Brain Dropping #104
Humanity at its best. I’ve just come from a funeral service for a man named Roger. I’ve known Roger for fifteen years and never knew his last name until today. Roger was an outlier, a person who lived at a distance from what is consider the norm – a person who is usually shunned by so-called proper citizens. Roger insisted that he was not homeless, although he often slept in a cave-like hole under the protection of the I-89 Interstate overpass. His clothes were utilitarian, often threadbare and raggedy, worn in multi-layers in the winter. His transportation was an old one speed bike usually hung with plastic bags filled with deposit bottles. When compassionate people offered him money he always politely declined. His face, ruddy and weather beaten, was deeply etched with lines and some front teeth were missing. In short, Roger was the kind of human being other comfortable human beings were fearful of and would cross the street to avoid.
Their perceptions couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite his rough life Roger was a man of good spirit and compassion who never failed to help others, absolutely refusing payment. I never heard him complain or say a harsh word or to curse the obvious hardship of his daily existence. Roger was no saint you understand, just a rock-solid decent human being. Early in his life he was diagnosed as a paranoid/schizophrenic and in his wanderings beginning on Long Island, N.Y. ended up in St. Albans, Vermont to become an iconic figure of endurance and survival, who just about everyone in town knew. Many folks were on the receiving end of Roger’s concern and good nature. He did odd jobs for the disabled and elderly and would remember any information you passed on to him about your family. He was frequently seen determinedly pedaling his bike on a freezing, windswept snowy day on his way to the supermarket with his deposit bottles. He seemed indomitable!
It speaks volumes about the good people of St. Albans that nearly two hundred folks, from all walks of life, showed up for the funeral – not only attended but gave emotional and eloquent testimony as to how
Roger’s warm humanity and integrity touched their lives.
I always pictured Roger as a Lomed Vovnik – one of the 36 JUST MEN men. Let me explain. There is an ancient Jewish legend concerning 36 men (I would add women) who are appointed by God to bear the suffering and travails of the human condition. No one knows who they are, and they themselves don’t know who they are. As long as even one of the JUST MEN is alive the world can continue to exist. If the last of the JUST MEN dies the world will end in the blink of an eye. This idea behooves every human being
to treat every other human being, regardless of his or her station in life, as the LAST OF THE JUST.