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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 54 - Not Quite Strangers: Retired “Geezers” Make The World A Better Place

Not Quite Strangers | Retirement

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Retired “Geezers” Make The World A Better Place

Welcome to another episode of Not Quite Strangers. These conversations serve as an opportunity to build curiosity, build connection. I want to transform how strangers interact with each other. We're going to model that for you, hopefully. If you are familiar with our show, you can subscribe to That way, you don't miss a single episode. I do want to encourage you, if you're moved by anything that's said in this show, to make a comment. Let my guests know what resonated for you and what was important to you. Also, rate us on your favorite show platform so that we can make sure that other people have access to this important information too.


With that said, I want to take this opportunity to introduce my wonderful guests. I'm going to start off with L.D. Carter. L.D., you and I go back officially seven years or something like that because we both go to the same church. I don't know that I could say I knew you for seven years. I would like to say that maybe in the last year and a half, maybe two years, we've gotten more and more acquainted since I've been a part of the board. You've been mentoring me and some of the things that we do at our church. We've partnered together to support other members and volunteers. Now, I'm like, "L.D., he's a powerhouse." You know what, L.D., the other thing I remember is you sharing some things with me about how involved you are in our political landscape. I was so surprised.


I didn't know that you were such an activist if you will. I thought this might be a cool conversation to have with you. I'm still learning so much about you. I thought he should be a great guest to have on Not Quite Strangers. I had to think about who could I match you up with to have, who is someone who is as committed to leadership and as committed to being generous with experience and information and who cares about the community. I have the fortune of working with Lee Bycel. Lee, you and I know each other from Berkeley. You are also an executive coach. The times that you and I have had the opportunity to share are mostly on Zoom screen. We've never met in person. It's been phenomenal to hear your take. You are such a good listener.


You hold a lot of huge space for people and are generous in your thoughts about them. You're so appreciative when you ask questions. You're also involved in your community. I know you have a heart for making the world a better place. I thought, "Lee and L.D., this is the powerhouse group right here." Welcome to the show, gentlemen.


Thank you.


Thank you, Valerie. Beautiful introduction. Thank you.


My pleasure. Now, I always ask the very first question. Why did you say yes to meeting a stranger on a show? Both of you.


I love the idea. Valerie, it comes out of respect for you, even though I only know you by Zoom in these boxes, but of your spirit about humanity and what you want to do. The notion to introduce people for whatever reasons you have in your mind, I thought what a great opportunity and what a very special thing to be part of. That's why I said yes.


Thanks, Lee.


I said yes because I'm an extrovert. How can I turn to that an opportunity to live that out? Also, I trust you, Valerie, and I took it for granted that you would not lead me astray or into something that would not be good for me. I think that reflects the respect that I have for you. That's why I said yes.


I appreciate that from both of you. I respect you both tremendously too, especially what you're out doing in the world. I wanted to start off by asking this question. Now that you have seen each other, we had a bare introduction in the very beginning because I said, "Save it for the show." I'm curious about when I invited you to do this, what questions came up for you about meeting a stranger? What was your instinct? What did you want to find out? What did you need to know? I'll qualify this by saying Lee reached out and said, "Can you send me L.D.'s bio?" I was like, "We don't do that on Not Quite Strangers, Lee."


That's cheating.


I did it. I admit it. I fully admit it, as she's 100% right. I guess that's a default to want to know the bio, that who is this person and to get that biographical sketch. I love that you said, "That's not how we do it." In a way, Valerie, I didn't have any questions till seeing L.D., until seeing this man whom I wish I was together in person. I don't even know where he is, to go to the same church that means Dallas. Now, seeing him and hearing him, the questions are starting to take shape. To me, in meeting any human being, I'd like to hear more about their story, about who they are, and how we ended up being together with you today.


It's so much better than a bio, Lee.


I agree.


I'm the exact opposite, Lee. I looked at this as it's a cocktail party. I don't know anybody. I'm going to dive in when I walk into the room. I had no questions about anybody who was going to be there. I'm probably going to this thing because somebody invited me who I know, so chances are good. I'm probably going to have some good interactions with folks that are there. Let's walk into the room and jump in and say, "Hello, I am," and start discovering. I did not ask for a bio.


Enough on the bio. It's like, "No more bios."


Lee, that's nothing. I had a guest who didn't ask me for a bio but went on LinkedIn and printed out the life of the person that they were meeting on the show and used it as a reference. That's the other extreme. Again, part of this experiment, it's an experiment and a laboratory, is how we transform and how we meet a stranger. You all do this already in a lot of areas of your life, but even for something as contrived and intentional as this, I wanted to practice that.


