Jimmy Pierce and Benjamin Pierce
DescriptionJimmy Pierce (58) talks with his son Benjamin Pierce (22) about his nonprofit ‘Kids Making It’ and public service.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Jimmy Pierce
- Benjamin Pierce
Recording LocationMobileBooth East
Venue / Recording Kit
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00:03 Hi, my name is Ben Pearce. I'm 22 years old today is April 1st 2011. We are in Wilmington, North Carolina and I'm speaking with my father Jimmy Pierce.
00:16 Jimmy pierce, my name is Jimmy Pierce. I'm 58 years old. This April one 2011 and Wilmington, North Carolina speaking with my son then Pierce.
00:33 Oh, hello, Ben. How you doing? I'm good.
00:38 I am
00:40 We have the luxury of this appointment by virtue of the kids making it working program and when we were offered some story course laws one of the conversations that
00:58 That we thought would be a nice movie take place would be won between
01:03 You and me.
01:08 We're not for you. And your birth probably I would not be doing kids making it would not be a kids making him and
01:22 So maybe for maybe for the for the sake of the start of the conversation over this is really about us not so much necessarily kids making it.
01:32 Our family has done a huge.
01:36 Change of Direction since you've been born
01:42 And what I do presentations about the program and people ask what how did you ever get the idea always say? Well, it was a late night car driving 1989 traveling across Georgia from Louisiana to North Carolina to bring you out to see my parents your grandparents and you were six months to a year old and I finally quit crying and we're finally asleep and it was 2:00 in the morning traveling through Atlanta. And your mom was asleep.
02:12 And I thought we should get some miles on the car because the next day will be another long day of driving with you. Not a happy whenever Happy Travel in the car. You just like to nurse Ashley at that age and all.
02:27 And I kept myself awake by thinking about
02:31 How wonderful life was I have a child because until you have your own child.
02:36 You never quite know how wonderful kids are at least I never knew that and your whole world is upside down but in a really incredible way and so I stayed awake by thinking boy if you could do anything in the world.
02:48 To make a living other than what you're doing and I was practicing law as you know.
02:53 What would it be now if I boil I would love to do with working, but I knew I was not good enough.
03:01 And we're not even want to do it to make furniture for people for a living and but because you or this new part of our family that really totally change your mom's life at age 41 for her and mine at age 36 for me.
03:20 And it was all this incredible wonderful Journey.
03:24 I thought boy if I could somehow I work with kids and I never would have thought of that.
03:29 May we have a wonderful young son Seth who at that point was in college and I helped to be part of his life since he was about 9.
03:40 But when you were born and I knew about you from the real get-go. It was like something is hard to describe but one day if you have a child you are so
03:54 In any event here you are graduating from college like Seth was when you were born.
04:04 And quit practicing law. We all make the money we used to make you've helped to put yourself through school. Like I did if I was still pricing law will probably pay for all of it, you know, but it's been a real adventure for our family. And anyway, I noticed been hardships and ups and downs and I don't know how you feel about that. But but in any event
04:30 I guess so.
04:36 The three most wonderful things have happened to me and my life of course was being born myself and having such a wonderful family of my own and then number to us when I Met Your Mother
04:46 And I never threw was when you were born and now I mean them and now the water they just like this three tops and nothing else is closed. So in any event, I'm doing something I absolutely love today and who knows where we'd be probably still be in Louisiana, which might you might enjoy more don't know but I would imagine still practicing law and still be asking myself at age 58 sub h36. Why am I really doing this?
05:16 Anyway, thank you for all that. But obviously there must have been something.
05:24 Some sort of I mean, I wonder what kind of like this dissatisfaction was and satisfaction level was I guess come and comparison between practicing law and your program. I mean
05:40 There must have been some sort of reason why you thought if you wanted to work with kids that you wanted to work particularly with at-risk youths and protect me with woodworking. I'm you said you like working so me what?
05:54 Was it things that you kind of saw her experience while practicing all that kind of LED you to that why you could probably chose another way to work with kids why why that way?
06:06 You know, I always enjoy practicing law not that didn't like it. But at some point I think you get to a point in life where you say, is this the
06:20 It is this really what I want to do forever.
06:26 The what I did for relaxation what I love to do in my spare time when I will come home and on the weekends was
06:38 Was Woodworking and father was an incident with your mom?
