Saying Goodbye to Charlie Brown

Three weeks ago today folks who live in Chippewa County paid their final respects to Charlie Brown, an outstanding and much appreciated member of the community. He was one of those fellows who was easy to like from the first hello and handshake. Although he was a successful owner of a tire shop, he didn’t put on airs. He gave the same pleasant greeting to anyone who entered his establishment. He listened to their concerns and suggested the best tires at the best deal. If a customer had trouble on the road, Charlie would send one of his employees to give aid, or he would personally attend to the emergency.

Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding small towns were fortunate to have this man in their midst. Maybe all such towns and villages have their own version of Charlie, but I doubt it. He was unique in every way – honest, reliable, faithful and devoted to his wife and family. He was good to his employees and helpful to strangers. He will be remembered by generations to come as his legacy is passed from fathers to sons and sons to grandsons.

In the current environment of political turmoil and frustration, where neighbors turn on neighbors and family members become enemies, the calming influence of a gentle man is rare. If we listened to each other instead of trying to out-shout those who disagree with us, our country might be closing the chasm we created instead of widening it. Nothing is gained when everyone is right and every opinion – no matter how bizarre – is taken as gospel. There aren’t many people who have the ability to explain, in a rational manner, why they feel the way they feel about the changes sweeping across our nation.

Temperance is a rare gift given to only a handful of individuals. Most of us do not possess a temperament that allows us to make sound judgments when we’re upset. We react emotionally to situations requiring patience and understanding. Emotions are not dependable and are apt to change as quickly as the wind. The Dutch philosopher, Spinoza, wrote in “Ethics” that, “Temperance, sobriety and presence of mind are species of courage. Modesty and clemency [compassion] are species of nobility.” To say that the Soo’s Charlie Brown was a noble and modest man is an understatement.
How do we earn the respect and admiration of our community? I haven’t conducted a study, but it’s my belief that when we treat others with dignity and kindness we’re on the right track. When someone beloved by so many is gone, it’s a good time to take stalk of how we influence others. I’ve often asked this question: How do we want to be remembered or would we rather be dismissed and forgotten?

During our lifetime, we touch many people. Some are well-known to us. They’re family, friends and neighbors. Many are strangers whose names we forget as soon as they leave our premises. People like to gossip. What they wouldn’t say face-to-face is often said behind our backs. Imagine how wonderful life would be if we showed the same face to everyone instead of hiding behind an invisible mask and being one way at home and the total opposite in public. Few of us are capable of achieving such a feat.

But some, like the late owner of U.P. Tire, were blessed with a generous spirit. They have no need of masks. The man you saw behind the counter of his store was the same person his loved ones saw. He was genuine.

Godspeed, Charlie Brown. Your community will miss you.

2 Comments

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