Can I say one more thing, though?




What you did, Lee, is perfectly fine because it's part of your makeup. It's part of your sense to prep and to be prepared. I have nothing but respect for that. I'm teasing you but that's cool.


I love teasing. I love being teased. It's a sign of flattery and a little well. We have to laugh a bit. We got to laugh at ourselves and our own foibles. Especially when you're around people who are joyful and good, it makes everything. Thank you.


It's a sign of flattery. I'll remember that. You guys have already teed up a couple of things that we could talk about. Lee was like, "I don't know where you are in the world." You assumed correctly that Dallas. We can start with that. Where are you in the world? The other question, L.D., you alluded to this, is I am blank. What would you like to share with each other about where you are and who you are? Either one.


L.D., do you want to go first?


Apparently, I do. I am geographically and physically located in Dallas, Texas, in far north Dallas. If you know anything about Dallas at all, I'm out near the Galleria, out in that area, over by Medical City. We have been in this location for the last maybe 12 or 13 years. Am I to complete the statement I am?


Yes, you can. Wherever you're led to. What do you want to share at this point?


I am yet in another phase in this wonderful journey that is a circle of life. I am at this point in that journey in my retirement phase. Yay for me. I formally retired about 6 or 7 years ago, and I am doing the things I want to do, as opposed to some of the things I have to do. That's another reason I'm here today, because I want to be with you guys as opposed to I have to be, and maybe that's enough to get me started.


That's enough. Are you originally from Dallas, L.D.?


I am not. I am a Texan. I'm from East Texas, Texarkana, Texas. That's where I grew up.


Lee, where are you geographically and I am?


I'm wondering in the spirit of humor, is this like the old person show or the retirement show? I don't mean to label it that way.


It's the geezer hour.


The geezer hour with Valerie. I'm out here. It's called Kensington, California. It's right next to Berkeley, Oakland, and East Bay. I've been up here since 2007, and I am also retired. I guess I am filled with pain about the suffering in the world, and I'm filled with joy about the beauty in life. I guess each day, and as L.D. said beautifully, to do things that I wish to do, but in my retirement, how do I try to make the world a little bit better for a few people, and how do I also enjoy this life that's finite, and how do I enjoy the beauty of it? I am that.

Not Quite Strangers | Retirement
Retirement: In my retirement, how do I try to make the world a little bit better for just a few people?


That's why I wanted the geezer hour.


This is the first time, L.D., I've been on a geezer hour. You've been on one before?


No. I mixed in with folks.


I mixed it up too. Teasing is a sign of flattery. Lee, you're originally from California.


I grew up down in southeast Los Angeles, an area called Huntington Park, California.


I shared with the two of you a little bit about how I know you. One of the reasons that I thought would be great to connect you with one another is because both of you have a sense of leadership. Not just leadership because of a role that you've taken on, but it seems to me, at least from the outside looking in, the drive to lead the responsibility. You feel accountable to other people and maybe the institutions or organizations that you serve to be in the leadership. That's my sense from having experienced the two of you. I'm curious about where does that come from. What is it that has you say yes to things? L.D., you said you get to do things you want to do now instead of what you need to do. What makes you guys want to do the things that you're doing?


I know definitively. Many years ago I did an exercise. It was out of New Mexico, at one of those high ropes retreats. I remember when those were very popular in the middle of the desert, and the whole weekend, although it's more than a weekend, was dedicated toward the whole idea of why are you on this planet. That's a question that some of us ask ourselves and still haven't figured out. I had several days to do it, and what was so funny was that the facilitator sent me out in the desert, and I sat on a rock for I don't know how long and came back with, “This is it.” He looked at what I had written down and he said, "No, it's not. Go back out and sit on the rock." I did that and was able to capture it in writing, which is also part of the exercise, which was to map out not only your purpose but how you're going to execute it. That still drives today what I say yes to.


I was so pleased to hear what Lee was saying about making the world a better place because that is part of my driving force. That is part of my center. I've narrowed it down to specific areas that I want to be active in in order to maximize the time that I have. I can't say that I am driven to be a leader, but when I am in a leadership position, be it head of a board or a committee or a work team or whatever, I'm a firm believer in the whole idea of a servant leadership model. To say succinctly, you take care of the people and the people will take care of the company. That has been my guiding mantra, both professionally and privately. Does that answer that?


Servant Leadership: you take care of the people and the people will take care of the company.

That very much answers that. I think it's interesting what you talk about, when you are aligned with your purpose, the answer is clear yes or clear no. When there's clarity of purpose, so many things are easier to align with.


