At thirteen years of age I was a sheltered boy in Parochial School, the thought of crossing the street was a big step. One of the boys in the neighborhood was quick to explaining how the world worked, and it didn’t sound, or work, like the nun’s songs about Michael rowing a boat, or Dominique singing song about the Lord.
It was a world of hard activism and real commitment to teaching the media-distracted and complacent pedestrians about the instilled-inequalities that jumped out from our entitled-ignorance and into our daily conversations on the street.
The ability of my neighbor to set the word straight by his dedication to non-violent discussion in one afternoon, outside of my school, changed my life.
I could admire the calm resolve in his recognizing the ignorance of another’s words, and yet bringing that starkness like a mirror to the face of the newly minted intelligente’, as if a hammer had struck a die and pealed the bell of logic born of perseverance.
I have to say I did tell him of the change he had made in my world on that school-day afternoon, as recently as last year.
He continues to work on behalf of peace, environmental justice and the better world all progressives dream of.
His family supported many movements from the UFW to the hundreds of progressive candidates throughout the decades since the enlightening ‘60’s up to the dark days of a legal oppression of human intelligence in this second millennium.
That the family from where my neighbor was born into had been involved directly in the daily needs of the family of Cesar Chavez and the UFW movement is surely explanation for the genuine grassroots soul of my neighbor.
I have no pictures to offer, or names to name.
I only offer a story of a boy who could not cross a street and yet found a world of truths on a street corner while listening to a conscientious UFW activist explain the world to one, as myself, who, like me, knew nothing of the world or even the ignorance of words that would have insured that condition to continue.
I am forever grateful for that witness to a moment where an ignorant remark received the correction of wise, pacifist, dedication found in the Union fields and political activism that are now my role to fill.