Featured Column
Week of 8.22.2005
"There was something about him"
          He wears a wide-brimmed straw hat as protection against the southern California sun. His eyeglasses have thin metal frames and he bears a light beard that was once brown and is now mostly grey. He looks to be over six feet tall, with the long legs of a hurdler. He’s thin with a decent chest noting a lifetime of physical work. He carries his forty or forty five years upright and unbent. He’s a strong man.
          I first saw him five years ago as he did his job – picking up trash on the roadside. 
          I would see him about once a week during my daily walks around town or as I drove to the market. He was always picking up trash – the cans, paper cups, food wrappers, empty plastic bottles - that mindless people would heave out their car windows.
          There was something so honest and regal about him, even as he picked up the debris of those around him. I would see him on Saturdays and Sundays, when he was obviously working on his own time – always picking up trash, reaching behind bushes on the median strips of the highways to get that plastic bottle or the sticky hamburger wrapper.
          One day, a year ago, as I was walking to the corner post box I saw him as he poked his stick at a grimy, crumpled paper cup laying on the parkway. Just as I walked by him he turned towards me and said, “God is great, isn’t He?” The voice was gentle and assured. It was his statement of fact.
          I wasn’t prepared for a conversation with him. I stopped walking, turned towards him and said, “Yes, that’s why they call him God.” I wasn’t trying to be funny, it just came out to fill the empty air. I said it and immediately felt incredibly stupid. He smiled at me and said, “I know what you mean, brother. Come and talk with me for a while.”
          Ordinarily I would have smiled and briskly walked away, but I didn’t. I put my hand out as he did and we shook hands and smiled at each other.
          He leaned on his trash stick and said, “I have seen you many times and wanted to speak with you, you seem to be searching.” I avoided an answer and said, “I have seen you also. You’re a hard worker. What is your name?” He looked deep into my eyes and said, “People call me J.”
          “Where are you from?” I asked. “Not from here, but I like being here.”
          “Do you live around here?” I asked. “I live here now, but tomorrow I may be in another place.”
           It was then that he placed his right hand on my shoulder and said, “I know you are searching, my brother. You want answers to the puzzles of life. Sit quiet and ask my Father and the answers will come to you.”
           Every word from his mouth was clear and confident. He seemed to love and have an affinity for everything around him. His eyes were clear and understanding. This, surely was a man I could trust.
         He spoke, “I must finish my chores now, but I hope to see you again soon. We will talk and perhaps answers will come to you afterwards.”
          I didn’t want to leave him. I asked, “How long have you been doing this job? You know, picking up trash, cleaning the streets.” He grinned slightly and said, “I’ve been doing this for many years. Making the earth clean is my way of honoring God. Everything I do is to honor my Father.”
          I had never met anyone like him. He was different than the rest of us.
          I tried one more question. “Tell me about yourself. What did you do before you got this job?”
          I sensed a wave of sorrow go through him as he answered, “I was a carpenter.”
He used to be a carpenter
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger