Niagara Gazette

May 3, 2013

HAMILTON: The point is that Dolson was a scrapper

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Donald Dolson died last month.

Most of you reading this have never even heard of him and that’s all right because there are hundreds of other Donald Dolsons right around you — and most of you don’t realize it.

Between his home and the scrap yards, where he often sold the discarded metal items that lay along the city’s curbs, Donald’s funeral was held at St. John AME Church in Niagara Falls’ North End. In Reverend Points’ eulogy there, he focused upon Donald as being a ‘scrapper.’

There are two kinds of scrappers in the American lexicon, those words that we use to describe people and actions. Someone whom you are hesitant to fight, because of their perceived toughness, is one description of a scrapper. While Donald’s ruddy, compact body probably would likely dissuade more fights than it would have caused, his gentle personality would have dissuaded even more.

However, Reverend Points’ sermon was not about that definition of ‘scrapper.’ His eulogy was not even so much about the discarded metal objects that Donald collected from the curbs of the city. Those objects were just a metaphor for a larger part of Donald’s being.

For you see, as with Donald driving up one street and then down another, searching for metal ‘things’ of value that others had discarded, he encountered people who were often much like those paint-stained and broken metal shelves whose owners had found no further use for them. Those people were like the stoves that no longer worked, or the dryers that no longer dried, or the bed frames, upon which growing children once slept and had outgrown both them and their usefulness. As Reverend Points pointed out, along the way, Donald found value in those people too.

Those in the sanctuary, that day, all sat, listened and mourned, as Reverend Points ask them to look around the room at each other, “... and see those who are here that have been thrown away. Donald found value in you, too,” he said.

And that’s why we all were there.

Donald is gone now. Something is always sad about dying.

But, there is also something that goes largely unnoticed in those fading, flickering flames and those dark wisps of black smoke that rises from the sputtering candles that are the lives of dying family, friends and loved ones. As they burn out, one-by-one, the fire of their lives somehow leap onto the unlit wicks of those new candles. We then see something special in the darkness that their broken or exhausted absences have left behind — it is that the steady light, which burns from both those new and renewed candles, is seemingly brighter.

As Reverend Points asked us to do in that sanctuary that day, should we not also do beneath the blue sanctuary of that sky where we all live? Should we not, every day, ourselves scour the curbs of our lives and seek out those who have been discarded? Shouldn’t we let them know that we find value in them, without taking anything from them, but by giving them a piece of our own hearts?

The Donalds of the world have gone unnoticed to most of my readers — until their candles burn out. Like stars, there are many ‘Donalds’ that are always around us; but sadly, we see them best in the darkness of our own nights.

And while the church is a scrap yard of sorts, Donald’s brown metal coffin cannot be as was his black, ‘Sanford and Son-like’ pickup truck. It should not carry away, with him, his valuable mission and ministry of sorts. While other scrappers will continue to pick up the broken and discarded ‘things’ that lie along the curbs of the city, it is up to we who remain to renew our efforts at being those kind of scrappers like Donald. While we must place value in the things that we possess, we must also find even more value in broken and discarded people whom we encounter; those who walk along the sidewalks of our city between the cold piles of scrap metals and the homes from which it came — those metaphorically chilly homes and hearts with their bolted doors and their shade-drawn windows.

Donald did — because as Reverend Points said, “He was a scrapper.”

Contact Ken Hamilton at

Contact Ken Hamilton at