06:43 Where I was apparently slaving away in the shop working on the
06:48 Cedar lining for the closet in your bedroom and she was in there trying to deal with you as a baby and I'm like I do in the shop having fun is like I need to open hear something like that. She can tell you the story. I'm sure but I just love her so much fun. I don't know. I mean to 90% of their clients I have pricing worth.
07:10 People in the lower income status
07:16 Lots of families without fathers in the lives of the kids and had a lot of very good friends who live in that world where it's a little tougher than the world I grew up in so, I don't know. I just it just kind of happened. I think that's how you talk about like the the switch that we had from when you're practicing law, whether it's kind of like lifestyles in or attempt to Financial Security in that it's certainly different now and we kind of change paths kind of abruptly, but I don't I mean, you know, I don't think it's nothing really in me that
07:57 Feels like you know, we changed in this area a harder path or you know, you spoke of hardships and I don't mean that something that's never really register with me probably because I was young when you switched so kind of looked at the world through rose-tinted glasses at that point, but but even still I mean it's nothing, you know, I never
08:19 Never something that I you know where it was ever resentful of or I don't understand why you did it end.
08:31 And why you both kind of made that switch and I think that's a mean a big reason why a lot of that a lot of those things have been issues that I've been specially as I've gone through school and started working on that more.
08:48 Because from your experience, I know that you
08:53 Yeah, we're in a certain part of of life in Marley satisfied with it. Give her regret making the choice to
09:03 At switch careers move towns anyting
09:08 No, no.
09:13 No, not not the move because I think
09:19 Mom and I are both much happier being up here on the coast of North Carolina. Then we were in Louisiana and I want to ask you about that clean the moment and not the career move although
09:32 As a problem is grown. I've gone from someone who spent most of his time working directly with kids everyday all day to chasing money to keep the program going cuz that's what grown and got more successful and serve more kids. It takes more money to do it. And with the economy being what it is. I'm too often I the shop with the kids. I'm riding your grandmother out talkin about the program someplace. And if I'd known then that I would be spending most of my hours every week.
10:02 Doing that. I'm not I don't know what I would have thought about it, but never the last no no regrets at all.
10:12 But but being let me at the two things are come to Mama. I don't want to ask you about talking about the move.
10:20 I mean
10:22 Mom and I were talking about moving to, North Carolina.
10:28 Prince death
10:30 Was in high school when he was in grade school, we talked about making that move and then we thought well, let's wait till he gets out of school because he has friends and he was established here and then we went all the way through his college years till just talkin one day. Maybe we'll do this and then it got to the point where
10:50 He was all G when we moved up here. He was 26 years old. So he was living in New York City then but finally we did it. But when we did that you were then.
11:01 Finishing first grade about the big and second right? So I'm waiting really ask your permission. I know we probably talk to you about it, but you were second grade. You would have been 6 or 7 years old on.
11:16 Don't let the age of consent I mean
11:22 And I think I kind of realize later in life.
11:28 That maybe you felt like we pulled you away from your home.
11:32 I don't think I mean, I mean I think in some way yeah, I mean I will always think of certain Louisiana as
11:43 I mean I think of this is him to but there I mean I feel like that's where you know that kind of. Although you don't remember much of it than that from 0 to 8 years old is Miss very formative, you know, and and especially I mean the biggest part for me. I think I'm Gonna Fill Their come from Louisiana, but it's also it's the family aspect there to yeah, there is a plethora of our cousins aunts and uncles there who are always because of where we lived were always around. So that was something that neither was I think I think it is. I mean it as I've kind of grown up it seems like you noticed there's people usually have one or two types of family backgrounds that are the very kind of intensity always around kind of funny background and the more social with only children the more kind of
12:41 Just not lonely, but just kind of just you and your family and you whether you're it's because you move or you don't live where your other family lives and so I think I had Panthers. Both of his experiences is certainly in North Carolina. It was something that I missed for sure, but it's never you know, I heard there were a couple years there where I was thinking about
13:09 That I liked Louisiana better essentially and I was probably somewhere in middle school or high school now, I mean, I look at it and certainly value both of the experiences. He rides I really do like growing up on the water. I think that was something I know you talked about a lot and probably I think one of the reasons why you want to move here, right, right.
