Just to take a quick break from my on-going (never to cease) rant against the Orange Order, I thought I’d talk a little about a man named Brendan.

It’s difficult to describe him either fairly or accurately. He appeared, on the surface, to be what some might refer to as “mentally challenged.”

He was nothing of the sort. He was just different, and our differences makes all the difference, don’t they?

Physically, at the time I first met him, he was an older man, walked with a cane, and was never without the company of his little canine friend, whose name escapes me. Like many dog owners, Brendan and his dog had a developed the sort of relationship in which they both not only acted like one another, but also looked  alike.

Everyone loved Brendan; he was a bit of a local character in Connemara, and even those who viewed him as being a bit off-kilter took every measure to care for him in any way they could, whenever they could.

It wasn’t just because of a sense of charity or civic duty. It was because of his personality.

And his face.

Unlike most of us natural born liars, whose facial expressions instinctually change depending on who we’re speaking with, Brendan’s face was always completely open and honest, no matter the circumstance. And his face had the most profound effect.

Whenever you ran across him, you could not help but smile.

I’ve never met anyone with a gift like that, before or since.

I could give you several examples, but here’s just one.

Some friends of mine and I had a bit of a job to do regarding repairing an old wooden fence, and the only piece of wood we could come across was an extremely long board. It was too lengthy to carry from place to place, so we came up with the brilliant idea of balancing said board on a bicycle, and about a half-dozen of us took turns balancing both the wood and the bicycle on our journey of about four miles.

Along the way, we ran into Brendan and his little dog. He was under doctor’s orders not to be out on his own at the time, but I feel that he felt that being with his dog constituted not being out on his own.

We were quite a sight, and Brendan and his dog both stopped in their tracks. They both looked puzzled.

“Where are you going?”, he asked, looking pointedly at the board and bicycle.

One of my friends, who knew Brendan well, said, “We’re going to a board meeting.”

At first he looked dumbfounded, but after a second, he got the joke, and began laughing so hard that he cried, repeating again and again “A board meeting! A board meeting!”

And my friends and I laughed to the point of tears as well.

After we’d finished our chore, we tracked Brendan down and had him over for supper. It was a fantastic feed in so many ways, but Brendan and his little dog made it so very memorable. When he smiled, you smiled; when he laughed, you laughed. You simply couldn’t help yourself.

He was a man who many would (and did) consider to be “disabled.”

But who out there has the gift of bringing laughter to people of every stripe, in such a kind, honest, and humble way? Brendan was well aware of his “difficulties”, but he never, ever, let that stand in his way. He was himself, all the time, and never made either an apology nor an excuse for his condition. I can’t say they same for myself; if you can, I commend you.

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