I wish you could have met him.
He wore blue bib overalls and a baseball cap. The 93-year-old man woke before five every morning to begin his day as a “beggar for the poor” of downtown Indianapolis, my hometown.
For two decades, he drove across the city to pick up or buy food from supermarkets, bakeries and produce companies.
Lucious Newsom called himself “the Lord’s beggar” — and oh, how he begged.
He begged so the poor need not. He begged so they might have the dignity of food choice during weekly Saturday-morning markets. He begged so they might find a way out of their poverty through education and health care.
Lucious left his family and his life as a Baptist minister in Tennessee twenty years ago to volunteer at an annual Thanksgiving dinner in Indianapolis. He wondered who would serve the poor the next day. He never went back to Tennessee.
Decades later, volunteers return week after week to serve at “Anna’s House,” the health and education center Lucious began.
He took first-time volunteers on a walking tour of the neighborhood and spoke of the living situations of many of the families. He urged volunteers to recognize their duty to feed and clothe the poor.
Lucious was firm but fair in his dealings with everyone. He told those in line not to be greedy, and he told the volunteers not to give out anything that they would not give to Jesus Himself.
Lucious Newsom died a week ago yesterday, leaving a city and a community grateful not only for his work serving the poor, but also for his lesson in how to treat the poor.
My family helped Lucious serve the poverty-stricken of our community many times during high school. After hearing of his death last week, I remain in awe of this humble, courageous, passionate man.
The news of his death and the memory of his life come as a slap in the face to me this week. At such a time, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoken from a jail cell in Birmingham, echo endlessly in my mind:
“The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
The world desperately needs extremists who will resist the temptation to settle into a life of complacency, indifference and lukewarm zeal; extremists who will sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of a cause; extremists who creatively use their talents and skills to find new solutions to lasting problems.
Our nation needs those who believe radically enough in the notions of justice, human dignity, truth and responsibility that they become activists almost despite themselves.
I’ve seen such extremists on ASU’s campus.
I hear about your work in the research labs across campus and on the streets of Tempe; I saw you tabling for your student organization last weekend at Passport; I’ve seen you back up your rants in class with tangible solutions and community service.
You and I may not always agree about the best solution to the world’s problems, but I’m grateful for your presence, your honest dialogue and your enthusiasm all the same.
I invite those of you who feel that unmistakable twinge to do something — anything — with your life to join me this semester: Respond to the needs you see around you. Do what is necessary to be that creative extremist — act, create, dialogue, fundraise, labor, sweat, protest, care, counsel, donate, serve, educate.
I’ll see you around campus. I know I’ll recognize you when I do.
Andrea is a philosophy senior. Share your plans for changing the world with her at email@example.com.