Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sedgwick: Honoring Bill Stephan

March 17, 2011

I saw him standing there out of the corner of my eye. When I looked back at him, he lifted his arm and waved his hand while a subtle smile crept across his face.

I drove away from the station with that image in my mind’s eye — him standing there so quietly, yet so solidly. When I looked back at him that morning, memories of my father seeped up out of history like a cool spring burbling in a wooden glen.

There are men — and women, as well — who define a community; who emerge from its confines as deeply rooted trees. Even as communities grow and change, while these men and women endure the changes, they emerge from such changes with their values intact.

They maintain their moral centers and, as such, are anchors for a boat that often seems adrift.

There are times when it seems that our community is adrift, pulling away from the shores of history and tradition into a vast ocean of change, with no land in sight. There are other times when it seems that our community ship is on a well-designated voyage with a map and compass to guide her. It is those times when, it seems to me, the past and the future are joined together in an effort that is mutually beneficial for its passengers.

Seeing Bill Stephan at his service station that morning reminded me of all that can be good about a community, of caring for one another, of pulling together in spite of diversity or differences, of comprise for the greater good, of a moral center deeply rooted.

I thought of my dad — a man of principle, a man of faith, a man of community, a man of deeply rooted, moral values. It doesn’t matter how much you earn, or where you live, he used to say. What matters is your character; the person you are when no one is looking.

Bill Stephan took care of my dad’s car, just as his son takes care of mine. But it is far more than that. It is what is done for a person when no one is looking.

It is the prayer breathed in the night; the thought in the middle of the day. It is the note of caring left on the windshield; the wave on the way out of the parking lot.

It is years of shared history and a hope for a better future that binds us.

It is a habit of looking out for one another, for one another’s children and grandchildren; of putting others before self; of wanting to leave the world a better place than we found it that defines the moral center of a community — not where we work, or how much we earn but, rather, how much we are loved and respected by others.

Bill Stephan is loved and respected. Wave when you go by.

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