He was a gruff old man with a heart of gold. I remember his skin was leathery – a characteristic common to those who spend a lot of time in the Southwestern sun. He never said much and he didn't sit around much, either.
Jack had an acre of land in Albuquerque that he'd bought when land was cheap and developed through the years, hauling in rich mountain soil and enriching it with his own compost. Each year he planted a garden and carefully tended his crops making sure that they had sufficient water from his well and irrigation from the nearby Rio Grande. Each year he raised enough fruits and vegetables to feed a proverbial army. Everyone knew where the best tomatoes, corn, chili and strawberries could be found. Neighbors all knew that when times were tough they could count on Jack to share the fruits of his labor freely. And those he helped gave back in proportion to their ability. For more than forty years Jack did what he could to make his corner of Albuquerque a better place to live.
That garden is now long gone. Jack died some time back and the land was sold to a developer who poured concrete over that fertile land to make room for new construction. The precious little rain that falls today drains off that concrete slab and into the street.
Such is progress.
But more important than that garden was Jack's wisdom, which lives on. Jack wasn't one to tell anyone what to do. You didn't have to ask him, "what can I do?" He didn't much tolerate anyone standing around complaining. And he didn't stand there waiting for you to get started. His response was always the same. "Do something…Even if it's wrong."
Jack had lived through the great depression and through several subsequent recessions that hit this country since. Even in the worst of times, he knew that with a little effort and TLC he, and those he knew, would be just fine… But the lesson he taught in his own quiet way was: You've got to do your part. You may not know everything. You may have physical limitations. You may not have all the resources you would like to have. But that doesn't matter if you're willing to do something – anything – for yourself and others.
Jack believed in inclusion – not exclusion. Everyone had a value. Everyone, he believed, had something to offer – and it didn't have to be money. He believed that everyone had the potential to participate in life.
I don't have to ask what his response would be to those who have been pushed aside because "you're too old" or "you aren't fast enough" or "you don't have enough money". I don't have to ask him what it would take to get the economy out of it's current mess. Do you?