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St. Paul man’s life, death remind us of our need for connection and hope

Mary Buelow is a budding writer whose ability to see through superficialities and shed light on hidden truths will take her far.
More important is where her stories take others, by transporting subjects who don’t or can’t speak up into the vision o

Mary Buelow is a budding writer whose ability to see through superficialities and shed light on hidden truths will take her far.

More important is where her stories take others, by transporting subjects who don’t or can’t speak up into the vision of readers to whom the subjects speak in ways heretofore unheard.

Like “A Man I Never Knew” featured in Buelow’s Happy Times blogThe unknown man Buelow “never knew” was found dead, buried in the rubble of his foreclosed home in St. Paul.

It seems few made meaningful connections with the man, save an opportunistic woman who it seems consumed freely of his vulnerability before abandoning him. Leaving him overwhelmed in the wreckage of volumes of random things – piles and piles of purchased stuff.

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Gone is much of this man’s essence, too. His history lost somewhere along the line, likely accelerated by his apparent attempts at connection with the woman. She squandered his likely tenuous grip by literally taking over all he owned and once was. After she left and he, too, was gone, a bank and random looters took most of the rest.

Poster caption: Never Give Up
All that remained of two humans in isolated relationship was a forbidden house. Community had swirled all around them and it, but in the end they amounted to little more than comers and goers. There had been little signs of hope in the home, including a poster with the caption “Never Give Up.”  But, however any might have tried to help, all obviously gave up.

One wonders: at what point did the man gave up?

Leaving his story only to be told by chance of a young writer was so haunted she felt compelled to share it, illuminates life-critical questions.

On her blog Buelow posted a poignant photo. Of a handwritten list, yellowed with age, posted prominently on the home’s refrigerator. Not of food to be bought, but of fears to overcome. Titled, by the man: “What I am afraid of.”

He was afraid to: “talk to people.” Who hasn’t been?
He was afraid: “to make more money.” Who hasn’t struggled to?
He was afraid: “to turn away.” Who hasn’t been? Who has?

This man chose not to hide his fears, but rather to face them. And, at the very place he sought life-sustaining food, no less.

More help clearly needed
He was afraid to turn away. So much, he would not allow himself to turn away from his own fears. A strength of his character, evidence still in his absence. But, this strength and inability to turn away hurt him, too, in the end. The womon, he likely knew, needed help. But, he alone couldn’t help her enough. Because he (as all humans do) needed more help, too.

What if others had overcome fears and talked to him, them? And, if they did, why not much more?  Why not enough?

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Where are we without connection? Without relationship? Without community who opens up when we feel isolated? And when we dare reveal our fears. We must admit the deepest of ours bear resemblance to those this humble man voiced. We’ve all been there, could be even now, or will be someday.

What if others talked to each other about how to help him? And, if they did, why wasn’t it enough to organize sustained ways to help him? And, perhaps, his housemate, too. Was it because they were so quiet? Or so different? Were others afraid of or disgusted by this odd, sad couple?

Their own hoarding
Or, were others simply doing their own hoarding?  Of food, money, time, image, privilege or, there it is again: fear?

What if others set aside some, just enough, of their own situations, faced their fears, turned to this man and each other, again and again, somehow. To help all live realer lives (for all the messes life reveals). Not hoarding, instead but engaging life’s stuff, life’s living realities?

This man, beneath all the mess, was different, yes. And yet, not so much from the rest of us and or others we know. We can see through his story something true and real of him – and, in so doing, something realer and truer of ourselves. That is if we don’t turn away from each other, or, more important: our own hidden fears. By engaging and staying in real relationships that dare reveal vulnerabilities and interdependencies we tend to avoid, until it is too late.

May this man rest in peace.

And may we not rest until we resolve our seemingly endless and overwhelming differences and struggles, however and wherever we can.

Andrea Morisette Grazzini is a leadership innovations consultant and participatory researcher. She founded the trans-partisan initiative DynamicShift in 2009.