There are heroes and then there are heroes. Some walk quietly and carry a big stick. Others take to the airwaves.
On the quiet side this week I heard about a friend of mine in Savannah, a nurse, who spent three weeks brokering one week’s worth of kidney dialysis treatment for a Hispanic -- make that an illegal Hispanic.
“And what happens after the week’s up?” the patient, a 21-year-old woman, asked through a translator, because as we know anyone needing dialysis needs treatment for more than a week or else he or she will end up in the emergency room needing more treatment.
“Ask the doctor,” said the nurse, a canny response if I’ve ever heard one. “Ask the doctor what happens after the week’s up.”
Rules are rules, right? No exceptions.
More public, just as poignant is the exchange between President Bush and Virginia Senator-elect James Webb following a midterm election reception.
“How’s your boy?” asked Mr. Bush.
“I’d like to get him out of Iraq, Mr. President,” replied Mr. Webb, about his son, a Marine lance corporal.
“That’s not what I asked you,” the president snapped, more cold than canny. “How’s your boy?”
“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” said Mr. Webb.
Responses were predictable. Conservative columnists called Webb’s response crude. Others termed it bold.
Then there’s the Rev. Janet Edwards, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa. A year ago June this woman had the audacity to officiate a marriage ceremony between a practicing Presbyterian and a committed Buddhist. One is a research psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer institute, the other a retiree from Xerox Corp.
A strange enough union except both parties were women.
After the ceremony -- which Edwards said she took six months to think about -- the world did not end. The women were not struck down. They continued bird-watching, their passion. They continued horseback-riding, another interest. Except for a few hundred Americans and a couple thousand more Iraqis, life went on.
Until someone complained. An unhappy church member, displeased with the ceremony, lodged a protest, which in the Presbyterian church leads to a church trial.
So Edwards got an attorney and prepared for trial.
Then she did something else. Resurrecting the list of names she and her husband used some 25 years ago for their own wedding, she added a few more and sent out hundreds of invitations to the church trial.
The invitation read, “Janet wants the world to come. Feel free to invite anyone.”
No closet trial for her.
Taking it a step further, she publicly invited everyone to a “worship celebration and lunch” after the trial at the Pittsburgh Golf Club in Schenley Park, one of the oldest private golf clubs in Western Pennsylvania. Since many people might be out-of-towners, Edwards, ever thoughtful, booked hotel rooms and rented a complimentary shuttle service to take them to the golf club.
The trial was held in a banquet facility that used to be St. Mary’s German Catholic Church. That’s another story of heroism. When the Pa. Department of Transportation decided to put a highway through that part of town, it told the Catholic Church, sorry Charlie, time to pack up and move.
But a neighboring church, St. Boniface, also involved in the highway demolition debacle, fought the intrusion for 12 years. By that time the congregation found new places to worship, but when the fighting ended, the building remained standing.
For the trial, held last month, hundreds of people filed into this 1852 grand hall, decorated for Christmas, with a 30-foot dome, corinthian columns and plenty of gold leaf. .
For an hour the jury of eight clergy and retired elders listened to testimony. Most of the discussion hinged on when the charges were filed. Apparently, people have one year to file a grievance. The charges were filed four days past the deadline.
After the jury retired to deliberate, Edwards circulated among the crowd, openly stating she hoped the jury would not use procedure to sweep the issue under the rug.
“We are a bottom-up church,” she said. “That’s our strong point. Decisions are made at the local level. Which is why the church has so struggled with this issue. I want us to address this issue.”
Earlier, when speaking of why she married the women, Edwards said she was inspired by the “long and devoted relationship between a beloved uncle and his partner.”
Twice in his youth, she said, the man had been sent to sanitariums in New England to “cure him of his homosexuality. Scripture has taught me marriage is about love and commitment.”
Edwards, married to a physician and the descendant of the founder of National Bank and one of the founders of Standard Oil, said unlike many of her compatriots, she had the resources to get by if she lost her clergy credentials.
In the end, with Edwards’ husband and two sons sitting up front, the panel, voting 8-0, decided the charges against Edward were filed too late. Case dismissed. Just to cover its bases, they made sure to announce their decision did not vindicate Edwards.
After a round of cheers, everyone headed to lunch. Just another day in the life of heroes.