The Duty of Delight

Chuck Matthei was an innovative thinker who helped pioneer community land trusts and other alternative economic models and a longtime friend and supporter of Sojourners. From his earliest activism for civil rights and against the Vietnam War to his final work as founder and director of Equity Trust Inc., Chuck led a life of protest, service, and solution-seeking, fed by a deep understanding of the connections between nonviolence, economics, and justice. Chuck was 54 when he died of pneumonia as a complication of thyroid cancer on Oct. 1, 2002.

After receiving the news that Chuck Matthei—friend, brother, mentor—had returned home to Voluntown, Connecticut, to die, I left a message to see whether I might visit one last time. His sister called and said that Chuck would be delighted to see me. I knew he could not speak. But evidently with the help of his laptop computer he was able to dictate requests. "Bring prints of Fritz Eichenberg for me to look at," he said. "Bring photos of your children—to illustrate the stories you will tell." I promised to come the next day.

I didn't know quite what to expect. I was conducted into his office, where he sat on a wheelchair with the computer poised on his lap. He looked very old and frail. As usual, though, he was able to communicate a lot through his eyes.

I was amazed by how well he could carry on a conversation by typing away on his laptop—almost as fast as he could talk, stopping occasionally to backspace and correct a spelling or reconsider a word or phrase.

I described the book I am working on, The Saints' Guide to Happiness. I am trying to reflect, through the lives of holy people, on what makes for a happy and whole life. He said, "I have a lot of thoughts about this." He began typing, words to this effect:

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2003
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