Everyone thought that Mr. Mealy was eccentric. He was a pack rat, a recluse. He saved everything. He had accumulated old books, tin cans, comics, old tools and toys, stamps, postcards—practically anything that people no longer wanted. His eccentricity sentenced him to a life of isolation. I was his only friend.
He and I would spend countless hours together melting lead that we would cast into toy soldiers, meticulously painting them, giving them life. He gave them all to me. He was an intellect with a powerful mind; those who would listen would be treated to a verse from Whitman, Emerson or Thoreau.
Last week, Mr. Mealy came to my mind as I lectured my students on the precepts of transcendentalism, specifically the ideals professed by Emerson and Thoreau on self-reliance. I’d had my fill regarding their bemoaning the state’s fiscal crisis and its effects on higher education, and I thought his story would drive home the importance of self-sufficiency.