Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellen, Teddy, and Me

We've been having rain the last two days, the type of slow, soaking fall that usually comes after Labor Day, the unmistakeable signal that the weather has turned over.
I turned on the tube to check the weather yesterday morning. Instead of psychedelic radar returns, pictures of Senator Ted Kennedy, (D-MA) spilled across the screen. The reporters spoke of his legacy. That meant only one thing confirmed by the recap at the bottom of the hour: the stalemate between him and the brain cancer he'd lived with for fifteen months had been broken, and he had passed on shortly before midnight Tuesday. The list of legislation making life better for the compromised and marginalized ran fifty pages; the only one missing was universal health care.
Oddly, almost a year ago on another day of protracted rain, and also of brain cancer, Ellen Weissbrot, a name everyone should know, passed into the next world. Ellen who? Well, she would have modestly protested over the attention (if by some odd chance you are reading over my shoulder, sweetie, you are worthy of it, so don't argue with me, ok?) I had the privilege of volunteering with her for an environmental group. While I didn't know her well, I feel the better person for having witnessed her being the change the world needed in action.
Ellen sought no fame or glory; she did what she did as the standup woman that she was. She worked with at-risk kids in a conservative enclave of the Chicago suburbs, supporting them and their parents as they made adjustments to their new homes. Ellen developed and implemented a lot of creative programs to teach children about the planet and its care and feeding. All this while raising three sons with her husband John.
I wish I could remember how the quote from another Kennedy went, about some people see things and ask why, I see things and ask why not? Both Ellen and Teddy lived in the realm of the why-not, doing what they both could to bring about a peaceful, multicultural, green society. My prayer is that I do something today to honor both of them. Won't you join me?

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