13:32 Yeah, right because I did grow up on the water up north of here and
13:39 But I realize that you're at you and I always thought.
13:43 Man talk to Mom about it and she seemed to make sense to her too. Although only I could cause people that experience but I just thought I'd be a great place to raise a child great.
13:56 Uxorem just assumed it would be as wonderful an experience for you as it was for me quiz, it was a different time and I just in the 60s or close to the water. We're just two blocks away.
14:07 But Dom has it been good, but I think I mean I would.
14:13 I guess I did. I mean I know it is it has but I kind of hesitate to think about it in terms of
14:20 Being a wonderful experience compared to a less than wonderful experience in one place to another the you know, because I think it's
14:30 Yeah, where wherever you are. It's not.
14:33 It's not so much about.
14:35 You know, whether it's having specific things, but you end up just kind of getting used to a place, you know, I think certainly
14:44 And if I had moved to North Carolina at a later point, you know, maybe Middle School it would have been a totally different thing because I would have had been more established in Louisiana. So
14:55 But not me to nothing. That is ever. I think I oh I wish we hadn't moved. I mean there's Parts. I miss about Louisiana for sure.
15:10 Which accounts for our long-distance phone bill?
15:16 And it's harder.
15:21 To form those friendships again in a new place. We've been here now.
15:25 16 years less whatever right that it has been difficult for you guys, right?
15:39 To Anna and I I mean I recognize a lot of the same things that I seen you guys in myself in terms of humid. It takes me awhile to to get kind of used to people to open up. You know, there is like a few close friends and that's you know, because I noticed that the same with you guys me you you and Mom both seem to have a few close friends, but most of them are seem to be in Louisiana is Carolyn Wright.
16:18 What do you have a real close friend do you think?
16:23 Do I have what do you mean? Do you have a close friend like that? Do you think you know people that I know there are people that I've grown used to being with but I guess for me it I never the thing is I never really feel like the other strong need to always have that you know, I think
16:53 Play with you guys, you know, you came to North Carolina and then the fact that you have initially formed.
17:01 Is super strong friendships here kind of speaks of that same fact that you never didn't maybe didn't really recognize I need to in the sense of you felt something was missing without a group of close Social Circle.
17:22 My mom would really like that.
17:26 I think the closest I had to das my brother.
17:32 Which has been nice for me and especially in later years as we've got to re-establish our relationship.
17:41 But I do I do I really do think Ashley that we feel the need for that and I think it's a missing part of mom's life.
17:49 And to some extent of mine
17:54 Not to have someone up here like that, but you know those things take time and
18:01 Relationships develop in
18:04 Is it mean to people all the time right now?
18:08 So I don't know but a little bit ago.
18:18 Mom and I on.
18:20 Home, I guess the fact that she works with people to in the nonprofit setting.
18:26 Now you,
18:29 What where are you stalking a little bit something about what you might want to do in life or you weren't sure things that you want to experience.
18:43 And certainly you have
18:46 Dumb things that your mom and I never did in terms of how you choose to use your time. I mean whether it's going down to New Orleans on spring break to work on the train to clean up so
19:01 Working with the high-risk kids in school for a summer in New Orleans are talking about joining the Peace Corps now.
19:13 I mean
19:15 Be kind of feeling your oats and all that.
19:19 Yeah, I mean I think.
19:22 You know, it's something that I think is.
19:26 It's developed slowly for sure man, ever really.
19:31 Had kind of the concept of uncertainty. I think the notion of
19:37 Like public service is becoming a lot stronger to me kind of are a lot more compelling. I guess I'm in the sense of just kind of seeing the thneed behind it and
19:50 Dentists of of why so many people going to the Wiles of how many people don't because of how frustrating you can be. You know, I think
19:58 I mean the the biggest thing to me that kind of explains that is you.
20:04 Having journalism is one of my majors and I've been injured in that for a while, but
20:10 You know recently over the past probably 6 months or a year. I guess I'm kind of it's lost its luster for me. And I think they're the reason why.
20:21 And it's kind of hard to explain but I think the reason why is a kind of
20:27 Became less and less interested in it because it became less and less satisfying, you know, some part of me thinks that feels that you do with journalism.
