Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

In my 20’s I read a book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee. It was about workers and farmers whose lives were forever changed by the Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. I’ve never forgotten that title and when dad, Barney Isenberg, died I regarded him as a “famous” man.

Barney Isenberg would not have wanted anyone to make too much of a fuss about him, even in death. He needed no memorials nor did he leave material possessions to remember him by. He often referred to himself as just an “average Joe” who left no big footprints in the sands of time. He required little for himself and lived a simple life. He never even had a credit card. Somehow, though, this simple guy had a huge positive impact on our lives. He asked little for himself and rarely complained. Others enjoyed his simplicity, loving kindness, humility, lack of a deceiving nature, and quiet sense of humor and smile. His core was a goodness that never asked of people what they wouldn’t give willingly themselves.

Shortly before my Dad died, Raye and I took a workshop called “Everyday Holiness” dealing with those character traits that make for simple holiness. I realized that much of what I was seeking in soul growth had already been in my life, in this “average Joe” who liked a cigar and worked in a factory. My father couldn’t have guessed that he was holy. He had no way of teaching me with words because words eluded him. He just lived his life as best he could, was a kind, gentle man and I, late in life, found holiness in him just as there was in my grandpa before him. If my father could read these words he would say I was talking crazy again, but I know he would love me for my love of him. He had a lot of gratitude for what people gave him. That, my friends, is holiness.