There are multiple opportunities that were very prestigious but they didn't fit, and having had the opportunity to be thoughtful about it, it was not easy to say no but at least give some other suggestions or references of folks who might be helpful.


I've told you no a couple of times about some opportunities that you presented to me. I'm like, "No, L.D., it doesn't fit my purpose." Church-related stuff. Lee, what about you? How did you know?


I still love that question that L.D. shared of why are you on this planet. I love that. Maybe we can talk about that later. I don't know. As I was listening to L.D., I'm Jewish, and I was one of only two Jews in my high school. Distinctly, a minority. Even though when people hear Los Angeles, they always think about maybe a lot of Jewish people, but I was a minority where I grew up. When I was 14 or 15 years old, I don't know how it came into our orbit, but it did. My parents sent me away to a Jewish camp out in Ojai, California. It was that summer that I met people I had never met in my life before. For the first time in my life, I understood the beauty of my tradition, how it's a way of life, and how it speaks to an ethic that I felt, but I never understood it.


The little synagogue I grew up in was not that place, and I saw those values. I guess it was when I was 15 years old, and with one of our teachers, we read Erich Fromm's book, The Art of Loving. All that I remember about that book is saying that, which I didn't understand as a 15-year-old, trust me, is that falling in love is easy but standing in love is a big commitment. I guess that summer, in a very deep way, inspired me about what people can do with their lives, that if you have an intention and if you care. That life changed me. I was a 15-year-old boy lost growing up in the world where I grew up, and with the family I had, with all those things. It gave me a sense that as you figure things out on this journey and you learn who you are, you can utilize that to help other people.

Falling in love is easy, but standing in love is a big commitment.


One of the expressions I use is, how do we open the doors for ourselves to walk in rooms, metaphorically, where we wish to be in life? How do we use whatever privilege we have to open doors for other people that maybe they can walk through to find that purpose, that sense of what they're on this planet for? Does that answer at all, or is that random?


That answers and creates even more questions. Thank goodness for Jewish camps. I've gotten all of that. Did you say the book was from Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving? Is that what you call it?


The Art of Loving. It was a classic. It's not an easy book, but it's a little book about love. I think what made Fromm radical was saying you're falling in love, which we all know how to do. Probably most human beings fall in love in some way in life. The challenge is how do you stand in love? How do you relate to the real human and other people? That little book stood out for me greatly.


I used to tell people I don't collect things. I realized I do collect things. I collect quotes, and a quote from Erich Fromm was one of the first ones that I came across. I think we keep having these connections, so I'm a fan of Erich Fromm as well.


What is the quote?


It's in my book from many years ago. I can go get it if you like.


At some point, maybe we can do it later.


It's in another room, but I have so many of them, which is why I write them down. I go through them periodically for inspiration, and Erich Fromm is always there.


L.D., I love quotes too. At some point, you and me, maybe we'll let Valerie in, but she's not old enough. We'll share the quotes that shape our lives.


I have quotes too.


You're not old enough.


I don't have my AARP card yet.


Darling, sorry.


The question that, L.D., you mentioned you had to answer for yourself when you were out in that Arizona retreat, and Lee, it sounds like it resonated for you was, why are you on this planet? It's a big question. It's funny because a few weeks ago, I went to visit my mother who lives in Alabama. My entire family went, my three brothers, all of their kids, and their wives, and it was fantastic. One of the outings that we all did was we went to Montgomery, Alabama, which is about an hour and a half from where she lives. We went to the Equal Justice Initiative Museum and Memorial, which was phenomenally done. It's a treasured space. Although much of what's depicted is horrific history, everything from slavery through the Jim Crow and segregation through lynchings, through mass incarcerations.


It lays it out very explicitly, very powerfully. I interacted with a few people who were in that space, not my family necessarily but other guests of the museum. I interacted with them. For the first time in my life, I realized that my drive to connect with people and connect people with each other was activism because of the energy that comes with it, the commitment to it, and the conviction that I have about it. I never considered that to be activism because I thought it was a nice thing to do. It's kind, it's considerate, it's a skill that I have. It's an instinct that I have, but I realized that the drive for it, the need that I have for this is insatiable almost. I realized that that's one of the reasons I'm on this planet because it comes so naturally to me, and it's so instinctive.


There's so much conviction behind it, that I was able to say, "Release the judgment that comes from it, or the lightheartedness that perhaps could be associated with it," and go, "This is why I'm on this planet because I'm an activism for connection." In that particular space, seeing all the history that was laid out, I don't mean to diminish anything by my comment, the symptoms that were depicted in that museum, the symptoms of slavery as a means for financial gain, of the diminishing of people and execution of people because of their race to maintain power structures and systems, all these other things, I realized that what was missing was the human connection. It required dehumanization of people.


