Archive for February, 2016

February 29, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum

#19

My Mother’s Faith

If my mother had belonged to another Christian denomination or been of some other faith, I would be another person today. I know this. And this knowledge leads me to a sympathy for and acceptance of all those other folks like me. We all find meaning in the faith we follow. The teachers and preachers I listened to in the church my mother took me to live in my memory and in my attitudes toward the world. They make me want to be a World Class Person at the Human Family Reunion.

I came into this world knowing nobody, and the purpose of my earthly existance I have come to know is to meet every person I can and expect to like every person I meet. Finding a friend of another faith deepens faith and elevates friendship. Will Rogers is remembered for saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I wonder if Will would have said, “I never liked a man I didn’t meet.” Maybe. Meeting someone of another faith and becoming a friend of that person offers entry into a dimension of life available no other way.

I invite you to come with me as we find friends of other faiths.To begin our journey, I suggest seven conversations using a set of seven questions I have prepared. Some of the conversations may be by phone.. Hearing the voice of the other person is crucial; seeing the other person is important.

If you are intrigued by this idea of inter-faith friendship, just email me at hatebuster@aol.com.

February 27, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum

#18

Way To Go, Gary

Gary Phelps belonged to William Jewell College in the same way many of us belong to a church or a political party. From that day in the 1960s when he came as a student, Gary was committed to William Jewell as a way of life. Here on this campus, as Gary has told countless prospective students and visiting parents over these intervening years, “I learned to think, to write and to care.”

I remember the day in the early ‘70s when Gary appeared one day on campus after being away at graduate school. His face aglow with pure pleasure, like a small boy who has found his most desired treasure beneath the Christmas tree, Gary breathlessly explained to me that he was coming back as a member of the staff.

“I never recovered from your Race Relations class,” Gary would say to me in our early years as colleagues. The Black Student Association on our campus was born from Gary’s heart and mind. The 1960s had been a tense time in racial terms. Gary cared about justice issues. He resolved that on his watch, our campus would be a place where all students felt safe and valued and at home.

Gary had a house in the town, but more likely than not on any day of the week or hour of the day or night you would find him in his office in the Union or about somewhere on the campus dealing with a crisis. When pagers came available, Gary got one and widely distributed his number. He never wanted to be more than a few minutes away from any student or staff who might need him.

We would have tarried longer that day had we known we would never meet again. I had rushed to Gary’s office to make final plans with him for our Human Family Reunion to be held in a few days in the Union. Gary had been at our first Human Family Reunion held beneath the trees on the president’s lawn in 1976. He worked the crowd, explaining to each and all how glad William Jewell was to host this good event.

When in later years we would hold our Human Family Reunions in other parts of Greater Kansas City, Gary’s duties on campus would often prevent his attendance. Always, though, he would send greetings and tell me that he was with us in spirit. That last morning, Gary’s parting words to me: “I would like to host the Human Family Reunion at William Jewell every year. Our students need to be a part.”

Way to go, Gary. I like the way you think.” I didn’t know these would be my last words to Gary. I would have said more. How much I loved him. What a good man he was. How valuable he was to William Jewell. I had said, “Way to go,” to Gary many times for many different reason over many years. I hope he understood my verbal shorthand as the blanket endorsement of his person and his profession.

Gary told me that last morning together that President Sallee had to be out of town on the day of our Reunion, so Gary would bring greetings from the college. People of all colors, creeds and colors come. Who is right is the wrong question this night. Once we have become friends, we can handle such a question. Gary loved the ambiance of the evening when all these good folks come to campus. He was making big plans to make everyone welcome.

We agreed that I would call Gary the next Monday morning to touch base and make final plans. As I am about to call, my phone rings. Judy Rychlewski says, “Ed, it breaks my heart to tell you this, but Gary died this morning. He was in the cafeteria when he collapsed. We called an ambulance, but they couldn’t revive him.”

Hours passed before I could trust myself to speak. My heart was breaking. I could muster no enthusiasm for our Reunion without Gary. I thought of calling it off. Then it came to me that Gary would not want to be the reason we had no Reunion. So in a few days, Tuesday, April 17 2001, at 6:30 in the evening, we will all gather in the east cafeteria of the Union for THE GARY PHELPS MEMORIAL HUMAN FAMILY REUNION.

We will meet in the very building where a few days before Gary died. How I wish Gary had not left us so early. How happy I am that he chose to live and work among us. How fitting that he died early on a Monday morning having breakfast with students and staff and preparing for a new week. How privileged we all were to have Gary Phelps in our lives. He came as a student to learn from us. He stayed to become our teacher and our friend. He left us quickly and suddenly, with good memories and great stories to tell.

Way to go, Gary

February 26, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum

©2016 by Ed Chasteen

#17

Michael Forbes

Thursday, October 16, 2014

by Ed Chasteen

Well, Mike, you would love this place. Ginger Sue’s is right here in Liberty, right off our town square at 12 W. Kansas. My HateBusters office is in my home basement, just past the washing machine. Not an impressive place to welcome visitors. So, since Ginger Sue’s opened nearly six years ago, the first table just inside the front door has served as my office. The four chairs at that high table have always been enough to seat the folks I have asked to meet me here. Only once or twice have we needed them all. One-to-one and face-to-face almost always is my choice. Today, I’m imagining that you are that one, though to everyone in the place, I appear to be alone.

