July 30, 2018
By Arthur H. Gunther III
A “human” story, of which there have been too little in this age of orchestrated hate, prejudice, judgment and punishment. …
I have not shed a tear in my hometown of Spring Valley, N.Y., in many decades, but Tuesday last the drought ended for a brief but soul-touching moment.
Volunteers were doing their remarkable thing, as they and their forebears have done since 1985 in a free breakfast program, no questions asked. We work out of the old gym/meal-gathering room of the 1865 United Church building, a place where I attended Boy Scouts in the 1950s, at an age when it was easier to cry, though there was no reason to.
Lots of memories in that room, including the emotions that rise and play out as you see humanity in all its wonderful hues, idiosyncrasies, fears, joy, hope and frustration. Sometimes it chokes you up; other times you are so very proud of your fellow human.
Last Tuesday, having finished my part as a cook — the pancakes, sausages, soup, oatmeal, desserts seaboarded to the serving area and almost gone — I moseyed from my flattop grill sanctuary to where the ladies ladle out the soup and offer the other foods.
Standing behind Jane and Margaret on the pancakes/sausage, with Sally on the soup, Moucille on the oatmeal, Phyllis handing out donated and purchased clothing and toiletries from her “store,” and Christine, Ann, Olive and Maryann on standby, I looked at the serving line to see this young man, as tall as can be, as thin as all get out, plate in hand, ready for food. For whatever reason, he locked his eyes on mine and said “I’m sorry, father.” He had tears on his face. I wanted to end the emotion right then and there because there was no need for this young fellow to apologize to me. I extended my hand, shook his tightly as he repeated, “I’m sorry father.”
I think I left him with reassurance that all was OK, and that if he wanted “forgiveness,” the handshake did it. Quickly, I slid back into my sanctuary, with a tear or two myself, something that rarely happens.
I was certain that the fellow felt better. And once the emotion subsided, I was grateful that I was there to do something, which came not from me but from whatever decency almost all of us can summon when we are given the chance to do so.
Driving home, NPR on the radio, the report was about more claims of “fake news,” how illegal immigrants are supposedly taking jobs from Americans, how government blocks big business, why “America needs to be great again.” Lots of negativity.
I turned off the radio and thought back to a tall, skinny, lost young man who sought forgiveness from his “father.” That was real news.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org