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My friend Rick gives great gifts. I hope you’ve got a thoughtful friend like him. I’ve known Rick for more than 40 years and he’s always been like that. In a perfect world, everybody would be surrounded by Ricks. There would be no room for war in that world.

His gifts are usually of a home-made variety, involving both thought and action on his part. Somewhere in those 40-plus years, he started taking a weekly woodworking class. Soon he got to be good at producing first-rate frames. Around various holidays, friends and I would receive framed mementos with personal meaning on subjects like things we’d done together, nature, iconic windmills and places we loved.

In recent decades, Rick started getting good at photography. Soon we’d get exquisite pictures of trees, or landscapes from Italy. When he went through his “ivy on Buffalo buildings” period, that made for some really superb shots. He also would do public art shows, giving the gift of beauty and insight to a wide audience. A good example was the stunning and educational display of tree photos spread out on the walls of Merge restaurant several years ago.

When we both started having kids, they spent a lot of time together and Rick and I are happy that they’re still close today, even though they all live in different cities (including one in Buffalo, I’m happy to say).

We established a great practice – probably proposed by Rick – of taking our munchkins camping in the deep woods every year, giving our wives a richly deserved rest. On the anniversary of 30 years of friendship, Rick gave me a beautifully framed picture of us and our six young’uns, standing happily at a remote campsite. It sits on my dresser as I write.

Then there was the time I was informed on Christmas Eve that I had lost my job with the City Council as part of a political power grab. Rick went after the new Council leaders, giving them a piece of his mind and making sure they wrote a good reference letter for me in the process.

Rick’s the guy who usually brings a batch of chocolate chip cookies to potluck dinners we have with our friends, in addition to whatever he and Ann have pledged to bring.

So I was very happy, but not surprised, when something recently jumped out at me in The Buffalo News. I was eyeing the Jumble and the Cryptoquip, wondering if I’d have enough time to get them done, when I spotted a legal notice. It was from the Buffalo Schools, seeking proposals to put solar panels on the roofs of 20 district schools. You see, Rick has been part of the Sierra Club’s Energy Committee and has been working patiently with the School Board to do a transformative solar project to cut greenhouse gases before it’s too late and to expose Buffalo’s students to this clean technology of the future.

This is a gift that will be enjoyed by thousands of young minds as they discover the magic of producing electrical energy from a ray of light. It will inspire generations to come, as humanity faces up to what will be an increasingly urgent need to transition to truly clean energy.

In a perfect world, everybody would be surrounded by Ricks. There would be no room for war in that world.