Reflections for Ken Brown's Memorial
I suppose that I knew the Browns most of my life, in that town-college-church-family kind of way. However, I didn't really get to know them until I returned to teach at Manchester in 1993 and moved in across the street. I never actually had Ken as a teacher in the classroom, but he taught me immeasureable lessons through his act of being.
Initially, it was difficult to reconcile the pensive, reserved, sometimes even sleepy colleague Ken whom I encountered at 9 a.m. faculty meetings, with neighbor Ken, who was a whirling bundle of energy, in and outside his house. Ken was extremely welcoming. Following a warm embrace of greeting, he would whisk a guest into the kitchen while he made coffee or inot the dining room, to react to an article he had just been reading in the Times. He wouldn't sit down for a heart to heart (Viona does the counseling); rather he would pull one into his hub of activity while radiating questions. I recall a brief time when the Browns' ping pong table actually functioned as a ping pong table rather than an archival platform. Ken was competitive, but his thoughts were as animated as his hands and feet. Volleying ideas was a sport he could play anywhere. He invited us to be co-conspirators in problem-solving - whether it be how to demilitarize society or how to flush squirrels out of the walls. The joy was in the shared pursuit; possibilities increased from a joint endeavor. Shoulder to shoulder at a war protest, or leaning over a car engine, we might just stumble onto a solution, or at least learn something trying.
Often the task or project wasn't as important as the communion that resulted. If every there was someone who lived and breathed communion - both spiritual and secular - it was Ken Brown. But then, it's hard to separate the two with Ken, because all life was sacred for him and the Church might be just another building. Communion was something to be cherished, with family, friends, students, colleagues, dogs, and nature. I'm not sure that Ken ever welcomed a squirrel into his home, but almost any other being.
I think that Ken understood too well the gravity of our universal situation, and therefore knew the need for levity. Whether we share tapioca pudding or break bread together, in Ken's honor, let's do it not just with the folks we konw and love, but with others, the ones whom we fear or avoid or ignore, and keep growing the community.