This weekend, we bid farewell to two men who touched countless lives in unexpected ways.
If you were to compile a list of the top 25 most important people in our community, neither would be on it.
OK, one of them might be considered, if you were really thinking outside the box, which is the kind of overused and unoriginal expression he probably hated.
But the other guy? Never. Not in a million years.
In fact, I’m pretty sure nobody has ever compared these two men to each other.
But here we go.
The first is Ron Anderson.
I’ve always admired Ron’s acting and directing at the Springer, not to mention the way he’s mentored the children of our community. I’ve also admired the easy way he cultivates friendships.
A couple of years ago, he was the speaker at my daughter’s senior dinner for Columbus High School.
I’ll never forget it. While I’d taken a winding path to a career, I wanted my children to set a straight course and get it right the first time. But Ron told the Class of 2014 that plans were overrated.
“I understand you need to make some,” he said. “It’s going to comfort your parents. ... I get that.
“But if they think for a minute, they’ll remember that they maybe made plans, but those were just mental exercises that you do while you’re waiting for life to happen. … Trust your instincts. That’s how my life has kind of gone.”
A memorable speech to be sure. Later, I told Ron I thought it was wise and true, but that it had also scared the crap out of me.
“That wasn’t my intention,” he said.
He got that gleam in his eye.
“Well, OK, maybe a little bit.”
He recommended a book called “The Road to Character,” in which David Brooks identifies two kinds of virtues: resumé virtues and eulogy virtues.
Resumé virtues are skills that lead to success in the marketplace, while eulogy virtues are the ones people remember at funerals. Most of us would say eulogy virtues are most important, but daily we concentrate on resumé virtues.
At the end of our lives, we realize with regret that we neglected the things that really mattered.
And the other guy? It’s Deonn Carter, the autistic man who died from a blood clot less than two weeks after being shot in a robbery attempt outside his apartment.
It may seem odd to compare him to Ron, who went to college planning to be a medical doctor. Doctors told Deonn’s mother that her son would never talk or even make eye contact.
Instead, Deonn was a first baseman in the Special Olympics, worked a job bagging groceries and was a deacon in his church.
Like Ron, Deonn put his energy into people. He memorized the names and personal information of countless firefighters and police officers. He danced with brides at weddings. He dialed his friends incessantly, and he always remembered birthdays and anniversaries.
The night he was shot, according to reports, he was approached by five young men who demanded his phone, which contained the names and numbers of all his friends. He resisted.
Now thousands of people are mourning his loss.
That’s not an exaggeration. Nor is it an exaggeration to say thousands are mourning Ron, who also spent his life serving others.
It’s painful to see them go. But one thing’s for sure: the people who wrote their eulogies didn’t have to search for material.
Ron and Deonn spent their lives quietly honing their eulogy virtues, and an entire community noticed.
Well done, guys. Well done.