In times of tumult, we need brave, tender leadership.
We need a face full of light, a heart full of love, and a strong, sturdy spine that remembers how to dance.
We need (so very much) humility.
We need someone less like an emperor and more like a Town Councilman.*
I confess I am not entirely certain where a Town Councilman’s duties begin and end, nor even if every town elects a Councilman. Where I grew up, a microscopic New York town rather Ringoes-like in size and strangeness, we had a peculiar patchwork of political offices including County Executive and Third Ward Alderman (which I think is the same as a third footman in Downton Abbey, except he never brought us canapes).
But most importantly — at least, to my six-year-old mind — we had a Town Councilman.
I was fascinated and somehow comforted by a fuzzy local-access commercial in which our Town Councilman introduced himself, said some very kind things, and reminded us that he was Always Here For Us. At six, you take that message to heart. You don’t forget. Your budding brain adds The Town Councilman to your list of Good People you can trust.
You like the Town Councilman.
And if you’re anything like me, you excitedly welcome the Town Councilman into your house at the first opportunity. Kind of.
As the story goes, one summer day c. 1987, I happily hollered up the stairs to my Mom, “THE TOWN COUNCILMAN IS HERE!” I did not realize two fundamental facts:
(1) My Mom was just getting out of the shower, and
(2) The friendly man I’d just let into our living room was a vinyl siding salesman.
I swear this is coming back to cats.
The Tabby’s Place cats, like the rest of us, have a built-in yearning for Good People who are Here For Us. The Secretary General of the UN may be a lovely chap, but he’s a bit too big and far away. Our Uncle Sven may be endlessly here for us, but he has no power to decide which days the town grit yard will be open.
The Town Councilman stands in the gap, with both the authority and the tenderness to make us feel safe.
Don’t let them convince you otherwise: cats, as much as humans, like to feel safe. And that’s why they have liked — nay, cherished — having one Lucas Rosenberg as their own Town Councilman.
Lucas’ life at Tabby’s Place has been long-term, albeit split like a biscuit from the local diner. Too shy to be scooped up with his fellow smidgen kittens, too timid to turn teenage angst into adoption, Lucas was finally, triumphantly taken home on the edge of adulthood. But when the votes were recounted, something was terribly wrong. The election turned into a defection, with one baffled black cat barrelling back to Tabby’s Place before the confetti stopped dropping.
Some would say his temporary home was a bad fit. I’d say Tabby’s Place still needed him.
Nervous about any and all spotlights, Lucas was nevertheless exactly the leader Suite B yearned for. His love of his fellowcat was unceasing; his ability to advocate, quietly and kindly, for more wand-toy time bordered the miraculous; he was relentlessly honest, rebelliously joyful, an inspiration and a friend to all those he served.
You wouldn’t necessarily call Lucas a leader on first blush, but so it goes with all the great ones. In times both ordinary (e.g. the buses are all on time, fish mush arrives promptly at 4pm) and excruciating (e.g. global pandemic, dearth of wand-toy-flingers, fish mush delayed by many minutes), Lucas simply loved with strength. His very presence was a living Always Here For You.
A servant leader. A panther among cats. A true Town Councilman. Even my Mom would have forgiven my letting this one into the house. (Important: True leaders will never try to sell you vinyl siding, or anything else. They’ll live what they believe so winsomely and earnestly and lovingly that you’ll want the world they paint, and together you’ll all get where you’re going. I’m Angela Hartley, and I approved this message.)
Under the Lucas Rosenberg Administration, Suite B was a happier, calmer, more honest town. Cats knew they were loved by a leader who cared; times were good even when times were tough; a certain safety and sweetness and strength emanated from the top.
And then, Lucas left us once again.
More precisely, Lucas is fixin’ to leave us as I type this post. He’s lassoed the love of a new, true adopter, and this time it bears the marks of “forever.” (I think I glimpsed a button on the adopter’s lapel: LUCAS 2020 AND ALL YEARS THEREAFTER.)
But it’s the legacy of a leader to leave you not bereft, but better. We will miss him terribly, but we will not have followed him in vain. Even as we wait to see which stalwart feline will step into the void (Faye for Ringoes Council…?), we are changed, challenged and commissioned to live as Lucas led.
May we be trusting. May we be kind. And may we lead whatever land we’ve been given — whether a nation or a tank of pet turtles — with Lucas-level grace. Long live the Town Councilman!
*Town Councilperson. Town Councilbeing. Town Councilcat. Etc. etc.