after such murky budget-breaking and the impression of smug religiosity it probably conveys to some.

The shirt itself is sort of a dull, nondescript color; the words don’t exactly leap off my chest and tummy; and to tell the truth, it’s a little snug. God obviously has a sense of humor.

“I feel for you buddy but can’t quite reach you” is probably a more appropriate slogan for my T-shirts at this stage. Still, I wear the one I have now occasionally to at least point me in the direction of true north, no matter how silly I will surely look trying to get there from here. Especially in that particular shirt.

For example, I might be tempted to tell you, “The other day, the personnel at the office of admissions at East Carolina’s medical school were quite excited to welcome me, as they were the last few times I visited.”

In the interest of trying to tame rhetoric, let me admit I was there delivering box lunches for actual applicants to ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

Delivering sandwiches and pasta salad is certainly as close as I’ll ever get to any medical school’s admissions office, certainly at my age. Then too, the task generates a much more enthusiastic reception than my undergraduate credentials ever would have done, even when I was young.

If I imply that my social life largely revolves around hanging with influential doctors and that I’m continually working my way up the income scale, I might be dreaming you won’t have the common sense to take it with a grain of salt.

Perhaps, I imagine, you won’t immediately realize I’m talking about the doctors’ incomes, not mine, and, that in any case, I’m spending time with them because of their own magnanimity in accepting the relative pittance paid by Medicare to get me souped-up for a few last gasps.

God bless ‘em all.

I’m quick to point out that Ruthie’s the main breadwinner who makes it possible for us to keep a mid-level supplemental policy in force and receive such good physical and mental health care. I, on the other hand, am the main house husband, driver and cook.

Now, I could claim, “I’m a genuine foodie and a whiz in the kitchen,” or “I sort of run things around my house (OK, maybe the dishwasher: the washing machine not so much). But I’m trying to take it all with good cheer and live with the words, “It is what it is.”

Similarly, my Carolina school of journalism-degreed helpmate could claim, “I’m a lobbyist in the health care field,” and “I sit behind a huge desk.” Those of you who know her and most of you who will meet her sooner or later will have to admit those are true statements. I’m not saying any more, but you should be able to figure it out if you’re of a mind.

Do her assertions represent a wry sense of humor, rather than vanity? Well maybe, but in her case, one thing those words assuredly do not represent is any sort of burnishing a resume. She really does get riled up over injustice, love mercy and walk humbly. That last one may not be totally of choice at this point in her life, but she’s cheerful about it and has been on many other such matters for 50 years (this month).

So when I might seem to boast, “I’ve been there, done that and have the T-shirt,” I’m speaking literally. I hope I’ll have a much better garment emblazoned with that or another suitable message one of these days, and I’m darned sure Ruthie will, but I’m sure we won’t find it on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at

Contact Bobby Burns at and 329.9572.