If we look back at any significant separation between people, execution of people, anything from the Holocaust to some of our African countries have also experienced the genocides, so the separation of a human being from their inherent value as a human, when that becomes unmoored, it's when we have the opportunity for hate to creep in or to commoditize people. That was my political statement. As best as I could describe it, connection is activism for me. I'd love to hear from the two of you. First of all, any reflections on what I shared? Agree, disagree, you have a different perspective. What would you say the answer to your purpose on this planet is?


I fully agree with what you said. I love it. It is how we dehumanize the other and how we don't engage in real conversations, Valerie, like you're trying to have and hosting today with L.D. and me. When you talk with people and you're curious, you learn about another human being. You see the humanity in them. You see that they're a person who's doing their best to make sense of the world. I think you're absolutely right that it is a wonder to try and connect people. I love it. To me, one of the things I try to do is, how do I get people to open up and see the human story in others who want to learn the human story, to not see someone as this or that. There's the wonderful talk, the danger of a single story. We teach you that.


We reduce people to a single story. How do we see the complexity of another human being? That is by opening up and listening and conversing. I love what you shared, and it resonates deeply with me.


You mentioned yourself being an activist. I've never used that word for myself, but you described me that way when we first started talking. I understand why. As far as why I am here, that became very clear to me as I did this exercise to reach that. The whole idea of the exercise was to come down to a very succinct statement of why I am here. First of all, I'm a caretaker of humankind. That is why I am here on this planet. The way that plays out is there's that political piece, which you already talked about, and I realized that I'm very active there. It's not because I love politics. I have seen how politics, even in my own parents' lives, Jim Crow laws, having to pay to vote, and then even if you had the right to vote, having to walk through certain people who are there to intimidate you in order to vote.


I understand from a very early age the impact that politics has. If I'm going to be a caretaker of humankind, for me, that means being active on that front. The other big piece for me is youth and young people. I say yes to a lot of opportunities that present themselves that allow me to play some active role in making sure young people having an opportunity are raised up, and that their horizons are expanded so they will have a different experience in this country than I had growing up. Finally, my other piece as to why I am here is centered around family. For example, my godson, when he was born, and his mother asked me to be a godparent, he came under that umbrella because, in an urban setting like Dallas, Black young men do not live to adulthood in a lot of instances.

Not Quite Strangers | Retirement
Retirement: If I'm going to be a caretaker of humankind, that means being active on that front.


It became part of my purpose to ensure that he reached manhood. He's 33 now. I've got room to do something else now. Family, my spouse, my mom and dad in their lifetime, and other folks who needed that kind. Those three pieces of my purpose on this planet became crystal clear very quickly. From a professional standpoint, to find a profession that would allow me to do good in the world and be a caretaker from that perspective. As long as I can pay the mortgage, is there work that I can do that would make this world a better place?


Nice idea of politics, family, youth, and being a caretaker. I think that's the key. The caretaking takes place in very specific moments and very specific contexts.


Stephen Covey talks about maintaining your true north. When the winds rise, when the waves come at you, as long as you know your true north, things and people and circumstances can't take you off your path.


Lee, what are you thinking over there?


I'm deeply moved by what L.D. said. I resonate in so many areas. I guess the reason I'm on this planet is to make life a tad bit better for some human beings. Especially the dispossessed and the most vulnerable of people who have a raw deal and how to make life a little bit better and how to uplift our humanity in a world that often tears apart our souls, how to uplift the heart and the soul. L.D., you gave me an organizational principle. I think I do it in similar ways to you. Family is extremely important to me. To try and shape something that will be a little bit better for my grandchildren, to try and make this world a little bit kinder and good and decent in a world that is often a storm, is often on fire. On that piece, I'm a lifelong learner.


Five and a half years ago, we were blessed to welcome one of my granddaughters, Ayala, who has Down syndrome. From Ayala, I learned so much about love and goodness. People may say she has a disability with Down syndrome, but she has an ability. It's led me into a world of trying to make world life better for so many with so-called disabilities. That takes a lot of my time. The second piece is community. What does community mean? Who are we connected to? How do we feel a sense? One of the things Americans love to talk about is our rights. We're obsessed with rights, and we've forgotten about duties. I love the notion of duty and responsibility that I share on this planet with other people. What does it mean to live in a community? Rights are easy. I have a right to this, that, individual rights.

We're obsessed with rights and we've forgotten about duties.


