Today at lunch I went into the memorial services for Bob Wright held at Park Street Church.
I only go into churches to examine them architecturally. In fact, I was bribed into going the last time I attended services. (Don’t get me wrong I love to learn about religion. I just took a class called World Religions- sweet, I got an A.) But I felt okay about going for a stranger. Maybe it was because I owed nothing to him, except to smile.
Bob was a homeless man that sat outside Park Street Church in the mornings with a sign that read “Smile…. It’s the Law”. He had a rough life with parents that abandoned him and his brother, going through the foster care system, he was a coppersmith, and became homeless when his rooming house in Framingham, MA burned down in 1995. He lived on streets until October of 2007 when he moved into Ruggles Affordable Assisted Living Community. He continued to go to the corner of Park Street and Tremont with his clam shell of birdseed and his sign.
Today’s memorial was really moving with its attendance that I estimate was well over 100 people. When I first got there it was standing room only, luckily someone started to bring out more chairs quickly. I don’t sing in church, apparently the woman next to me doesn’t either, but they had Amazing Grace accompanied by a guitar. Afterwards Christina Nordstrom read the lyrics of a song she wrote about Bob. The song Angel with an Attitude was eloquent and really insightful. She really took the time to get to know Bob and as a result also wrote a book called Park Street Angels about the experience. After scriptures (Matthew 25:31-40) there were more tributes. All of these people shared a bit more about Bob than the last, from that fact the he was a writer to an artist. Jenn Eisenhein (I think?) read his journal entries that he passed on to her. And another man shared artwork that Bob gave him one year for Christmas.
I did not talk to him aside from ‘hello’, and we generally just smiled, nodded, or waved to each other but I still value that he was there, sitting under the clock the told me if I was on time or running late to work. On the days that I was running late his smile mattered even more.Bob Wright August 31 1949-August 16 2009 Smile… It’s the Law!
1640 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02118