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I've known my pal Al now for--can it be?--twenty years, and the only thing
I can say about his latest teaching award is, "What? Only Pennsylvania?"
No single state can hold the guy. I've taught in three of them
myself--Virginia, Massachusetts, and Ohio--and I've never once met his
equal. He's simply the best--and easily so. The Italians have an
expression: "Non ti far vedere senza far niente." Don't be caught doing
nothing. Good advice, I suppose, though frankly I've always found more
challenge than wisdom there. Well, I dare you to catch Al Filreis doing
nothing. Impossible. If people were sporting equipment, Al would be a
bowling ball. Relentless. Indomitable.
But to praise him thus is, of course, to risk reducing all Al does to mere busyness. And to this one can only respond, "Hey, don't you get it? All that energy? It's really love. What else could it be? The guy simply loves us."
But even love, if it lacks direction, can be a cheap blanket. So what is this guy up to? And who is Al Filreis anyway? Well, first of all, don't be fooled by all the computer crap. I figure this is just good for business. So much window dressing. A means to an end. No, sir, Al is no techno-geek. What he is is what you--or maybe his grandfather--might call a finagler. Not devious or crafty, mind you. Not someone who is merely getting over or getting by. And certainly not someone who is willing to make do. Nope. Al Filreis is simply someone who does whatever he can, wherever he can, and whenever he can, to make things better for all of us. Hell, he even wants to make US better. A fixer is what he is. (And I should know, too, because he has been trying to fix me for as long as I've known him). There's foolishness in this, to be sure. And hubris, too. But that doesn't matter. What matters is Al's generous wish, his expectant hope, his open and true desire to create the good. This is exactly what separates Al from the pack. This is why he is the best teacher in this or any other state. He really believes he can make things, us better, now and forever.
Thanks for trying, pal-of-mine. Thanks for not giving up.