What about community rights? What about the community of people? Another segment is I can't do any of that unless I figure out good ways of taking care of myself, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. This year, I think no matter what our age, whatever the numbers are, it doesn't matter. I did something new to nurture that part of me. I went on a three-day silent meditation retreat up in Northern California. In three days, it’s not easy to not talk. I kept trying to figure out ways to talk, but it was not. It's constantly the question about my role here and how can I show up for Lee in the best way that will allow me to show up with the best heart I can for the others I share this planet with and that I'm a community with or that I care about. For me, that’s the principle of what I try to do.


Community self-care, your grandchildren. That's lovely. I'm curious about when you think back to when you guys were both younger, let's say teenagers, it sounds like there are some important things. Lee, you mentioned the camp that you went to. Thinking back to when you were younger, who and how you were then compared to who you are and where now? What would you tell that young man or that teenager about what life means or what potholes you wish people paid attention to? What advice would you give your younger self? Why would you give it?


I don't know if this quite will answer. I think when you were sharing the question, Valerie, I thought about Lee, who, at 17 years old, arrived in 1966 up here in Berkeley, California to attend the University of California. I think what I would tell Lee is, "Buddy, it's going to be okay. You weren't ready for this whole thing at Berkeley but have a little bit more compassion for yourself. Don't be so judgmental of yourself. Try to be kinder to yourself in the same way you're kind to other people." Valerie, I'm mixing up the answer here a little bit. I often find in my own journey that I'm harshest on myself and my own life story. I would say to the Lee back then, "Take it in fully, man. Look at the world around you," which I did fully back then in the '60s.


"Trust that it's going to be okay. Trust that you're going to take these things that happened to you as a young man, and you're going to build something." I think often I was filled with doubt. Often, I didn't know how it was going to be shaped. Often, I didn't know how I was going to harness whatever ability I had. I tell that young man, “Keep doing it, and the picture will emerge. Don't rush it.”


All things in time.




That young man back then was coming out of a segregated South. He had gone to separate but definitely not equal schools up until the issue was forced by the Federal government. He lived beneath the poverty line his entire life. By virtue of the way society reacted to or treated that young man, there were senses of inferiority and of being lesser than. I would tell that young man back from that time period it's not the reality. It's the perception and the fact that this too shall pass because, standing in the middle of it, there's a little bit of hopelessness. As much as you see other things in the world, other ways to live, other ways to be, they are inaccessible to you because you are lesser than. Helping that young me think through, work through, pray through, educate through, and all of that, I think would be my message to my 17-year-old self.


It’s how you do now with young people, it sounds like. What do you say to them?


Valerie, part of my position is to help young people, even if they never know my name. In a lot of instances with the things that I am involved in, I will be there but I will never interact with those young people, but I am purposeful in how I'm going to assist them, him, her, or that individual. There are a lot of instances where I do, but in a lot of instances, I don't directly interact with those folks. I act through other people but it's still fulfilling my purpose.


That's beautiful. It sounds silly to say it now, but I would tell my younger self to play more. I was so significant when I was younger. I think part of it is that my parents had a lot of confidence in me. I'm the second child but I acted like I was the eldest, and I'm the only girl. I took myself way too seriously, I think. I look back, I didn't smile in a lot of pictures because I was like so over it. Why am I here? I needed to get my way in a lot of ways that were not that deep, important, or meaningful. I think I cut myself off from doing more things, or trying new things because I was so rigid about what I should or shouldn't do, what was appropriate, not appropriate for me at that age. Play more. I'm making up for lost time. I play a lot more now than I did.


I think it's time for one of you guys to ask a question. You brought some questions, or you have some questions in mind that you'd like to ask.


Can I add one thing before we go to the question?


Of course.


L.D., when you said that notion of less than, I often felt less than in my early years at Berkeley. Other people were smarter, more disciplined, more academically ready. The 17-year-old Lee, believe it or not, used to be skinny. I was like that skinny, wiry boy. In the old days, to get into Berkeley, it sounds good now. It's impressive that all you need to do is be alive, and if you lived in California, is to have a 3.0 grade point average. I never took a book home in high school. I never did anything. I managed to get a few A's sprinkled in with a bunch of C's and got that B average. That less than, it took years to deal with and address that. Can I ask a question of L.D. first? I got a million now. How many times a night do you get up to pee?


You've never had that question, have you, Valerie?


No, love it.


Usually, it's a doctor that's asking me that question.


I think it's only fair that we give space to L.D. to answer your question.


I wasn't going to put him on the spot.


I think it's too late now if he wants to.


I want to, but I want it followed up by why the heck is it significant that you know by my bodily functions? For large windows of time, Lee, not at all. When I do, once a night.


