Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cheerful Giver

Ray and Rose Brown with the girls

A few days ago, we read about a dear friend and his wife in the Deseret News.  The article is by Jeff Benedict and he writes about Ray Brown, a real George Bailey of our day, who lives in Groton, Connecticut.  

Ray's health is failing. A diagnosis of cancer in his 86 year old body has taken him to a nursing home far from his wife, who is now home alone. They are marvelous folk who saw our need when we were fundraising for Esra's Trust.  I hope we can come up with a way to help them in their time of need.

Mr. Benedict writes:
When a man dedicates 50 years to building a business, it ends up being the main narrative of his life. But the thing I cherish most about Ray is his sense of humor. He used to wear a pin that said: I AM THE MOST HUMBLE. He'd grin when he wore it. People who knew him cracked up because a humble person would never wear a pin like that.
 Yet Ray is the humblest man I know. He wore old clothes; drove an old car; lived in an old simple house; and packed a lunch that he seldom stopped to eat.
We love Ray's humor, too.  In the winter, we would bundle up our little girls on those cold, Connecticut evenings, and spend the evening visiting with the Browns.  We miss being far away; we always enjoy their stories, memories and laughter.  

As a lifelong accountant, Ray would spin tales to Sam.  Usually they were awe-inspiring number-crunching stories involving only  Ray's brain, paper and pencil.  While Sam listened, I would sit with Rose and she would tell of her growing up in the Italian neighborhood of New London.  

Their authenticity and history wrapped up with the foibles and mistakes of marriage and parenting always had us thinking what our legacy would be one day.  Rays' humorous storytelling always balances Rose's details that make the past seem near.  Human, imperfect, and so loved.  Those two teach us that marriage includes a lot of putting-up with one another. But they keep going in spite of their imperfections or hearing loss.

The news article tells more about Ray:
But he always had time for a laugh. Only Ray didn't just laugh. He bellowed, often so loud that his face would turn cherry red and the skin on his forehead would furrow. Usually he was the butt of his best jokes, especially when things were going wrong.
 Ray did my taxes for years. I started going to him when my wife and I first got married. He'd always pass along tips about saving money and being frugal.
 But the priceless life lesson that Ray taught me was unspoken. By example he taught me to laugh at life, even when life isn't funny. 
Ray experienced his share of sadness. But he smothered it with laughter. Teach a man to do that and it's like giving him a fountain of youth.
The Browns are not only our friends but supporters of Esra's Trust.  Their love and devotion to us kept us going even when things were evidently difficult for them.  I hope these highlights help you to know Ray and his sweet wife Rose so you may pray for them.  

May you be inspired by their goodness, like I am, to be better; more cheerful, more giving.

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