Our community lost two great men last month. Both were living with developmental disabilities, but that fact was quite secondary to the light they brought into our community.
Raymond Dixon was taken from us by an act of violence, while Brad Cook quietly fell to the illness of cancer.
We hear this horrible phrase, “brutally murdered,” but we often hear it in reference to something we see on television — national news, some other town or a movie.
These words were thrown onto our community and then forced us to process them. Let me tell you this: sitting in Raymond’s memorial service on Sept. 29, there was a light that dissolved those horrible words.
That light served as a warm and welcome reminder that good will always triumph over bad. I sat in the United Methodist Community Church, right here on Pickaway Street, Circleville, Ohio, and with lightning dancing behind the stain glassed windows above me, there was much peace amongst our storm.
I was surrounded by people of all different backgrounds and all different abilities. There were people who walked in while others came by wheel chair, some in suits and some in t-shirts with jeans. No matter how we were dressed, how we communicated or how we looked, we all brought comfort to one another.
Comfort came wrapped as gifts to each of us in the form of stories shared. Stories of kindness by way of how Raymond touched each of our lives. No matter how bad we think the crime and/or the drug epidemic has negatively impacted our small towns, we know that our community is filled with light. It’s the light of small town diversity that rallies together to uplift everything that is good in this world.
My friend, Amanda, said it best when she stated that “Raymond deserved more than this world ever provided to him, but he continually gave so much of himself. His smile could light up a room, and the memory of it will always make our hearts happy.”
Our community is also mourning the loss of Brad Cook, who I often described as a gentle giant. Brad stood over 6-feet tall and never passed up the opportunity to ask how you were and offer a hug. (You were a fool to ever have passed on one of these.)
Brad was only 46 when he passed away from a battle with cancer on the morning of Sept. 29. Brad was also one of Pickaway County’s community members who had a way of bringing positivity into our lives. We often take for granted the people who do this because we find so much comfort in them, we feel they will always be there.
Brad and my brother played on the same unified Special Olympics softball team for many years together.
One of my favorite things to witness was Brad walking up to the plate, with bat in hand. Brad, smiling, would raise his arm and point out to right field or center field and pick where he was going to place the ball, just like the great Babe Ruth. Opposing teams, not realizing that his batting skills were somewhat mediocre, and because of his size, assumed he could hammer the ball into outfield, would begin to disperse backwards in preparation.
We all often do this. We look at someone’s outside and we miss opportunities to get to know what is on the inside and then unknowingly become a bit fearful of others.
There are many people in our community who chose to look past what we label as “disabilities” in Raymond and in Brad, and what they found were friends. Friends who accepted us for who and where we are in our lives and opened their arms to us, it’s what I call “blind kindness,” you know, the old rule of “never judge a book by its cover”.
I’m writing today to honor and remember two of our community’s finest, but to urge you, in their memory, to uphold and carry the torch that they once did — simple blind kindness.
Look past one’s outside and take time to get to know them. It’s not only what other people may gain from this kind of outreach, it’s also about what you will receive from it as well.
Love will always triumph whether it’s over differences, illness or violence and hate.
Kindness will always win. Always.
This column was written by Heather Foll, Pickaway County DD Board, for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.