Monday, January 01, 2007

The Men I've Met in Pearlington

In a year filled with ironies, 2007 dawns today in southern Ontario only 2 degrees cooler than it is in Pearlington, MS - 1300 miles to the south. Instead of the customary blanket of snow, the grass is growing and the birds are chirping.

In a life filled with ironies, I have a practice filled with angry, sometimes violent men. On both sides of the Atlantic I have worked with and witnessed tens of thousands of men. Men at war with themselves and others; men seeking the peace on earth they cannot find; men, boys really, struggling to tread water and to make some sense of themselves. Yet it is within weather, not war, that I am reminded of the true meaning of Manhood.

In a world filled with ironies, while we hang despots and imprison all manner of greedy guys, the Toms and Tims, the Charlies and Jims - the Volunteer Men of Pearlington - go unrecognized in the world.

But, not today.

It has been one of the signal pleasures and fondest experiences of my life to work with so many fine men. Men who have answered a call much greater than a call to arms: a call to Peace. Men who give so much of themselves and ask so little in return. Men of Value, men of Faith, men of Hope and Diligence; craftsmen and workmen; men who build and men who tear down to build again.

Men of Conscience, who can look another man in the eye and speak those most-feared words: I love you. Men of a new breed, men who comfort and lead boys to manhood, men who honor and respect women and hold them as equal partners in the quest for Peace.

These are the Volunteer Men of Pearlington - oh, I’m sure, not all of them, but men sufficient to turn the tide of how we are all perceived and held with due respect. Men I admire and have come to cherish; men who inspire me with their quality and forthrightness and dedication to a cause that counts. Men who break down the barriers between other men and call them to their greatest place.

I received an email from one such man yesterday. I share it here because he in turn received a call from another man, a Pearlington man, who has been enriched not only in hearth but in heart by the graciousness of a Perfect Stranger:

"I am proud to do this work for others, but I am honored and humbled to be so rewarded by Raymond’s graciousness. I didn’t come to Pearlington for that, but I keep going back in part because people like Raymond remind me of how valuable a person I am – and have yet to be.

To each of you reading this, I copied you because Ray is thanking you. Your allowing his respect, gratitude and appreciation to strike your heart may just move you, too. My heart is up in my throat and tears are in my eyes as I write. And with that feeling, may you choose to reach out to someone else and spread it on him or her. I am thanking you for being my partner in this project, and for every other one you choose to participate in that makes a contribution to others.

All those things you do that no one knows about."

Love and thank you,
Tim Goodnow - Dog Soldiers of Atlanta

In a year filled with irony, wherein men who weren’t required to care replaced those who were paid to care, Goodnow and so many others shine a light too bright to ignore and change comes, not with a bang nor a whimper, but with a smile and a helping hand.

There is a message here, a metaphor that lies beneath the rebuilding of a bayou town.

It will change the world if we allow it.

Happy New Year!
"Canada Jon" White


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