Christian simplicity is the very perfection of the interior life – God, His will and pleasure as the sole object.

Jean Nicolas Grou, in The Hidden Life of the Soul

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” … Reagan was – I use the word simple, as in simplicity … What you saw is what you get, it’s not phony … I mean the guy cared about the country, he cared about the people.  He wasn’t a phony …”

So says Dennis Le Blanc a young California highway patrol officer assigned to Ronald Reagan’s security detail when he served as Governor of California and who worked side by side with the Governor at his ranch when he became President and after he served as President.

When I say “worked side by side” I mean that literally.

You see, Ronald Reagan always did manual labor on this ranch.  He maintained the land, improved it, created trails where once thick wild brush thrived.  He added small improvements to his very modest home there.  He made and laid fence.  He worked alongside Mr. Le Blanc and shared lunch with him and others who helped in the work.

As Le Blanc reports, never asked anyone to do work that he himself would not do.

This was an everyday occurrence and truth is: he loved it.  It was part of his day, every day – rain or shine.

Yet more impressive, and so critical content in understanding the nature of the balanced and good life of Ronald Reagan was this: he was grounded in a relationship with God.

Indeed, simplicity and God go together as Jean Grou says.  They form a contented and fulfilling life of service to God and others, a life with and for God and others.

As Mr. Reagan’s daughter Patti notes: he saw God in creation, in the land and its beauty.  He saw the human being as being responsible to care of what God created.  He saw man not as a problem but as God’s humble problem solver.

As author Peggy Noonan says “He saw the sanctity of ordinary things” and acted accordingly.

Indeed, here was a man who occupied a position of enormous power but never clung to it, nor lauded it over others. No $200 haircuts.  No retribution.  No superiority.  No family foundations taking in millions and blurring the lines between proper and improper, lawful and unlawful.

No need to sustain a public presence after his service was complete.

Rather, here was a man willing to get his hands dirty, happy to be a private citizen, a retiring presence, a contented man.  A simple man with a relationship with God who he saw in all things, in others, in His beautiful creation.

A grateful man who never forgot his early life of poverty and his mother’s enduring trust in God.

Yes, he perfected, without fanfare, his interior life and, yes, his simplicity was real and connected to his relationship with God.  This: a lesson for all of us.

How we need public figures like this.  Authentic people, those who serve God and others – not themselves.  Not problem makers but problem solvers.  Humble servants.  Good people.

Christianity … makes a man’s greatness consist in the amount of service he renders to the world.

Theodore Parker, in Thoughts on Labor


Note – Credit goes to Peggy Noonan for her chapter “The Ranch” in When Character Was King.  She has written such a good and useful book.