A Generous Welcome

My first work after graduating was at Colgate University. To this day I have no idea how in the world I got the position. I answered a call for the job by sending a resume that had nothing on it except that I had graduated from Westminster College. I got a call for an interview. Went. Came home. Got a phone call asking me to take the position. Why me? Who knows.

The dean I worked for, Guy Martin, was a brilliant man. Cliche? Yes. But he was. I kept thinking that he must have at least a half dozen degrees. He was not only profoundly knowledgeable, he was also wise. That’s rather rare, that coupling. And he was gentle in voice and patient to the point of long suffering with this punk kid who had no idea what he was doing.

After my first trip off campus I came back with about half of the cash given to me for expenses. I had saved the college money. Guy suggested that next time I spend it all. “Or they might cut our budget.”

Yesterday Guy passed away.

I just sat there.

I don’t have to tell you the difference between working for 45 and for Guy, a theologian who made his theology incarnate.

One day I asked Guy what, when he was younger, did he want to be when he grew up. He answered without a pause, “Kind.”

I carry that every day. And every evening I look back over my day and see my failures and where I remembered.

Thank you, Guy. Thank you for taking a chance on and for being with me every day.

A Generous Welcome

The snow is falling through eternity’s quiet
where everything here lives within. And now
mid-morning the sunlight falls across the

hemlocks, it too lying within the ubiquity
of quiet, a quiet arriving from the silence
that was here before Alpha and will be here

after Omega. This morning when the turkeys,
twelve of them, tumbled in their tumultuous
flutter down from roosting in the dark

where they sleep one hundred feet up in
the empty-leaved maples, the snow shook
down on the quiet of the cat, and she rushed

through the brush to the back door where she waited
for me. The quiet, of course, was everywhere.
The turkeys nodded their stable way up the hill,

following the inevitable trail that has become
their day, seeming to trust the path will bring
them to seeds and corn, lost fruit. The light

glistened along the sheen of their backs bringing
gold and green out from what against the drifts
seemed only a study in black. Sound does come,

even in the hush of the turkeys’ enormous feet
imprinting the snowfall, even in the small fall
of flake upon flake. Quiet can come to silence.

For Guy

–Jack Ridl

First Published in Crab Orchard Review.

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Hey! I get to talk with Sal! And you! ON OCTOBER 24, 7-9PM, Douglas United Church of Christ, 56 Wall Street, Douglas. Here are the details and how to order tickets.

Watch for Hope College celebrating poet and professor Greg Rappleye in a future publication.

16 thoughts on “A Generous Welcome

  1. Oh, so Guy was one of the pieces of your learned kindness. The lovely ‘soft and gentle’ that has shown you how to make a difference in the lives of others. One day it will be a gift to meet him. I will make it a point to explain to him how his efforts changed my life too. There is just no way to stop love…it can seep through to anywhere it’s needed. XO

    >

  2. What a nice tribute and moving poem for your mentor. Really lovely, and then you had to mar it with that silly statement, “I don’t have to tell you the difference between working for 45 and for Guy,” as if you know. Why do do that? Such a reference wasn’t even pertinent. I would wager that you have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of what it is like to work for “45.” I certain don’t.

  3. Dear Jack, You stated, “Got a phone call asking me to take the position. Why me? Who knows.” All of your students know. Love to you and Julie. Rich & Dianne

  4. Dear Jack,

    Really sorry to learn of the death of your friend and mentor Guy. The losses seem to go on and on. Grief is never-ending, but then, hopefully, softer..

    with love,

    bill

  5. I don’t want to fill your mailbox but I was at a funeral yesterday in East Grand Rapids and so did not get a chance to read this inspiring post. Every once in a while we meet someone who helps shape the path on which we travel. Some good. Some not-so-good. It sounds like Guy shaped your journey—just as you are shaping mine. With kindness and learning.

    Thank you. Mary

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