As I have said before, Sam loved unconditionally. Loudly. Consistently. Without questions, without judgement. He could see behind the grime. Behind the corrections anklets, beyond the stigma of serious mental illness, behind the convictions or prison time, behind poverty, behind cognitive limitations, behind varying political views.
Sam had very, very strong views on things. Views he worked hard to support. For example, he went to our State House to attend the hearings on marriage rights for all, because he so strongly felt anyone should have the right to marry. He volunteered at the local fair collecting signatures on petitions for this, even though he faced venom from many who walked by his booth. But even as he faced that wrath, he never reacted in rudeness or anger. He wanted to understand the views of others, and actually listened.
Sam could sit and chat with lawyers about his views on civil rights, or go fishing in the creek with friends. He could talk about literature like a champ, and laugh until his sides hurt watching movies like Chicken Run. He had the ability to not limit himself into the constraints society likes to thrust upon us.
It is easy to love, or treat well, people just like ourselves. It is much harder to love those who look, sound, worship, believe differently than ourselves. Sam was able to do that without thinking about it, without making it a lofty goal to achieve. It was just who he was, and it is part of the reason that his legacy lives on to this day.
I challenge all of us to try to love someone different than us — let me know how it goes.