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Friday, September 26, 2003

I was reading Beth Keck's blog today. Somehow, it made me think of Arnold (no, not THAT Arnold :-)

Arnold was 82 years old when he first came to our church in San Jose (that would make him about 25 - 30 years older than the next oldest person.) He always wore somewhat stained pants, a flannel shirt, suspenders, and a big smile. Arnold had never been married, didn't have much family except for a sister, had led a life that would have made great movie, had virtually no income, a car held together with spit and duct tape, and lived in a camper on a strawberry farm in Watsonville, where for a modest rent amount he was allowed to use the cold shower and toilet they had for the migrant workers. He had heart problems, other health problems, and was almost deaf - and I don't think I have ever met a more joyful person in my life.

It was pretty much impossible to not fall in love with Arnold. He was childlike in the best sense - being able to enjoy the now without thinking about past or future, in-the-moment living. Bald on top, with a long fringe of white hair and twinkling blue eyes surrounded with laugh lines, he could enter totally into the beauty of a sunset, or the taste of a strawberry. He is maybe the only person I have ever met where I got the feeling that there was absolutely no mask - that what you saw was exactly what there was. He was thankful for everything - and genuinely so. I have met so many people who are with a long face "thankful to God for the difficulties, because you know, all things work together for good....."

Arnold wasn't like that - I remember him gleefully telling me how great his hearing aid was, because at the men's retreat, when he was rooming with some of the known worst snorers in the church, he could just take it off, and get a good night's sleep. He was sort of a Pollyanna - always finding joy and blessing, no matter how hard things got (without the cuteness and preciousness of the book though, lol). Like a magnet, people were drawn to him, probably because you always felt that he really wanted to be with YOU.

Anyways, I guess my point would be - in the eyes of the world Arnold was a failure. He hadn't accomplished anything "worthwhile". In his own eyes, Arnold was rich. His was a life well lived - pursuing his passions, enjoying every moment, leaving a legacy of people who loved him dearly. The best thing you could say about his life is that he lived it.

posted by Birgit
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