Posted by: johnhourihan | August 25, 2012

Paying for welfare just makes us human

Smart ain’t everything
Lately I have heard a lot of  smart young people with good jobs voice the same lament. “Why should I take care of people who don’t have as much money as I do. I work for my money, let them work for theirs.”
And when they tell me that the most important issue in the world is the economy, I cringe. Then I feel sorry for them. It seems we failed to teach them what is really important.
I’ve learned in my life that smart, rich and sane aren’t always the best attributes you want in a person. Not all by themselves.
Sometimes we overlook the importance of a person because he or she doesn’t fit the present prescription of what is appropriate.
I agree with Will Rogers. We are all ignorant, just in different things.
In my young adulthood, my last wife made me shuck the friends of bachelorhood before inking the wedding list, and Richie Boy was the first to go.
She said he was “inappropriate for the world”.
She might have had a point. He said inappropriate words. He did inappropriate deeds, and inappropriate was a word I was going to hear often for the next 26 years.
Don’t get me wrong. Richie Boy was as crazy as they come and some said he was as dumb as a bag of ball bearings. She was probably right in that.
And he was bonafide insane.
But there was once when he peered at me calmly across the front seat of his parked red Catalina at a P-town beach. He squinted between the top of his mirror sunglasses and the crown of his shaved bald head and said something I will take to my grave as one of the most important things I ever learned.
But first let me tell you about Richie Boy.
One summer, when he was still fairly normal, married with a job and a daughter, he got into a car accident, from which he lost his job, got laid up, recouped and collected about eight grand or so with the help of a good lawyer.
He paid some bills, bought a new dishwasher, and gave the rest to his wife, who promptly got the same lawyer and sued him for non-support, won, and threw him out.
That was when he started wearing a gorilla mask pretending to be Mighty Joe Young.
That’s not a euphemism.
He pretended to be a big gorilla.
Once we were in a restaurant near Lake George when some bikers started getting real off-color with their language. They were sitting next to a mother with three little kids, and Richie immediately put on his mask and got in this guy’s face. Before I could drag him out of there he got beat up pretty good and we got chased in the rain down the highway.
Another time, we were in an IHOP on a road trip, and while we were
waiting for a table, a young couple pushed by us, greeted the waitress by name and were taken to a seat.
We waited through a few others and then Richie Boy asked if we could sit down. A few bad looks later and she started walking us to a table. As we passed the couple who had been seated before us Richie Boy reached down, covered the stack of pancakes with his enormous hand, squeezed and took them off the guy’s plate.
He stuffs them in his mouth, turns to me and says, “I ain’t hungry no more” So we left.
Why am I telling you this?
Mainly because in his crude insanity Richie Boy had something good in him.
Later on that trip he introduced me to this old guy who lived outside on Cape Cod in the summer time. His name was Johnny Junk.
The day I met him, he was sitting out back of a gas station next to a rust and grey Austin Healy body with no wheels.
We were going about 50 when Richie cuts the wheel and almost turns the car over.
“Want you to meet someone,” he says.
We talked about Nebraska (I guess he came from there) and how to shuck clams.
Before we left, Richie gives away his jacket, rips off his rear view mirror and hands it over to the bum along with his cigarettes.
After, I asked my dumb friend why he would give all his stuff to an old homeless guy and Richie says matter of factly, “Hey, he’s an old man. He’s been through a lot. We should help if we can, right?”
“But he’s kind of a waste isn’t he?”
“I don’t judge. That’s God’s stuff, and I ain’t a god.”
Now, Richie Boy wasn’t smart. We were in school together and he had trouble adding and subtracting, reading and writing. Heck the only thing he didn’t have trouble with was gym.
And he wasn’t rich. His best summer was the one where some fool company sent him a credit card with a $5,000 limit by accident.
And God knows he wasn’t appropriate.
But he looked across that seat on a summer day and told me, “Hourihan, Other people’s rules are just for them to shove at you. You have to have your own rules. And you have to go by them.”
Richie’s rules, for all his supposed stupidity and insanity, were: Take care of family first; treat people the way they treat you; Respect your elders; Help those who can’t take care of themselves; Don’t back down if you’re right, and don’t swear in front of kids.
And don’t judge people, because as Richie might say, “That’s God stuff, and we ain’t gods.”



  1. Such a profound thought put so simply that even I can get it. That’s God stuff. I know I’m going to catch myself needing to repeat this phrase to myself.

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