20:38 And newspapers and media, whatever it is at the end of the day a lot of what you're doing is serving to
20:45 Educate people or keep people informed to our already educated or already informed and that's a little unfair but I think you know in terms of looking at looking at positions in journalism now in the places where
21:05 They can assist you and doing the top quality work and work. They really want to do they are the bigger corporations seeing whether it's a newspaper like the New York Times or TV network. But again that you know, when you think about the people who consume that information, I don't know. I just I feel like that journalism isn't doesn't is not doing enough to open up the media Market to people who are don't have access to information and that was and that's kind of why.
21:37 It's kind of lost its shine to means is that you know, I don't think that as I would really be satisfied as a newspaper reporter anymore, you know, because although I do like the extra the work I like the the nothing bolted with the interviewing the Skype information that all that's all that I really enjoy but kind of the end product to me is not as satisfying as the other projects have been involved with him, whether it's kind of boring abroad or doing teaching so, you know, I think that's kind of wine as I'm graduating. It's looking less to a journalism job and more towards some sort of teaching or or kind of public service position.
22:26 And I think there's always possibly that I'll go back to it. And I think I will use it in some form.
22:37 Again in in I don't know it just it started becoming seeming to be more like a more and more almost like a selfish position in a sense in a selfie field and that it is unfair because there is a lot there a lot of journalists who do do a lot of work to to expands kind of the information Market to everybody around there a lot of companies that do that but especially now with kind of the declining field.
23:04 There are fewer and fewer positions open and and so those in fear and fear of dollars to go towards kind of public journalism projects so I can see myself certainly later on trying to work in that area for sure. But at the moment it's it's frustrating being in the field for sure.
23:28 Yeah, we're here that ain't could certainly there's an
23:35 Ever-growing need in the public service sector running the teaching field rack may have you enjoyed the teaching you've done? Yeah. I mean, I haven't done a lot, but I have enjoyed it.
23:52 It's also frustrating for sure, but
23:57 But the satisfaction level is for me 10 times that the from what I was getting at the journalism thing just yeah, it's just it's and it's not so much kind of the individual things. You know, it's not so much that the teaching a great class is more satisfying for me than you know, writing are getting an article published but it's kind of the is the overall idea of when I was doing it in over the summer and I was have kind of it was a lot of very tiring and exhausting exhausting work, but you know an end it didn't really all mean it never I guess kind of part of the appeal to me is it never really actually all pays off and that's the whole point is that you're never I don't think it as it as a teacher. You never really satisfied in the sense of great that lesson work. Everybody got that, you know, because no one it's your never have it that your whole class.
24:57 Does into that kind of attracted me in the sense that day there was always more work to be done. And I think that's what frustrates a lot of people about going in education, but
25:11 I don't know Timmy that kind of excites me because
25:15 Meow means that
25:19 Yes, you as one person can make a lot of difference but you're always Place yourself in the bigger picture that you know, there's it's it's it's hard as a teacher to get caught up in your own kind of her for me at least to get kind of caught up in your own head cuz you're so focused on not helping yourself and helping others and that that was what I liked a lot about it, you know, I think and I and I wonder if that's kind of
25:49 One of the feelings you got from practicing law is that I mean certainly it's different cuz as a lawyer you are providing a service and you are really helping people but on some level you got a few have to be worried about your all your billable hours and your rates and you know, making a certain profit. Margin, I would assume running is done and when you have your breakfast Minocqua price and actively an I6 I had to make $20,000 a month to pay all the bills before I head down to go to their house and Dom
26:27 Someone she didn't do what you know how much you really did it, but it's interesting cuz you talk about the teaching thing. I was hearing you talk about.
26:37 Hard to get caught up in your own head with your own pictures because you're kind of putting out there for the kids.
26:45 And then somehow it was coming to me about coming back to me. I was thinking about in my typical case. I will work with for family many of the same.
26:57 Families if we were living in Louisiana now, we're probably be working with the kids of our clients maybe but
27:07 But I'll receive them at the beginning of the case and then we might talk some throughout the case and then at the end when we conclude the case and we would cut the checks and everybody will be happy and I would kinda who the kids were but these days.
27:23 Yeah, when Rudy comes in the shop in the afternoon. I saw her yesterday. I saw the day before Thursday before that when he got caught up in something with the criminal system. You're like where they're foreign. Try helping navigate that I like with you in the teaching.
