You can have your heroes if you want, but I’ll take this guy as my hero. Let me explain!
by Charlie Leck
I toasted an English Muffin this morning (from Thomas – they’re the best you can buy) and read through the local, pathetic newspaper. Then, there on the bottom of the page, I spotted the curious headline: MODEST IN LIFE, LIBRARIAN STUNS WITH GIFTS AFTER DEATH.
The guy’s name, Bob Olson, is as plain and vanilla as the way he lived his life. This past summer, at the age of 82, he passed on. He was just a few days short of his 83rd birthday. At the time, his estate was valued at approximately 878,000 dollars. No one had any idea that Bob had that kind of money and they certainly didn’t know, in his will, he parceled out all that money to some interesting benefactors. Right off the top, of course, he directed that two of his neighbors should receive $50,000 each. They had been particularly good to him and helped him in his older years and Bob wanted to express his appreciation.
Bob’s generosity didn’t end there. He gave the city of Minneapolis, as his way of saying thanks for all the good services, a pleasant little gift of 100,000 dollars. There were no restrictions attached to the gift. Bob wanted the city to use it any way they wanted.
Now, at this point, I was starting to warm up to this fellow, Bob, and thought he might be a really neat guy. He had no other heirs, so he wanted to spread his money around as a way of saying thanks to people and institutions. He even left some funds for his former employer, The University of Minnesota Libraries. Bob had worked there for 23 years. He cataloged books. Bob left his former employer several hundred thousand dollars. Bob graduated from the University with a degree in Library Sciences. He went to a high school right in the neighborhood where he lived and died.
You know, when Bob died, virtually no one took notice. A couple living across the alley felt sad about Bob’s departure. They enjoyed sharing tomatoes and raspberries from their garden with Bob. They also helped Bob around his house a bit. Bob appreciated them and left the money as his way of thanking them. They were stunned when told about the gift. One of the neighbors who received Olson’s generous gift is out of work. The gift comes as a blessing.
Another of his neighbors indicated that Olson was a grateful man who always said “thank you” for anything one did for him.
Well, any of the above you could’ve read in the newspaper and I’m just regurgitating it here.
I guess what I want to say about the story is that I felt so damned good after reading it. However, there’s a story about a murder right next to the story about Bob Olson. It happened a few nights ago in Bob’s neighborhood. A couple of teenagers slid into a neighborhood grocery store and demanded money. Something went wrong and they started shooting, killing three people – one a store employee and another a customer.
Bob loved his neighborhood. It would have distressed him. He also liked Seward Market and Halal Meats that had opened a couple of years ago. It was owned by some Somali folks. Bob was comfortable with that. There was room in the neighborhood for them and the store made shopping for groceries convenient. It was odd looking down at the paper, seeing the two stories juxtaposed on different sides of the page.
There’s so much goodness in the world. And then, there is the insanity, too.
I wish I had known Bob. I’d ask him for some advice about being a more grateful and generous person. I’d chat with him, too, about Haiti and ask him what he thought of the comments the Reverend Pat Robertson made about the horrible events down there.
“Jesus, Bob, those comments confuse the hell out me. What do you think? Has Pat Robertson gone around the bend?”
Bob would probably tell me I ought to be sending some money down there. He’d be correct, of course, but I founder around trying to figure out which agency to use to get my money into the "right" hands. Any really grateful person would already have made the contribution.
My land, I’m confused. Pat Robertson gets me so angry I can’t think straight.