In October 1992 an obituary with this headline ran in The New York Times: "Harold Brown Sr., 61, Investment Executive." That description was right, as far as it went, but it did not capture the essence of Brown's life. If it had, it would have read: "Harold Brown Sr., 61, Did Good."

For a long time I've been meaning to write this particular column, and it's somehow fitting that it turns out to be my last. For more than 20 years I've been a reporter, a job that people say is sure to make you cynical and has somehow only left me more idealistic. For the last five I've been here, in this space, considering the great issues of the day.But the great issues, at base, are the same as they were when John the Baptist said, "He that has two coats, let him give one to him that has none." The great issues are the same as they were when Charles Dickens created the ghost of Jacob Marley, misanthropic man of business. "Mankind was my business," the specter cried, the lesson learned too late. "The common welfare was my business."

That is the most important thing I have learned in the newspaper business, that our business is one another. Time after time, story after story, I have learned it from everyday angels.

Brown, who saw the homeless on midtown subway grates and, instead of looking away, organized a small shelter in his parish church, was one.

They do dazzle, the everyday angels, just as the angel did in the Christmas story, scaring the wits out of the shepherds. But the angel said "Fear not," and that's what I've learned from its contemporary counterparts - the rape counselors, the good cops, the nuns, the li-brarians. Life will be hard, politics will be mean. Yet somehow good will be done.

The great issues are the same as they were when 15-year-old Anne Frank wrote in her diary: "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." Fear not; Anne was right. The heavenly hosts prove it every day.