Okay, first of all, I adored Roger. Not only was he a very friendly, generous and amusing person when he was alive, he taught me a very important lesson after he had died. Although I don’t think that was ever his intent. Okay, to be fair, I don’t think he intended on leaving this world at 56 years old either.
Roger was Leon’s friend. It was those two who came in for dinner every Saturday. Leon was the shy one and Roger was the gregarious personality that would bring your attention to the two of them. He was a man-about-town. He had his hand in this and that and he was the one that started the annual Fire Muster in Burnsville. Almost every town has it’s annual celebration for something or other. Burnsville didn’t have one until Roger started the Fire Muster. It was a few years after he died before I was informed of that. I used to curse it on Saturday mornings when I’d worked late the night before and all the firetrucks would drive down my street blaring their sirens. Roger collected firetrucks. I know, right? Anyway he did and do the math and it’ll tell you that’s why he created the Fire Muster. He did a great job. Back in the day, as much as I would curse the firetrucks in the morning I’d take the kids to watch the fireworks in the evening. Rob usually took them to the other events because I worked every Saturday night. Anyway, back to my point.
The last time I saw Roger alive was, of course, a Saturday night when he came into the Timberlodge w/Leon. I waited on them and at a table adjacent to them (which was also my table) was a couple that Roger knew. Roger told me to encourage that couple to have dessert and gave me a fifty dollar bill to pay for their dinner, I know, dollar wise it was that long ago. He instructed me to tip myself and give him his change the next time I saw him. The next time I saw him he was in a coffin.
There was nine dollars and some odd change due to him. The night he gave me the fifty I had put his change in an envelope and sealed it to give it back to him the following Saturday. Right, the following Saturday was the night Leon came in to inform us that Roger had died.
I took the envelope to his funeral with the intent on giving it to one of his sons. Although Leon introduced me to each of them, it just didn’t appear to be the right moment to bring up nine dollars when they had just lost their dad. The envelope came back home with me. My next thought was to buy Leon’s dinner with it. Roger always paid, it would be a one-last-time sort of thing. I did buy Leon’s dinner once or twice but I did it w/gift certificates that I earned for this or that as an employee.
Skip ahead to me having a bad night, one night, a few months later at work and making very little dollars and stopping at the grocery store on the way home. I’m not always a good person. My total at grocery store was more than I had made that night and I ripped open the envelope to covered the difference. Another low point in my life.
The Christmas season was starting and I was still having a tough time dealing w/my conscious about what I’d done with Roger’s change. Some things just never go away and they get heavier the longer you wear them. Walking into Target one day with the kids I was struck by a bolt of lightening. There was a Salvation Army guy ringing the bell outside the door. Roger was a very, very giving person. This was it. I couldn’t afford the entire 9 dollars and change at the time so I just put a dollar in the bucket. On the way out I put another dollar in the bucket. That became a tradition. Since then, I’ve never passed up a bell ringer without putting a dollar in the bucket on the way in and on the way out. Once in a while the kids would ask me why I did that since I always told them that we didn’t have money for this or that. I don’t know where I ever heard “give the most when you have the least” but that’s what I’d tell them. That’s what I learned from Roger. Back to the feel good thing. Rent might be late but I’d walk around with and extra bounce in my step and a smile on my face because I’d done something good and I had Roger to thank for it.
Blew through Roger’s change that 1st year. It’s been over a decade since then and also since then I’ve kept it up in his memory. Samantha and I were skyping a few weeks ago and she couldn’t wait to tell me that she’d given money to a man with no legs. She said “ya know how you always give money to the Salvation Army?” She sounded completely elated. That makes me smile.
So there it is. I’m not always a good person and we do, sometimes, learn from our mistakes and God bless Roger for the huge lesson he taught me after he was gone. Apparently that has spread to the next generation. It’s been about 15 years since he died. I think about him a lot this time of year.