About a half-dozen years ago I fled from our southern hills and found sanctuary in a little rundown house in Manila.
There was a broken toilet lying in the driveway, weeds working up through the rotted out framing, plastic bags shoved in above the windows for insulation and a single dead tree in an otherwise barren backyard.
Welcomed by my neighbors, greeted by the dogs in the street, I felt immediately at home, and have given thanks for this place everyday since.
There are many reasons for my gratitude, but one I know many in the neighborhood will share is the park and its former resident caretaker, Maggie Fox, a woman I came to think privately of as the mayor of Manila (though I have no doubt she would scowl and laugh that off).
When I first met her she immediately struck me as one of those rare people who command respect while simultaneously expressing kindness and generosity.
In the way that she cared for the park – and, especially, for the people who use it – she seemed almost a sheriff without a badge or gun. Or perhaps a minister without a pulpit or sermon, but rather almost always with a shovel or weed whacker.
She helped maintain beauty, peace and respect in a place that would otherwise likely run wild.
Sometimes we forget how important it is to tell one another how much we appreciate them. So that’s all this is, an overdue, much deserved letter to say again, thanks Maggie. We miss you.
Your friend and neighbor,