Monday, February 12, 2007

Judged by Their Poorest Representatives

I've written before about my friend who bag's groceries at the supermarket next to our office. He's one of those people that I used to try to ignore -- he's odd, he bags groceries, almost always wears a ball cap, rarely acknowledges me on the street (I'm often visible only in the supermarket), and he often seems distracted. But somehow, and I really can't remember how, we began talking as I'd got through the line with my lunch on those days I ate in at the office. I do remember it started with theology and most of our conversations today remain on that subject -- though occasionally they veer over into politics (on which we agree -- a left-leaning bag boy!) and astronomy and math -- about which I can barely converse intelligently. He takes great delight in my being a Quaker and thinks I'm some sort of theologian so calls me "Robert Barclay's much younger cousin." The other day, while in the store, he asked me if I knew Daniel Defoe's very short story "The Hams and the Quaker." I had not, so my friend said he'd get me a copy.

Today, true to his word, I received that copy -- hand printed in very fine lettering, with an accompanying page of annotations that he thought would help me appreciate the story. Included in those thoughts was information on the what the monetary figure spoken of in the story would be in today's currency (considering inflation and the fact that a dollar did not exist when the story was written) and Biblical allusions that I should know, but might miss. His last note was about how "blackguard," which "originally meant the lowest servants of a large household, in charge of pots and pans" came to mean scoundrel or villian. His final comment was "this seems another instance where a whole class of people are judged by their poorest representatives."

His insight, and whimy, are helping me learn how to judge a "whole class of people" -- in this case downtown grocery baggers -- by their best representative. Thanks, Roger.

-- Brent

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