Friday, November 16, 2007

Thank you, Joe

Yesterday Wendy and I went to the funeral for Joe Herzenberg. I had debated whether or not I would go. Joe always teased me so unmercifully that I often thought that he didn’t like me. But that was just his way; I doubt he actually gave it much thought.
Recently, I have not received much good news. The election did not give the result I would have liked, no new job is forthcoming, the bills are stacking up again, and the truck keeps needing expensive maintenance. We have been to several funerals lately; last week Bruno and Dallas, this week Joe.
Life lately has been less than fun. I find myself responding to continued bad news with increasing grouchiness. During the campaign I focused on the positive, and forced a bit of optimism. Since the election, this has become harder to do, and Wendy and I have descended into negativity.
I spend my mornings doing those unpleasant tasks that need to be done, hunting on the job search, or replacing the bathroom floor. The afternoons are my time, walking with my dogs at the lake. I spend my evenings buried in traffic trying to scratch out a living in the one barely adequate job I have remaining. I come home about 11pm, and check email. Sometime after midnight I go to bed, so that I might repeat the process the next day.
All of this routine leaves me feeling rather empty most of the time, as I long to do something more meaningful and enlightening. There are times when I truly do not like myself, as my responses to the many small annoyances are occasionally out of proportion.
Yesterday was a time to step out of the routine, and remember the life of a man whose life’s work was improving his community and his world. We put on our dark clothes and drove through the rain (RAIN!!!) to pay our respects to another friend.
The rabbi sang in a clear voice as we took a seat at the rear. She said a few words of praise for the life that Joe lived, and then she said the words that I needed to hear. She said that we are all charged with the responsibility to “live like you like yourself”.
How did she know the trauma I was suffering? How did she know the difficulty facing those who feel themselves to be unaccomplished, or worse, irrelevant?
We sat and listened to a number of stories about Joe. We heard many Joeisms from loving friends, people who knew him well and loved every eccentricity. We heard of a life spent doing great things in a humble way. I left that funeral inspired to do more that matters.
At Margeret’s Cantina the Herzenberg family had graciously laid out a buffet for everyone who cared about Joe. We gathered with his many friends, and Wendy and I realized just how many mutual friends we had with Joe. I guess this is still a small town.
Thank you, Joe, for your inspiration. I know that your generous heart can not be replaced, nor can Chapel Hill and Carrboro soon find another character as distinctive as yours.
The younger politicians Joe mentored now have the responsibility to continue this selfless work.
As for me, Joe has inspired me to get more involved with my community. His many years of exemplary caring inspire me to do what I can. Now I begin the work of simply learning to like myself once again.

1 comment:

Friends of Joe said...

Chuck, thanks for sharing your memories of Joe. We linked to your post at Remembering Joe Herzenberg, where more recollections about Joe's life are posted, including photos, audio interviews, and video clips.