Why covet people’s possessions?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 11, 2002

On behalf of all who attended the Candlelight Tour this past weekend I believe it is safe for me to say a heartfelt thank-you. This goes to the people who organized it, opened their houses and hosted the walk-throughs. Once again the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society earned its place with this annual program.

Homeowners will be especially glad that while I admired their antiques, personal photographs, interior designs and such, I never so much as took a single mental note for a future break-in. That’s because of the seven deadly sins, for me envy is almost always close to the bottom. Right now pride has just re-taken its usual top spot; that is, I’m feeling smug in my so-called virtuous state right now.

Seriously, what is the point in coveting other people’s possessions or attributes? For one thing, some things or qualities you will never have even by hook or crook. Further, we have but to look at own lives and will almost always have something equally admirable and desirable.

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Even if you could have it all, where would you put it? Would you even fully use them?

Aside from the glimpses inside, there were a few personal encounters, such as one homeowner answering my questions in detail about some genuinely interesting artifacts; hearing two women discussing their intuitive assessment of a school’s leader; and seeing Assistant City Manager Steve Herbert (sans suit and tie!) with his wife. I don’t know that Mr. Herbert recognized me, but there are no hurt feelings on my part. I only met him once about two or three years ago when working on a story about the Unified Development Ordinance.

It will be interesting if the aforementioned women will even read this column, look at my mugshot and then realize I heard what they said. On one level, their conversation is fair game – this was no eavesdropping encounter for I was standing right next to them before they began talking. This outing wasn’t a hunt for gossip, so the details are safe with me. Their topic did give me an idea for a story to pass along to a reporter, but the women can sleep easy knowing they are not involved in anyway.

All this serves to point out that public conversations are just that: public. Whether you are talking loudly on a cell phone, with other folks or, hey, even yourself, be assured that passersby are usually listening even when they pretend otherwise.

On a different matter altogether, I must comment on a paragraph in Robert Pocklington’s column of last Thursday. Specifically, he noted a story with the headline, &uot;HIV cases are almost split between men, women now.&uot; At first he didn’t understand the significance, but then remembered about &uot;them.&uot;

Mr. Pocklington, who might &uot;them&uot; be? I look forward to your specific answer, as does a coworker who was initially upset with the whole paragraph. But urged to read again more closely, she then saw that he wasn’t trying to be cute or mean-spirited. In fact, to Mr. Pocklington’s credit, he admitted navet and set about to inform himself on the topic.

For that I am personally appreciative, but still I wonder who is &uot;them&uot;?

Stephen H. Cowles is the managing editor and a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald, a heck of great conversationalist, well-mannered, and available for your next dinner party.