At HIGH NOON, forty minutes from now, I’ll be joined by a husband and wife from my church. I have met them here before individually and as a couple. I have brought a copy of the Southern Poverty Law Center Report from Montgomery, Alabama, and Hospitality News Letter from Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia. I want them to see both. They champion causes in our church that lead me to think they will find encouragement in these pages.

Mike, I’m thinking of all the bike rides we did: The Saturday rides to breakfast. The MS-150s. The Greater Liberty Rides for MS. And that last ride you did with us on June 30, 2012. That distracted driver didn”t mean to kill you. He broke your mother’s heart. Our ride in silence was somber as 30 of us pedaled as honorary pallbearers from your memorial service to the place where you were buried.

When I picked up a skin infection on a recent bike ride and was sent to rehab after 12 days in the hospital, your mother was the receptionist. We talked several times during my 12 days there, most often about you. When I was discharged, your mother gave me this journal I have with me now at Ginger Sue’s. She said you kept a journal. I promised her that I would write in this journal and think of you.

Thus do you and I spend the 40 minutes until you slip away when Roger and Anna come.

February 25, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum

#16

Home of HateBusters

When a Klansman won election to the Louisiana Legislature in 1988, my students at William Jewell College knew they had to help the state redeem itself. We started HateBusters. We got the governor to invite us. We got a black church and a white church to invite us. We got an airline to give us free tickets. We went. Stayed four days. Spoke at LSU. Were on radio to talk about race relations. We held a Human Family Reunion for the folks in Baton Rogue.

When someone burned a cross in a black man’s yard in Liberty in 1991, we held a march from our campus to the town square, wearing our HateBusters shirts and chanting, “Up with people, down with hate.” In a half-page editorial the next morning, the Kansas City Star lauded the march: “In Liberty on Thursday, the anti-hate message was loud and clear. It took only one cross on a black man’s lawn . . . for the offense to get some folks in Liberty stirred up. More than 100 persons, many of them white students and faculty from William Jewell College, marched along Franklin Street in a display of outrage at persons who commit hate crimes. The march was the idea of Ryan Bunch, a student from Raytown. . . “

Word got out, and HateBusters began to be invited everywhere and all the time. To St. Leo College in Florida, the University of Mississippi, a Dallas, Texas elementary school, San Antonio to hold a Human Family Reunion, Phoenix to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, Burlington, Iowa to speak to the City Human Rights Commission, Hemet, California to visit an Indian reservation and hold a Human Family Reunion, Columbia and Jefferson City to hold Human Family Reunions, the White House to attend the Hate Crimes Conference. Invitations came from governors, mayors, schools, colleges, universities, pastors, rabbis, imams, students, prisons, police departments and ordinary citizens.

William Jewell College is the birthplace of the Human Family Reunion, first held in 1976. Begun as the culminating event of the Race Relations class, bringing together the many folks students had gotten to know during the semester, this is an evening where everyone brings a dish of their favorite food, who’s right is the wrong question, our sole (soul) agenda is to get to know one another, nobody speaks for more than three minutes and everybody who wishes gets a turn at the mike.

Every April on campus and any other place at anytime someone asks. That’s when the Human Family Reunion happens. At least one a year. Sometimes dozens. Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 6:30 in the evening at William Jewell is the next one. If you’re reading these words, you’re invited.

Becoming World Class Persons, able to go anyplace at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. That’s what HateBusters and the Human Family Reunion have as their goal. Now and then a rude and insulting reminder comes along to remind us all how vital this mission is. When the reminder comes from afar, requiring that we travel great distances to confront it, we board a plane or get in our cars and go to do our chosen duty. Then come home to report. But when the reminder springs up in our midst, an unspeakable sadness comes over us. There is no where to go now. As Pogo would say, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

When a white freshman student on our campus donned blackface and went from room to room in his dorm shouting the N word, he hurt us all in ways that we will be a long time understanding and even longer making right. But the only effective time to begin is immediately.

HateBusters does not know the name of the student who did this. But we love him. No matter his motivation, he has opened wide the door through which leaning may enter and find him. Those hurt by his actions we also love. They also are now open to learning in ways heretofore closed. Conditions have conspired to hand us a lemon. We now have opportunity to make lemonade.

February 23, 2016

My College, My Church and My Cafes

My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum

Bike Aid Comes

#15

Measured against any of our lifetimes, the 40 hours from Tuesday afternoon at five o’clock through Thursday morning at 9 AM are no longer than a sigh. Chances are though that the 53 of us directly caught up in the whirlwind of events will be forever changed, beginning at Central Baptist Seminary, then spreading to faith homes across Greater Kansas City for the night and all day Wednesday before coming to Jewell in the evening for our Human Family Reunion, then home again until Thursday morning at 9 AM on the south steps of KCMO City Hall for the city’s blessing. The hundreds of others who helped to make this Camelot moment happen will fondly recall years from now the part they played. And all who see and hear of what was done on this little piece of God’s good earth we call home will be inspired and encouraged. With life so perilous in so many places, with faith so divisive and hope so fleeting, how good it is that here in the Heart of America these of different faiths have come together for 40 hours to aid a band of tired and hungry bicycle riders pedaling across America to help us find our spirit.