That's good news for me.


I'm glad that makes you feel better.


Here's why I asked it.


Are you up all night, Lee? Is that what you're up to?


A good night for me, L.D., is three times. A tough night is 6 to 7 times. I got to deal with a doctor about that and all that stuff. When you're up at night, or you can't go to sleep, this is what it's about, what do you think of? What's on your mind late at night or in the middle of the night? What's on your mind?


I am not up in that way, Lee. When I do have that one time that happens, my goal is to get in there, get it done, get back into bed, and go to sleep, not to be awake. I stopped being awake late at night when I changed the way I go to bed. I started following all the recommendations. Turn off the laptop and the screen an hour beforehand. A lot of times that last hour or half hour or so at night, I am reading. I am detaching. I am winding down. I'm not snacking. I am getting ready for a good night's sleep. The only time I break that cycle is when the Turner Classic Movies has a marathon going on, and I'm up till 3:00 AM. I don't have that staying awake at night issue at this point.


You're able to go to sleep in peace.


I attribute that to not only those things but also a regular exercise program that burns my energy during the day. I think that helps as well. I did a 3-mile walk this morning before I got extra hot. Tomorrow is a gym day. I think exercise too helps with that. I don't know, but I believe it. I'm not up at night unless I choose to stay up to binge-watch something.


Can I push it a little bit, Valerie, because it helps?


Go for it.


As long as you don't ask me about any other bodily functions, I'm good.


No, I would never do that, L.D. I would never ask for something like that.


I'm like, "This is the G-rated show. I have a family audience."


It's the geezer hour, and we are concerned about bodily functions at this age.


What I'm getting at is what worries you. When you're around during the day or taking a walk, what do you worry about?


I bring a lot of my worries into my meditation time in the mornings. I come out of that, and then I sit down to read the morning paper and see stuff all over again. The things that worry me, I am fortunate in that I'm acting on those. For example, when you see my calendar for this week, I attended a political forum because I want to understand what's happening with a certain issue. I've got a board meeting early next week around some youth issues. Things that worry me. I'm either active in or I am prayerful about it.


What I was saying is that with those things that I worry about, Lee, I was happy to say that I have a retreat practice too. Usually, it's a minimum of three days in a cabin somewhere with my books and my prayer list, hiking opportunities, potentially. I take all those words there as well. The things that I worry about are the things that I think most people do, the environment, what's happening in the actions of our government, what's happening, and what's not happening. Financials, those kinds of things. I try to find a way not to have those things consume me. Does that make sense?


Thank you for the answer. I know there's limited time, but L.D., I hope you and I will continue, maybe with some young people like Valerie involved. I'd love to learn about all that. It's a beautiful answer, and thank you for your honesty and for sharing at night. I want to learn more about your whole practice but thank you.


Lee, what inspired the question?


Whether it's at night or during the day, I'm always curious about what's on people's minds because we see each other. We pass each other, but we don't necessarily know what's in each other's minds. We're tactical, we're in a meeting, we're doing these things but what's deeper? The opportunity to find another human being to have the time and to be able to ask, "What are you thinking about? What's going on in your mind?" L.D.'s answer is beautiful and inspired me.

Not Quite Strangers | Retirement
Retirement: We see each other. We pass each other, but we don't necessarily know what's in each other's minds.


Thank you for asking it. Also, including the bodily functions. I think that brought some levity. That's my playful Valerie coming through.


No more bios and no more bodily functions.


L.D., what questions do you have?


Tell me about, to date in your life, what would you consider to be the most impactful moment? Good and bad.


Up through the 73 years of life, what's been the most impactful thing?


Your a-ha moment or your “Oh, my gosh” moment.


Great question. I think what a very big moment that came to mind right away when you said it. November 22nd, 1963. Lee Bycel sitting in ninth grade, whatever class. The news came over that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I loved JFK. I love what he represented. I love the idealism. I love the spirit. We're going to make a better America than what was. At that moment, I was in tears, but I guess I can say his name. He was probably a decent human being, a kid in my class who's now deceased. I didn't understand different political views or perspectives. I won't say his name. It's not right to do that to the deceased person, but a kid said out loud in that class, "This is a good thing for America that we won't have him as president and those liberal views or whatever."


In my heart, more than in my heart, I felt hate. If I had not been a 90-pound weakling, I probably would have wanted to beat him up. I wanted to beat him up, but I certainly was ill-equipped to do that as a ninth grader would come to mind. The a-ha moment was that someone I could love, admire, and cherish and that other people thought exactly the opposite. I think what hit me in that moment is that the world is made up of a lot of different people. I never got to know him because he repulsed me with his views. We never interacted and then life went on after high school. How a human being could see the world so differently? I think the a-ha moment unfolded over decades. The world is made up of different people, and how hurtful some people can be.


