Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Street Life

Out of respect for his privacy, I will not identify the person I am writing about here today.

As we drove into the city, on our way home from Ottawa, stopped at a red light. Joe noticed a fellow standing on the corner and said, 'Hey, look who's over there!' I looked and for a second didn't recognize the face of a man well known for the work he's done, the stances he's taken, the causes that he has fought, the life he has led. He's a man I've admired for a long time. And there he was. Now out of the spotlight, now gracefully retired, standing chatting with a couple of people on the street. The reason I didn't recognize him was because he was laughing and relaxed. The warrior look was gone, replaced, instead, with the face of a man now simply happy to be chatting on the street with friends.

I remember being little and running into one of my teachers in a grocery store. I was shocked. Teachers didn't shop. Teachers didn't live in the real world. Teachers didn't buy groceries and make dinners. Teachers were, in my mind, folded up and placed in the cloakroom for the night only to be dusted off in the morning. It was kind of like that for me. I'd only ever seen this man in forums where he was at work, where the spotlight fell on him, where he stood and said what needed to be said. I didn't think about him ever just having a weekend, going to the movies, ordering pizza. Surely, surely, we all know, the Queen doesn't poo.

So, therefore, it was a surprise, first, then a delight, to see him standing there, simply being a guy talking to friends on the street. To see him just living life, not fighting fights, not slaying dragons. It was nice to see that he was both bigger and smaller than I had imagined him to be. It made sense, I realized, that he would live in the real world, he fought real battles, he sought out real issues, he spoke from a sense of profound reality. Good people live good and full lives. Of course they do.

But what really gave me  pause, was how comfortable he looked in his own skin. His face, much aged since I last saw him, looked like it was worn by a man at peace with himself and at peace with the life he'd led. Wonderful. The world has yet to catch up to his convictions, though I'm sure it will one day. This seemed to be OK to the man standing there. It's like he just knew he had done his part. He hadn't stayed silent. He hadn't fallen into complacency. Maybe this peace I saw, or glimpsed, is his reward.

How cool is that?


tekeal said...

very cool, indeed.

alan said...

Thank you for your blog.
Please check for some distressing footage of abuse in a uk care home. very sick!

Princeton Posse said...

very cool...something to aspire to.

little.birdy said...

Unrelated to this post, I saw this and thought of you:

Also thought of you when watching a DVD of people with disabilities performing a play. One of the women was in a motorized wheelchair, and one of my students asked me how she was moving the chair. I said that I thought she was using a joystick and the student's comment was, "Lucky!". I said, "I know, right?". I have some awesome students.