27:41 I mean you are with the same kids every day for a couple months in New Orleans couple summers ago and everyday those kids saw you everyday you have an opportunity to
27:53 Relate to them in some way and
27:57 You know when I learned a few years the other like 97% of the kids in public housing here. Let me know either one parent. There are no parent household and after I worked with
28:11 Probably seven or eight hundred kids are realized I could count on one hand the ones I knew that really Heather.
28:17 Father in their lives in the city of insignificant way you realize when you see these kids when you say your kids in the classroom situation day in Day Out
28:30 Did Arizona?
28:33 This is something that happens there for good or for ill and you think about how much the world needs incredibly good devoted teachers to be there every day for kids because sometimes you may be the one consistent factor in their lives.
28:55 Very tolerable work. I've often thought that
28:59 That teachers should be paid the most.
29:03 In this world if true value or given two professions good teachers. Absolutely and the rest of us should be further down that ladder because if we want our species to continue to
29:26 Panther propagate ourselves and be a part of this Earth in though me for positive way.
29:33 If every teacher were a good teacher in every student.
29:39 Lauren great lessons for the teachers and and
29:42 Then maybe we wouldn't have.
29:46 I love the process for having a society now from global warming to
29:53 Social issues rap song by Andy. I mean, I guess you spoke earlier about
30:02 As you go on you've been able to do less and less of that whether it's screaming in your case. It is teaching would you do mentoring and kind of just general kind of guidance? But so how
30:17 I want to have in you just kind of said you know, what is getting too much. I'm going to hire someone to run this and I'm just going to go back to being a shop instructor. Why.
30:29 Why have you kept?
30:32 I guess if I thought there was somebody that
30:35 We could all.
30:37 Pay to do my job.
30:40 And to go out there and talk about the program and why are grants and raised all the dollars and go to all the meetings.
30:47 A big right mom and I were talking the other day about her retiring and she said what you don't want to return anytime soon. I said, you know what?
30:54 If I have to worry about bringing the money in for kids making it and I knew that we were solid I will be looking tomorrow for somebody to take my place and if
31:04 And if I can retire love to be down there as a volunteer, but
31:12 You know, there's a lot of
31:14 Yeah, the dream is to be sustained and understandable and I think we'll get there one day y'all believe you'll do it. So but I still get to work with kids and I had to kick him in this afternoon is that mr. Jimmy? I was brought to the drawing of the table you're asking for yesterday. So even though I was in the middle of Dashing off some emails and doing some last-minute things before I met with you that was in some ways the highlight of my day to talk with Larry Fisher about what he's doing I guess though. I mean, I wonder because when I guess after having senior and this kind of why I asked the question a man having seen your commitment to the program at I wonder if
31:54 You you really whatever feel comfortable.
31:58 Retiring in in kind of passing it on because I think seems to me at least on some level.
32:07 You know that whatever happens is on you with the program at some basic level and I think
32:15 That kind of awesome responsibility and I think it started of course with with you starting the program and you were there in the shop and it's just a natural progression of you know, you're the one who knows the program the best you're the one who started at your the head guy.
32:30 I would have you ever really could let someone else take the reins like that and never be comfortable with that because I think and I understand I think you know, I know you want to get back to that basic level, but
32:43 Just got to speak to the importance of the administrative role. You know that even though you don't like doing it.
32:50 I think you do like the fact that you know that you're responsible, you know, you know that, you know, if you need to put in five more hours you're going to do that.
33:04 I don't know. I like to think I could.
33:11 I mean I kind of worked on my retirement. I told Mom I said, you know to me what will be will be great to have plenty of time and spend my days.
33:25 Working the garden keeping bees doing love with working at my own going out fishing.
33:32 Technocrat raps surfing and then going down the afternoon to work with kids in the shop.
33:38 But maybe I couldn't let that go. I don't know. Maybe I hope I could cuz I feel like if we didn't have any concerns in our house financially, I didn't need to make a living.
33:50 I think that they'll come too and kids making it didn't have any Financial worries.
33:55 You know, who knows? How long will I be? So I might be an Uber volunteer with kids making them and to me it speaks. So I just did the commitment that you have about you know that.
34:15 And I think just from what I've seen from how tired so you work on it.