When JFK was assassinated at that moment, sitting in my English class, we never know when life is going to end, but what a difference JFK made in his life, even at this young age. I don't know, that's a moment when you ask the question. I know lots of other moments I could conjure up, but that lived with me at so many levels, the good, the bad, the tragic, the ability to what a human being can unleash for the goodness like JFK did. There are so many moments triggered by that for me.


L.D., if you were to answer that question, what would yours be?


I certainly remember that moment because as a little Black boy sitting in school and hearing about that and people crying all around me, hope died that day. I would go to another moment, and that would be in high school, the schools have desegregated now. I'm being bussed. They've shut down the Black high schools and the segregated Black schools. I'm being bussed to this new high school to go to school with the White kids, as we used to say. All of a sudden, I'm in a school. My mother is a maid and the people's kids that she was a maid to go to this school. I am in this school as a student as well. I've come into this environment all of a sudden. It probably fueled my whole sense of being lesser than in some ways.


I remember an English teacher who was pleased with how well I was doing in English. She wanted to move me into her advanced English class. I declined, not knowing that I had no right to decline. I was going to be moved anyway. I didn't want to go because all of the smart kids, especially the rich White smart kids, were in that class. I could not possibly have belonged in that class. She went to the office and had my schedule changed against my will. Here I am in this literature class, and she is giving me things like Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged and all these classics. While she's making me keep up with that bit of work, she's also giving me books by Black authors. I'm getting exposed to all of these people I've never read before.


I'm to do my regular work but she's also giving me this other stuff and expecting to get book reports on it and all that stuff. My a-ha moment or my turning point moment was when she took me aside at one point and said, "Why aren't you speaking up in class?" I could not explain to her why I was not. I did not have that relationship I felt with her to be able to explain to her how I felt lesser than. She was very clear on the expectation that I was to speak up in class and actively participate because she told me, "I know you have a great mind."


My fear was I was going to say the wrong thing, but I got back into the class system, and it was all opinionated. There was a guy in there. He was a doctor's son, and he always had some philosophical perspective on everything. I didn't agree with something he said about an author and an author's purpose at one point. I said that and she said excellent to me. That was the moment. Something happened that I realized I could think and I could have a different opinion. I can pontificate like anybody else. It was that moment.


This is a challenge with having an hour of conversation because every time you answer a question, I have 50 more questions about what you said. This idea of having a moment, and both of you were able to articulate a moment that there was a reaction, there was an opinion about something, about other people, about yourself. It sounds like from that experience, you were also able to break through something. There was a breakthrough moment in that realization. I'm going to say one that's a little bit on the lighter side. I think it could warrant this. I used to hate vegetables when I was a kid. I hated them but I found ingenious ways to ensure that everybody thought I was eating them. Everything from we had a dog so the green beans would magically roll off my plate onto the floor.


People are none the wiser. I would take a big mouthful and gag it into my cup so no one would see that I was getting rid of it. It wasn't until I started to travel. One last example. I hated vegetables so much that when my brothers and my parents were like, "Let's go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner." I would say, "'I'm staying in the car. I don't eat that." This was most of my life through, even the beginnings of college. Right after college, I went to work for an organization called Up with People, and we traveled internationally and hosted families. One thing I realized about myself is that I cared a lot more about not hurting families or offending people that I lived with. When I saw peers who said, "What's that? I don't eat that. I don't like that."


How ignorant and immature it sounded that as much as I hated vegetables, I could not say, “I don't like that. I don't need that. What is that?” I put on a brave face, and I would eat it. I realized that people know how to cook vegetables, and they can sometimes taste very good. No shade to my mom, but the vegetables were not that great growing up. That made a difference. I realized that we can all change. We can change so much so that I have a family member, a young one, who is going through some of her own limitations, her palate, and I can have a lot more grace for it. I have to remind the other adults in my life, "You know what? I was that kid." I would double down about how I wasn't going to, I didn't need to, and I didn't like it.


Now I prefer to cook vegetables. I excel at it and I enjoy it, and people enjoy it when they eat it. I think that my a-ha moment was one of them that I could change. The experience of not having changed then makes me a strong advocate for somebody who's going through what I went through. I have a lot more grace and compassion for them. Gentlemen, the time has come by to close so quickly but I'm curious. What did you think about having this conversation? What did you think about meeting one another? What is present for you right now?


