My new condo neighbour “Brad” is a very cool fellow. He’s well into his 70’s and brimming with appreciation for Belmont, his new home. Both of us have a cornfield out back that we love.
Brad and I went out for breakfast today at the Belmont Diner. I wanted to introduce him to the regulars and he enjoyed meeting them, engaging in several conversations. He’s an easy guy to know.
Brad is a historian. He’s done lots of research on the Black Donnellys, an Irish family who emigrated to Lucan in Canada in the 1800’s. The Donnelly clan got involved in some violent disputes with the locals, and many members of the family were killed at their homestead one night in 1880.
I watched Brad’s face as he talked about the Donnellys, about standing by the foundation of their home, about the feelings of the Lucan residents he’s met. He was living right now in the events of the past, totally engaged in the story.
Brad lived for a time in Fort Erie, Ontario, and I learned of him gathering artifacts from the War of 1812, between the United States and the precursor of Canada. He talked about the heavy cannonballs that the Americans fired at the British from their ships in the Niagara River, and then told me that he has one of them in his home. Brad also has a collection of buttons from the tunics of American soldiers. His eyes were wide as he transported himself back 200 years.
Then there was the native princess who lived by herself in a tent near Minnedosa, Manitoba – Brad’s hometown. As a young boy, he watched the woman as she sat on a large rock in her native dress, gazing out over Lake Minnedosa. He would encircle the rock, trying to draw her into conversation. But she was in her own world. In the years since, Brad has tried to figure out who she was, and has collected many arrowheads from a local battleground once shared by two tribes.
Throughout all of this, there was Brad’s face … animated with the stories of the past. Clearly he is enriched by the journeys of those who have gone before. History is alive in his soul.
My eyes were opened over bacon and eggs. The aliveness of Brad merged with my own and I realized that people who lived decades and centuries ago have lessons to teach me. May I absorb these lessons in order to become a more empathetic person, and may that empathy touch lives in 2018.