"Any man with courage is a majority."

-- Robert F. Kennedy

There were people who have million-dollar homes standing next to people who have no homes. There were articulate people who have used language to catapult themselves to the professional heights of our society holding hands with people who were inarticulate and who daily plumb the depths of the American underbelly.

It was an emotionally staggering moment, a moment when we all stood together and mourned, not only as Americans who shared a common heritage but not a common circumstance, but also as human beings capable of loving someone, someone whom we will all miss: Mitch.

The sea of mourners gave a faint flicker of hope to the dream of this man who truly believed that "we can only be truly redeemed through our love for each other" and whose passion, as Carol Fennelly put it, "was for people who suffered and people who were in pain."

If Snyder was at times in anguish because of that passion, his anguish was shared by the homeless themselves. "Being homeless . . . you feel as if you are an outcast," Karen Saunders, from the Community for Creative Non-Violence's Women's Shelter, said, her voice breaking. "You have no place where you belong . . . . Mitch ministered to the unacceptable and sometimes he was thought of as being unacceptable. But I thought of him as a rainbow."

To peace activist Phillip Berrigan, Mitch was the good shepherd who "risked his life time and again because he loved. He literally walked around in the skin of the poor."

But the funeral Tuesday wasn't just a mourning and celebration of Mitch's life. It was also mourning the feeling of a movement that has had significant setbacks in recent weeks. Singer Cher defined the broader fear: "People in power have to care about the people and not just about the industries and about business."

Asking rhetorically if CCNV would last without Mitch, Berrigan answered, "Of course it will. But only as a community of shepherds. Otherwise CCNV risks becoming lambs of sacrifice." But a man sitting with members of CCNV blurted out his dread. "The wolves," he said, "are going to come out of the closet!"

Aside from his personal problems around the apparent failure of his longtime relationship with Fennelly, the repeal of the District's overnight shelter law was another problem that bothered Mitch Snyder on the day he committed suicide. And so fearful were his supporters that homeless activities would die with Mitch Snyder that they staged a sit-in at the District Building after the funeral to keep homeless activities alive.

This fear and rage at the District of Columbia government also surfaced beneath Tuesday's sweltering sun. One old woman with an arthritically bent finger was so angry that, at the mere mention of the name Marion Barry, she twisted her face and spat out endless venom. But there was also an enormous outpouring of applause for Mayor Barry, who often differed with Snyder but who supported him in several crises.

There were many images and words that stick out in my mind as I recall Tuesday afternoon at Mitch's funeral.

Jesse Jackson's challenge that Snyder's life of service "obligates us to recommit to the unfinished business {of helping} the homeless and hungry."

Dick Gregory encouraging Carol Fennelly not to take on the guilt of Snyder's death, despite Mitch's suicide note. "Don't let him blame that on you," he said, embracing her. "We know who you are. We know how frail {men} can be."

But the image that I see most when I think of Mitch now is one conjured up by actor Martin Sheen, who described Mitch at the moment of his death, not as a broken suicide victim, but as a hero, who, as he had done many times for his fellow human beings, had swum far from shore.

Now the challenge is to transform Tuesday's emotion into a lasting legacy from Snyder. While it is nice that there is a move afoot to rename the shelter that Snyder fought for the Mitch Snyder Memorial Shelter, I don't thnk that's the only tribute either Snyder or his followers would want.

Instead, the mayor has it in his power to do something more significant. At the funeral, he said, "So Mitch, we're going to miss you, brother. We're going to continue your work." One way he could do that would be to block the D.C. Council's emergency legislation that weakens the overnight shelter law by refusing to sign it into permanent legislation: a pocket veto. That would be an appropriate tribute to an extraordinarily courageous man.