I loved it. I have so many other things, L.D., to ask you about, and would love to converse with you about them. I hope this is the beginning of a relationship, maybe a friendship. I'd like to learn about this human being sitting down there in Dallas and more about you. I've enjoyed it, and I wish there was a lot more time today, but it's an introduction. It's a conversation, as you say, Valerie, with a stranger, and that somehow you craft it this way, that we're able to learn a little bit and get to know each other. It's a start because even thinking more about the a-ha moment, I might've shared another a-ha moment. It's like, “What did I choose? Why did I choose that?” I think this is great.


Thanks, Lee. L.D., what about you?


I could have had a better match.


I did the best I could.


This is wonderful. I thought we were just getting started, but we're wrapping it up. To me, that says it's been a good conversation when time goes by, you haven't looked at your watch and you're fully engaged. This has been a wonderful discovery. I've enjoyed it immensely. Lee, part of what I get to do in this wonderful world of retirement is I am known for my cross-country road trips. I'll have to put you on my, “Say hey to Lee and have coffee with me the next time I'm in California."

Not Quite Strangers | Retirement
Retirement: A good conversation is when time goes by, you haven't looked at your watch, and you're fully engaged.

That would be great. I'm going to reach out to connect with you after this anyway. We'll find a time.


We can sit down and have some more conversations someday.


I love that. Without getting into it clearly but I'm curious. What would you want to have more conversation about? What's the topic that came to mind or question that came to mind without going down the explanation of why, but what comes to mind that you would like to know more about from each other?


For me, at the simple level, I've been thinking a lot because I've done a lot of things where you don't know what a person does, which I think is great. I love how you set this up, but I guess part of me would like to know before L.D. retired what he did, why, how that went, and what the journey of his career was, not as a simple bio but as a narrative. I'd like to know more about his family. He seems to be a man at peace in many ways, very comfortable in his skin. I'd like to know more about that journey, and he's got great discipline. There are a lot of things I'd want to know about. I'd like to know what he does for fun. All that stuff.


L.D., what about you? What questions are lingering or topics that you'd like to explore in meeting with Lee?


I have spent time in synagogues and at various Jewish celebrations with friends and then such over the years. I'd like to know more about his experience and in that realm, what that has meant to him, how that has impacted or shaped him. I'd like to know about being a grandfather. That's not an experience I have had a chance to have and probably will not. I felt there was some joy there, even when he mentioned it in passing. I'd like to know about that. I'd like to know about his introspections, that time when so many Americans are so afraid or uncomfortable with silence, that they avoid it at all costs, what attracts him to that, and what comes out of those experiences that he has. I know I enjoy it and I look forward to that going aside for a while, along with my thoughts. I'd like to know more about his time there.


So many Americans are so afraid or uncomfortable with silence.

There is so much to discuss and continue to talk and learn about one another. Thank you so much. The last, I'd like to have the audience engage in some meaningful way, inspired by the conversation that they witnessed. If you were to invite or challenge the audience who's been tuning in to this episode to do something or try something, what would you invite them to do? What would you challenge them to take on as a result of your conversation today?


To assess your skills, your capabilities, and your assets, and apply them and apply yourself to making this a better world for humankind.


That's all.


You can do that over the weekend.


I'd like to ask the following. Take a little time before you go to strangers with the people you know who are part of your orbit, family, and friends that not take for granted but involvement. Take some time to ask more about their story. Take the time to try and engage with them in a real conversation about what they hold dear, what they worry about, what they celebrate, what their verse is to use from that great movie Dead Poets Society and Robin Williams, and citing what's your place on this planet. What's your role on this planet? What's your unique verse? Take time to ask someone you love or know or is in your orbit a few questions and be curious about them.


Ask questions and be curious. Thank you, gentlemen, so much for the time we spent sharing bits and pieces of yourselves, your philosophies, and your experiences. I've learned a lot more about the two of you and I now have some questions. That's fine if you choose not to include me in whatever follow-up you engage in. That's all right. I hope that everybody here walked away with nothing else learning more about the two of you. Maybe, hopefully, being inspired to seek out more wisdom, to seek out more philosophy, to go even deeper within, to find out more about themselves and what makes them come alive, what gives them purpose, and how they can serve other people. Thank you both for bringing that to our show.


Thank you.


Thank you, Valerie.


For those of you who tuned in, thank you so much for joining us in this episode of Not Quite Strangers. Remember, you can subscribe at and also like us and rate us on your favorite show platform. Hope to see you the next time. Have a wonderful rest of the day, everybody.


Important Links

Strangers: Meet L.D. Carter & Lee Bycel

From: Texas, USA & California, USA

Connect on: Purpose-driven “geezers” make the world better


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