34:21 I think just going down to that volunteer roll you feel like something was missing, you know, and that's I think why why I mean it speaks to why is program has been such a success as such a success over the years is that seems like you have never felt like never felt like it was enough never feel like you were reaching enough kids or kind of expanding into enough sectors what you mean to me? That's that's in this program at school when I'm trying to call to take cues from you cuz that's to me why like, it's just just very disrespected a lot, but you know,
34:59 I guess I'll say this to you cuz particular as you
35:04 Take on more roles in your life to work with kids like a thing. You've done it Carolina and what you're talking about doing next year.
35:13 I kind of learned a long time ago that at least for me I have to count success.
35:23 Because and you just have to do the best you can every day by all the kids you encounter.
35:31 And get them your best.
35:34 And I know that some of them will really succeeds. Some of them might not some of that we're drift away. Some of them will come back and I'll tell you I know you probably heard me say this but I'll mention it in case you haven't I read somewhere a long time ago that a good teacher is like when you drop a stone in a pond and you start seeing those ripples go out.
35:58 Everything you do is a teacher creates another drop of that stone and the ripples go out and at some point you can no longer see those ripples the ponds big enough that image is going to keep going all the way at some points beyond for you can see it but you know, this kids are out there.
36:14 For good or for ill and hopefully for good taking what they learn from you and through there.
36:23 Good Fortune to be associated with you
36:26 And putting it back out into the world in the form of some positive energy. So yeah.
36:36 I need to know so if you
36:39 Anytime you have a chance to do I think it's great what you choose to do that.
36:43 For a long time that you're not and I'll say this too is always the thing I learned when I started doing this was it really is important to do something you love for a living.
36:56 I know you never hate going to work. Whatever that is.
37:01 Am I bi snowboarding?
37:06 Jimmy can I ask you a question? You've been talking about wanting to Mentor more and you've been kind of pulled away from that. Is there one specific memory that you have mentoring mentoring someone that is that is that sticks out in your mind?
37:38 Gotcha. I don't know there was a there been a lot of memories but something that just helped bring home to me.
37:49 How important is just to do whatever you can with the kid.
37:55 And this is the kid that I wouldn't know him if you walked in the door now, I can't even tell you his name.
38:01 And but I was with him for a few months many years ago when he was long-term suspended from school and he worked with us on a community service project building all the gazebo at the end of Shell Island and
38:19 We decided on the day that we were going to dedicate that and take some photos and
38:25 MN complete that project and can I turn it over to the Audubon Society in the county?
38:31 We thought we take this goes out to lunch and I said well us will be right there. Let's go for a boat ride. So we took out both out and about all these can we have five or six kids off from downtown Wilmington off from kind of in the city and they all got to drive the boats and I found out later from the head of the juvenile facility that was with me. He was sitting at the back of the boat. He told me later that
38:58 That someone so the child whose name I can't remember now.
39:02 He said was crying in the back of the boat. This is a good fourteen years old tough kid tough neighborhood. I think mess around with the game suspended from school. That's the only gosh. What was he? Okay. He said yeah, he just was crying and he told me he was crying because it was the most wonderful day of his life ever. I thought wow just from being able to go out.
39:28 Have his photo taken be thanks for all the hard work he done and get to drive the boat on the Intracoastal Waterway and go out to eat at the Mexican restaurant. And that made it the most but it's like he probably never done any of those things. Maybe I thought wow. What a
39:44 What a wonderful thing it is.
39:47 To be able to just do things to help kids broaden their Horizons, so
39:52 Haven't seen him since
39:55 Commonwealth boats
40:02 The chance to
40:04 To me. It's at least it's just to provide as many opportunities as possible. You know, it's that I mean, I think I'd said some final level, you know, people are individuals in human beings. And yeah, they're going to make the decisions that they're going to make in its meaning like we're working with mentoring and it's not to me. It's not about helping the kids make a decision, but just showing him the different ways to do it, you know and in like with that it's just giving him a brand new opportunity to do something else which they may or may not like in a mirror and it may not be what they want to do but it's showing that is another another path for another part of life. So yeah, that's what I wrote the program for sure.
40:49 Packing and whatever you do with your life mom now behind you a thousand percent and
40:57 And for sure, you're you're way ahead of
41:01 Wife and your thoughts about what you might want to do than I was when I was your age.
41:07 So thanks for the inspiration for the interview.