Originally published on Oct. 19, 1995.
He was only one man, not a million. His marches made no headlines, got him no fame.
He marched four blocks down the long hill to the bus stop, and at the end of the working day marched up the hill to supper.
In the Great Depression, when one job was not enough, he loaded rail cars at night and made his march home in the small hours of morning. To supplement the two jobs, he had an egg route — went to the country to get crates of brown-speckled farm eggs and delivered them to his customers' doors.
His father died when he was young, so he hadn't the chance even to finish high school. He didn't drop out. Hardship dealt him out.
He never saw the capital of the country, never flew in an airplane, never owned a new car, never got the mortgage cleared, never got his name in the newspaper until the notice of his death in agate type.
He worked 40-some years for the same company, giving to the men who ran it more loyalty than they ever dreamed of giving back.
He had no vices. He paid his way. He never knowingly wronged another man. He believed in keeping his word, and honored the commitment of marriage, as he honored any other promise he ever made.
The one bit of luck he had, if luck's the word, was the gift of amiability — an innate pleasantness of nature that won him friends and made other people glad to be around him.
From a poor beginning, and with those slender assets, he fashioned a life for which no apologies or elaborate explanations would afterward be necessary.
He had nothing to atone for.
In partnership with a woman as faithful and decent as himself, he managed to raise a son who did not understand, until almost too late to say it, that greatness is a quality of character not to be confused with mere celebrity.
The intention is not to present that man, my father, as a hero. Because the truth is that his was a common history, endlessly repeated - the story of the fathers of most of the boys I knew, and many more.
That used to be seen, by good people of all origins and races and creeds, as the reasonable way to get from the beginning to the end. They accepted, without needing to be demonstrative about it, that their choices had consequences.
I am not, therefore, much impressed by marches of a million men, or however many, intended with great public fanfare to make some statement about themselves and their intentions.
The marches that count are private ones, the life-journeys of individuals. And the direction those lives actually take is the only statement worth believing.