Monday, October 28, 2002

The Saga of a Man in a Very Cold House and His Oatmeal Supplier

It was just after lunch Friday afternoon and I was headed over to a popcorn place through the Minneapolis skyway system. For the past month this has been a ritual for me, a treat I've afforded myself for taking vacation time from my job and working a 60 hour week to help Hennepin County prepare for the upcoming election. On this particular day I was walking with a sense of urgency and a little more pep in my step as I was about to take the advice of my friend/boss who had recommended I try a smoothie with my popcorn rather than the usual popcorn/pop special offered by this nearby popcorn place.

On my way to the store I pass a glassed in area that has a big screen TV that is constantly playing even though you can only see the picture and not hear the sound. A group of people was gathered around the set and I could see the set was tuned in to FOX news and figured it was merely more on the sniper story. As I got closer to the crowd I could hear some people crying. And then I saw the caption that read, "Sen. Paul Wellstone Killed in Airplane Crash." I blindly found myself walking briskly back to my work area my own eyes welling up with tears.

You didn't have to like the man's politics or his personality or share in his belief in government's ability to have a positive influence on people's lives in order to admire his passion. The rarest and most beautiful and worthwhile people in this world are those who are passionate about something/anything. To truly care about and to devote your heart and soul is to risk sticking out from what is safe. That what Wellstone was in particular passionate about- trying to make other people lives better- was something very special indeed.

With the amount of media coverage and the many tributes to Sen. Wellstone and those who lost their lives in the crash I know I can't possibly add anything terribly insightful other than the couple of times I was in his presence I was amazed at how a man of his (and my) size had the ability to light up whatever room he was in (most people, myself included, tend to darken things when faced with a similar situation). Whether he was speaking in a low key manner or worked up in one of his trademark frenzies, people stopped and listened and paid attention because he was the rare soul who had the courage to speak from his heart and with undeniable conviction.

Having to work the rest of the day in an absentee voting area was a tad surreal. People approached and thought we had some insight not being reported elsewhere. And they had questions about what the tragic news meant for the election. All we could say was that we were waiting for some direction from the state as to what was to come next. It reminded me a bit of the M*A*S*H episode where Henry Blake is sent back home. At the very end Radar comes into the operating room to make the startling announcement that the colonel's plane had been shot down over the Sea of Japan "... it spun in. There were no survivors..." There is a gasp but the surgeons have no choice but to keep on with their work. It's a crutch to work your way through without having to deal with the grief but at the same time there is no way you can possibly concentrate on the details of the work.


As a kid getting ready for school there was the rare occasion that mom would fix my brother and I oatmeal. We'd sprinkle some brown sugar and milk into the mysterious mom made mixture and it sure beat that bowl of Cap'n Crunch or toasted Pop Tart we usually had. My aforementioned friend/boss recently re-introduced me to the delight of oatmeal. Who knew that it now comes in an individually wrapped package that you can pour into a bowl, add a little water, and microwave into a most satisfying lil' breakfast? Believe me it is the little reminders, the rewards of a one of the best friendships I've ever had that makes me glad that I did take time away from my job to do something else for a while. Never has someone been so in need of the extra hour (of sleep?) that comes along with falling back, but I have seen first hand that no matter what obstacles are thrown your way (professional wise, personal wise or otherwise) you just have to once in a while remind yourself that something little like a heated bowl of acumen offered from a true friend can even make a most difficult week seem worthwhile in the end.

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