Web writes: "A return journey brings old memories and new respect.
House at the Bridge
As I approached the bridge
from the west side, I couldn’t help notice the home. It looked as it always had, clinging on the
edge of the bluff at bridge end. The
only thing different this time was the woodpile that had been there on the edge
of the driveway the last time I saw the house now was not there. And maybe—just maybe—the house was sporting a
newer coat of bluish paint. But it was hard to tell. Because
probably it hadn’t been painted in recent years.
Other than that, it looked the same. It’s one of those places that never seem to change in the old, slowly changing—yay, seemingly unchanging— neighborhood. As young houlihans we almost always had overlooked this place.
For most houses in the neighborhood, we as kids had been inside at one time or another. But not this place.
to my old haunts after many, many years—recognized it as we had recognized it
as children: It was simply the span’s west anchor on the bridge’s south
side. That’s it. Nothing more.
Whoa! Wait a minute. Except for the odd-looking person who used to live there, oh so many years ago.
name had been John Burnside. He had been several years older than I, and so I
didn’t know him in high school. He had departed out the school’s front door, so
to speak, before I had squeezed in its back.
Moreover, he never had been out on the street, playing ball with us, or helping us organize our game. First of all, we couldn’t play ball on his street, as it was a busy arterial. And he seldom ventured out onto other local side streets.
So I never knew him. Except by reputation. He had than alleged trait of being a dissipate. Black hair, extremely thin, concave chest, unshaven. Not a true example of robust young manhood.
found out later that he had belonged to the same teen under-the-sidewalk
hops-and-barley social club that I had. Hmmmmm. There he had been legend—a sort
of antisocial, gothic, dressed-in-black, beer-and-suds buster.
Sometime soon after I graduated from high school, I learned that he had gotten into some sort of trouble with the law. A judge had given him probation, as I understood it at the time.
Then, for many years I heard
nothing. I didn’t know whether he even was still alive. Like I said
earlier, I never knew the guy, so I didn’t really care much.
Then about three years ago, I got a shock. A friend of mine who had gone to high school with Burnside, said he had seen him when he was on a recent trip to San Francisco. He was in uniform! Now, of course, we were all too old for military service. Rather John Burnside had been seen in a Salvation Army uniform.
What? I couldn’t believe it. Burnside in a Salvation Army uniform? Outrageous. Makes one wonder what had happened to the Salvation Army that one of our marginal cohorts would be proudly wearing the blue, red cap, and buttons, and “army regalia.”
So my friend, who lives about five miles from here across the river, said he did some research. He learned that sometime after high school, Mr. Burnside had gotten religion in a big way. He had moved away to Wyoming, before moving to California. But more importantly, he had become a devoted follower of Christ. And that after being involved with several churches in the Bay area, he found a home in the Salvation Army.
He started out as a worker and eventually worked himself up to commander. He then was assigned to the San Francisco area. He became big in the army there. And what’s more he may still be.
Well, it was difficult for me and my friend to handle. We just had to laugh.
However, inside I wasn’t laughing too hard. Rather it was encouraging to know that such a high school pill could turn his life around and become a religious leader and icon.
Now when I walk by his old place—sold to another family years ago, I would assume—I walk by with new respect.
I no longer ask: How could this be? Rather I say, hallelujah…there’s hope for some of us yet.
(© 2013 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)