I saw Frank Mulicotti at the last circuit assembly. He was weaving his way through the seats, soaking up the good will, hugging folk in his path. It was enough to make a guy wish he were Italian. I told him so when he approached me. I'm not Italian, of course. Sheepandgoats (der Shep.und.goots) is Germanic in origin, and Germans do not embrace. They shake hands by appointment. So it wasn't second nature for me to hug and embrace - it took me awhile to get the hang of it - but I do it now with the best of them, excepting only Italians.
There used to be more Italians in Rochester than you could shake a stick at, and still are, I guess, though they've long been augmented with other nationalities, so their presence seems less. In fact, it was Italians who brought Bible teachings to Rochester in the first place. Six Italian families - Mulicotti was among them - emigrating from 50-mile-away Mt Morris back in 1910 . They mostly settled in the Northeast part of the city, speaking Italian just like in the old country, and merged with an English speaking group only at the insistence of Bethel - I think, in the 1930's. But as late as 1970, Ed Eaton worked the Irondequoit territory, and some householder would not believe that he really was a Witness. That's an Italian religion, the fellow insisted. The Irondequoit congregation used to meet on Culver Road, not 100 yards [!] from Nelson Barbour's old Church of the Strangers. Mulicotti was an elder in the congregation, then, and I was brand new as a Witness.
Now, you know how when you approach someone you like to say something complimentary if you can at all manage it - something genuine and specific, naturally, not some boiler plate nicety about how they 'are to be commended' that might fit anyone. So I recalled to Frank about the time I stopped by his house way back in my early days - a couple other young brothers were with me - and he was waxing philosophical about the truth. "It's made a man of me," he said. He'd forgotten ever saying it, as I expected he would, but it's an observation I'd never forgotten. For, here I was - an inexperienced kid, just starting out in life. Would I succeed? Would I amount to anything? Would I ever earn others' respect and good will? Would I be able to take on responsibility? Raise a family? All the concerns that any young man my age might feel, if he's at all given to introspection. I'd had some school under my belt by then, but as Royal Copeland used to say, you can learn everything at school except how to live. (Senator Copeland is lionized in the Senate, no doubt, being known for his successful efforts to bring air conditioning to that body.) So how would I actually do at life? And now here was Frank Mulicotti saying the truth made a man of him; it wasn't just getting your bible questions answered, nice though that might be. It wasn't just seeing Bible prophesies come true, and feeling one knew the final outcome of things. It was a personal path of growth and success.
Mac Campbell used to carry on about how simple was the truth. Once you learn it, he'd say, it doesn't change. It doesn't flip around like worldly reasonings. Once you know it, just do it, was his motto. It pays handsomely, as it did with Frank. You could liken it - in fact, the Bible does - to a road with a destination - a road not just flitting every which way, turning in upon itself, so that one would be, to quote Paul "tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching." A road that, once you reached the destination, you'd know it was worth reaching - a road to "being a man" or woman. On the road you have good range of motion, plenty of room for personal expression - after all, you do the steering - yet there are guardrails, which might be likened to Bible laws and principles. Now, you don't bitch about guardrails in real life. You don't go charging to bust through them. You realize they serve for your protection. Plus, before you'd ever hit the guardrails, you come across rumble strips - those grooves in the pavement that shake the daylights out of us. They're self-imposed for the most part, set in place by our own conscience guided by Scriptural principles that cover time and place and circumstances specific to us. What do you expect of other people, for instance. How do you deal with their shortcomings? How do you deal with your own, for that matter? How do you separate what is 'God' from what is 'human?' Traveling the road over time, by degrees, without one's even being aware of it, one does "become a man."
Then there was Ray Huck. I have a lot of respect for that guy. Has anyone ever said an unkind word about him? He told me once how he'd made an in depth verse by verse study of Proverbs, with special application to business matters. But he must have applied it to everything else as well, for here is a guy who really has his act together - I've seen him gain in stature over the years. I like that about the scriptures, and about the truth in general. One can dig into them, ponder them, by degrees apply them in one's own life. There's no end of things written about any given passage - you benefit by considering how others have viewed and applied the scripture. You do the same at meetings, particularly the Watchtower study, during which all get to comment on whatever topic is under consideration, and you hear it all - from seasoned, insightful and mature - to inexperienced and green and sometimes even cockeyed. You can put in your own two cents as well.
I cherish these guys, and the faith that made them what they are. And I cherish them more and more each time I read of some spectacular train wreck like that Carolina Governor Sanford, who said he was leaving town four days to hike the Appalachian Trail and who even left a car full of camping gear at one of the entrance points to throw off the media hounds, but who actually went to Argentina with some gorgeous Argentine bombshell. He got caught, of course - don't they all? - and weepingly confessed all at his news conference, (I don't know why people bother watching soap operas!) and whose marriage and career is now in tatters. (HA! look at this. He figures he's like King David, only with a South American Bathsheba!) Or even our own former Governor Elliot Spitzer, hailed as New York State savior only a few years ago - I mean, I have an entire category on this guy, he was so interesting - but who self-destructed just like his Carolina brethren. Yeah, whenever I read these sorts of things, I cherish our guys and the road they followed.