In 1968 I arrived in the French mission. It was August and the country
was in a terrible turmoil from riots arising from great labor and
political unrest. The mission was also in some distress as the mission
president had been in a serious car accident a few months before. His
wife had been killed and he had been sent state-side to recover from his
own grievous physical injuries. While he was away the missionaries were
basically left in the hands of his APs.  One of those was Mitt Romney.
That was my first introduction to him.  Soon after I arrived he pointed
out an article in the Church News about a certain Jim Matkin who had
received some award, scholarship or graduated at the top of his class
from Harvard or something like that. I acknowledged that the subject of
the article was my brother. Mitt expressed great empathy for me, telling
me how he also had an over achieving older brother. We shared some of
the highlights of growing up in that sort of shadow. It was a very
personal exchange between a very green missionary and a seasoned
missionary who had the unusual position of being a de facto mission
president at age 20 or so. He told me a couple of other stories and I
don't suppose he even remembers me, but I remembered him, both because
of his rather famous heritage and because he was kind enough to take an
interest in my personal circumstances.  Now the irony, of course, is
that my brother went on to do a lot of very important and public things
and I never have and Mitt Romney's brother has never come to my notice,
but, of course, Mitt has made a great mark on the political landscape,
and seems destined to make an even great impact before he's done.

So I follow his progress with some interest. 

In the spirit of the late Marc Schindler, I will conclude this post with
a further Shaggy Dog story about Mitt. Later on I learned that he had
been in one of the same cities that I served in.  Nantes, I think and he
told me this story when he came to visit. It seems it was winter when he
was serving in Nantes and outside of the apartment a cat had been run
over in the street and was mortally wounded and frozen to the cobble
stones but still suffering and yowling. So young Mitt decided the humane
thing to do was to put the cat out of its misery, so he took a hammer
and went out into the street to dispatch it. As he raised his arm to
strike the cat he noticed a crowd beginning to gather and by the time he
was finished there was quite an audience, and he supposed, no one
guessed that this was not just an act of supreme violence against a
defenseless animal. He told it much better than I have, weaving in his
Americaness in a foreign land and all that.  He knew how to disarm you
by telling a story on himself, that's for sure. I hope he comes out of
this gay marriage thing with some pleasant stories to tell. He's
brilliant, personable, and considerate, and the Lord trusts him.  At
least He did in 1968. I suspect he has the same characteristics today,
only more highly developed.

Tom

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