By: H. Anne Thurston-Brandley
Among the men I met online the past two years as I researched my next book were a large number of very interesting ones who had lived unbelievably worthwhile lives. They shared many like qualities, yet no two were similar. In fact the only sameness I found among the over four hundred it was my privilege to write and often talk with was their male gender.
I probably should add age to this as most were in their eighties or seventies. And because of this the majority had served in WW11 and or the Korean War. As a result of their service time most had gained a college education thanks to the GI Bill that paid their way. There were many who had worked all the way to a doctorate.
One such man was an attorney living in Chicago. His career had begun in journalism as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune but following the war and further education had moved onto the field of law in which he eventually held the leadership of the state’s law organization. Having been born in Chicago and calling it home to this day he was a ‘city guy’ in every way. Living in a 16th floor condominium overlooking Lake Michigan and Shore Drive his idea of ‘cooking out’ was to grill on the balcony which hung in the air off his living area.
Although he had a car he was far more likely to bicycle downtown than bother with the vehicle. At his fingertips was every form of entertainment, learning opportunity and restaurant I could imagine. Despite my small town background we looked upon each other as being the same kind of person and worthwhile knowing.
At first I felt resentful about his remarks when, upon reading one of my columns I sent him because I thought he’d find it interesting. Instead his comment was; “Anne, your column is alright, but it isn’t anything remarkable as it is written about a small town and nothing else.” My immediate reaction was the feeling of being nothing more than a ‘nothing’ woman.
But as I considered his words I came to realize they also painted him as nothing more than a big city slicker. The two of us were from different worlds although both citizens of this wonderful country we call home. On the surface we were different. He loved his big city and it complexities as I do the wooded hills and lakes surrounding Boyne City. His life carried him into the upper regions of city society while mine finds me wandering Stroll the Streets. His church was one of hundreds while mine is a fraction of the size of it. O’Hara airport and the Chicago Railroad station cover square miles of land while here the railroad is history and the airport a matter of acres.
This all stumped me. If we were so different how did we manage to become such close friends? Why did we seek the adv ice of the other on everyday things which intruded into our lives? Why had we discussed our health issues, governmental problems, economic troubles and swap recipes? Why did I respect him and what he had accomplished? And why did he find me interesting in what I have done over the years? Something just wasn’t fitting together.
Then, two Sundays ago I heard a wonderful sermon based on the birth of the Christ child. I was reminded Jerusalem at the time was under siege by the Romans in a heartless manner. The birth of the Christ was ‘away’ in a manger – wouldn’t have made it on the nightly news, TV, newspaper, Facebook or whatever even if they had existed. The only persons who found out about the birth were poor shepherds way out in the fields. No one else heard any singing or understood why a star was so bright that night. An event which has affected more lives than any other history has record slipped right past everyone as it unfolded.
And so it remains today. No matter where each of us is born and live we do make a difference in our world; whether a small town or huge city. As individuals we come to mean something to those who enter our lives no matter how different we are. Even though I am only a small town woman and my Chicago friend is a big city man we are both individuals who care about those we know and don’t know and have come to realize that being Americans is a tie which can’t be severed. We all can name individuals who have impacted our lives in ways beyond belief.
Let 2012 become a happy New Year. Working together, no matter our place of origin can create a better world in which to live. Striving to understand those we don’t will bring unexpected rewards.