James C. Hobbs, 74, of the 400 block of East Bailey Road, was found on the sidewalk and pronounced dead Friday morning. Police say no foul play was involved.I never met Mr. Hobbs, but evidently many of his neighbors did. I met some of them on Friday. I was returning from what would be a 23-mile bike ride in the heat of the day, when the temperature topped out at over 100 degrees. On approaching the corner of Bailey Road and Coach Drive in Naperville, I saw a group of men handing out bottles of ice cold water from a cooler. They were giving it to anyone who stopped.
Now, the water I had remaining in my bottle was a suitable temperature for hard-boiling an egg, and even though I would have drunk it to stay hydrated, that bottle of water looked awfully good. I stopped at the corner and one of the men handed it to me.
He told me the story of the old man who had died there on the sidewalk earlier in the day. While no one knows why he died, the excessive heat was probably the culprit. He and his friends were passing out the water because they felt they had to do something. Mr. Hobbs was white. The water men were African-American.
"We got a bad reputation in this part of town," The man told me.
"You don't deserve it" was my reply. It's true. A news junkie like me reads the police blotter every week, and I can tell you that most of the crime in Naperville is committed by white people and mostly by out-of-towners. The small concentration of African-Americans living off Bailey Road are no less law-abiding or respectable than anyone else in town, and these particular men were a hell of a lot more community-minded than most. I thanked them heartily for their gift and added, "God bless you," even though I'm not much of a believer.
There are some things I remember from Sunday School, though, and the one that came to mind was this:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in," - Matthew 25:35 N.I.V.It's a passage from what has to be my favorite chapter in the Bible, Matthew 25, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. In that story, Jesus likens himself to every man who has ever been hungry, or thirsty, or forgotten, telling his followers:
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."What little remains of my Christianity can be found in those passages. I can't say whether or not those four kind men on Friday were following the Gospel or not. It seems more likely that they were exhibiting the best with which humans are endowed, be they believers or not. I don't think it's important. But I blessed them nevertheless.