Bill Monroe, a valued friend, is the Outdoor Editor of the Oregonian. In this article, so very poignant and inspirational, he shared stories of how people live and never whine or have pity-parties. I loved the reflection; Bill gave permission to print. This is being written late Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, or days after this new week, please read it and then reflect upon your own self-world and see how it might morph into an “others’ world.” Bill, thanks. You live as you write–with wisdom and faith and caring. We are the better because of this reflection. Peace, Mark.
By Bill Monroe
For The Oregonian/OregonLive
Brian Henderson of Milwaukie [picture above] is in his sixth year of ringing a bell for The Salvation Army at the main entrance of the Oregon City Fred Meyer store. The blind 47-year-old props his red and white cane on the stand and sings carols in a clear baritone voice, accompanied by music from a small wireless speaker married to his smart phone.
“I like to fish,” he says, adding with a twinkle, “But for some reason, I can’t get anyone in my church to take me hunting.”
A stout man with a bright red apron, Henderson smiles when he’s addressed and is quick with a “thank you” when he knows his bucket has been stuffed.
(Henderson had the start of a Santa beard he was going to “keep until Sunday night,” but shaved when it began itching.)
Think about Brian for a moment as you (and I) come and go in our holiday haze, rushing for that last un-chosen (and probably unnecessary) gift; fretting about catching the plane (or a steelhead); fighting traffic, or whether world peace will last until New Year’s Day…
Better yet, think about my memory of another bell-ringer for the needy, a Kenyan in 2008 who’s very likely passed on by now.
He actually didn’t have a bell – barely had clothes, in fact – and sat outside a decrepit theater in Meru, an inner-Kenya, metropolitan hub within a stone’s throw of the equator.
The man’s right arm appeared to have been broken (but healed; perhaps a genetic defect?) in two places and his hand dangled helplessly over his head in a pair of 90-degree angles as he held out his left palm.
A few of us on my brother’s mission team gave him some shillings as we passed inside to hear a local evangelist pitch for more – then left in his Mercedes.
That afternoon we returned to our headquarters in dirt-poor Maua and took a Kenya boys spread their net for small fish in Maua, Kenya, where they roast them whole and sell along the shoreline of a community pond.
Sunday break with a walk to a nearby rainwater pond. Hadada ibis and African crows shared the grassy shoreline with people – some simply sitting, others washing rusted vans with pails and rags at the edge of the water.
Out in the middle, three boys lay prone, just heads showing, and tugging a large net between them.
They mined the pond for half an hour, finally rising with a stringer of small perch they then took to a makeshift fire on the opposite shoreline to scorch and sell for 25 shillings each (about a quarter). Odds are 50-50 any of the boys are still alive.
Worried about next year’s salmon run? Whether wolves will get your buck? Or even if the ducks will fly on your annual Christmas morning hunt?
Most Kenyans worry about something to eat.
Christmas is almost exclusively a religious holiday in East Africa. The few gift exchanges are modest and consist primarily of handiwork personally made for friends and family, based on need.
Think about the third world Monday and then toss a shekel or two in Henderson’s pot as you thank the Star of Bethlehem you live in a nation where a blind man can find grace helping others instead of trying to survive and beg again tomorrow.
And have a Merry Christmas…Or, as they say in Kenyan Swahili: Krismasi Njema (nnn-jay-mah).