Tom Kettleman started showing up last Spring in my hometown of Lodi, California. No one seemed to know where he came from. People learned to watch out for him because he didn’t always use the cross walk, but sometimes he did. Wherever he was, he created a stir. Sometimes he would chase ambulances and patrol cars. I guess they didn’t know whose turf they were on. More often than not he could be found at one of his resting places, behind the parking lot of Lowe’s or hanging out at Panera’s strutting his stuff. Every now and then you could find him behind Wal-Mart. Kettleman Lane and Lower Sacramento road was where you could usually always see him.
People started looking for him and then posting their pictures of where he was that day. Kids and parents alike fell in love with Tom. He became a very popular guy. He never asked for the notoriety, he was just being himself. But something about Tom seemed to bring people of all different walks of life together. It was a curious phenomenon. People who might never have otherwise met started talking about Tom and where they saw him.
Then came the Facebook fan page which swelled to over 3000 members.
The usual trip to the store was somehow brightened by Tom’s antics, especially when he was show-boating, puffing all his feathers up in grand turkey style, it was really something to see.
People might wonder about how this could happen, but the reason is very simple. Tom gave people something to smile about. He gave me something to smile about all the way in Arizona. He gave a little bit of hope to a weary world. A world worn down by work, stress, horrific events in the news. Tom gave people something of a sense of community that is hard to find these days. I guess you could say that Tom was a little bit of an ambassador in that regard.
Sometimes I find that animals and babies have a way of being much more effective at building bridges between people of all faiths, colors, and economic statures.
Or course, there were the naysayers and the haters of Tom as well. There were cruel comments on Facebook, and those who felt that he was a nuisance, a danger to the community. Wherever good and innocence gather, the minions of negativity always seem to spring up as well. Human nature I suppose.
Now Tom is gone and people are saddened. Others don’t understand the sadness. He was just a turkey after all. But I can say that I will truly miss my brother’s pictures and texts about Tom and where he was that day. I will miss the idea of Tom and how he brought my hometown together. Growing up in Lodi was truly a blessing. We had community, we had closeness. It was a safe place where we could walk the streets at just about any time of day or night without fear.
And yet, this thing with Tom makes me realize that community still exists in Lodi. I can already see the good coming out of it on the Friends of Tom page on Facebook. (which is now open only to invitation from other members.)
You see, sometimes it takes something as silly as a turkey to make people believe in each other and their community again. To see something that was there all along. Sometimes God uses turkeys.
The spirit that brought people together while Tom was here has not left. Let it continue to inspire us all to do something good for each other today and everyday. We love and miss you Tom. Inspire on…….