There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Heroes of My Time on the bus

Finished reading Harrison Salisbury's "Heroes of My Time." This is a thin volume published in 1993. The book is one of several I picked out from the collection of a former neighbor who is getting rid of her inventory from her days as an online bookseller.

Salisbury profiles 20 people in the 201 pages. These are not the heroes of Salisbury's lifetime as much as they are heroic people he met during his years with the New York Times.

I have included only heroes whom I have known personally or whom I have learned to know well at second remove. This limits me somewhat geographically to areas where I have spent most of my years -- the United States, Russia and China.
There are plenty of famous people among these heroes -- Robert Kennedy, Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn, Malcom X, Nikita Khrushchev, Andrei Sakharov and Zhou Enlai. And since Salisbury was a journalist, he offers up several icons: David Halberstam, Homer Bigart, Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger and Edgar Snow. It is the choice of lesser heroes that is most striking: Brigid Temple Keoghan, an Emmet nun and university professor in China; Sister Huang Roushan, who cared for lepers in China; and Dan Xiaoping's son, Deng Pufang, who was crippled during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and went on to change China's attitude about the handicapped.

Perhaps one day I will write about my heroes on the bus. There was the lady the other day who helped the auto mechanic get to Florin Road. I would also include the driver who waited while a passenger ran across the street to get change. And, of course, no collection of my heroes would be complete without the gentleman on the bus who saw a young mother struggling with an infant in one arm and a bulky stroller and ran off the bus to help the woman board.

No, not as exciting as Salisbury, but heroes nonetheless.

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