Archive for December, 2016

December 31, 2016

Mill Inn

12-31-16

by Ed Chasteen

We’ve done it now so long! Why anyone is surprised, surprises us. Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe it’s the response on a very small scale that we all have on the very biggest. Nations are surprised at the behavior of other nations. Religions surprise one another by things they do.

Such global thoughts invade my mind as I walk into Mill Inn this New Year’s Eve morning. A blue sky, bright sun and temperature in the mid-30s as we left Liberty had drawn 10 bikers for the 15 miles on H to Excelsior Springs and breakfast at Mill Inn.

I’m first to arrive. About 8:30. In my PT Cruiser, my Hate Buster Mobile, license # H8BSTR. “Get the coffee ready,” had been my instruction from several riders as we left the bike shop parking lot.

“You rode?” Everyone wants to know as I enter. “No, but riders are coming.” “Isn’t it too cold?” “Is this your first New Year’s Eve ride?” “Don’t you quit in the winter?” “Don’t you freeze?” “Is this your last winter ride?”

“We ride all year. every month. Above 20 and no ice, we ride. Our numbers go down with the temperature. But we ride.”

Better than 15 years now we’ve been coming to these small town cafes under two hours by bicycle from Liberty, our Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum. Still during the winter months these questions come. Early on we asked them ourselves. Practice and the right equipment over time crowded these questions from our minds, their place taken by a soul satisfying sense of satisfaction at doing what once we did not.

Those who don’t do a thing are surprised that it is done by others. This would explain the questions that come our way at Mill Inn this morning and would also explain why nations and religions are surprised by one another. Surprise then leading to suspicion. And to conflict.

Our surprise does not seem likely to lead to such lethal outcomes. Motorists and bicyclists have been working toward a common understanding of the rules of the road. Most at Mill Inn this morning have come by car, but those of us coming by bicycle are welcomed. Staff and other diners come by to speak and offer encouraging words.

Those drawn by bicycle this morning: Matt Farwell, Terry Sharp, Dan Mack, Steve Hanson, Richard Woodruff, Marilyn Woodruff, Dave Wood, Adrian Munoz, Eddie Atkinson, Mike Lacy, Craig Leff, Terry Clark,

 

December 26, 2016

Fantasy Football

2016 by Ed Chasteen

They were giants to six year old David and four year old Brian in that locker room adjacent to the swimming pool back then. Len Dawson, Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan towered over my sons. After practice and stripped of their on-field armament, they and their teammates loomed large. My small sons were awe struck and talked incessantly on our way home about what they had seen and heard in the communal shower.

Now in the basement family room of that very house these now grown two sons are gathered with other members of the family to cheer and incessantly discuss the merits and exploits of Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. This first incarnation of Kansas City Chiefs won a super bowl, and talk today as we watch the present version on big screen TV is of a second.

Thanks for the memory. Thus do I explain to myself my choice this year of my Fantasy Football team. Son David, now known as Dave, lives in Lee’s Summit and is commissioner of our all-family 12 team fantasy league. Back on draft day I went all in on Chiefs: Maclin, Kelce, Santos and defense; Hill, later. Another family member beat me to Smith. Now on Christmas night 2016, it seems fitting as we all huddle round our TV, that the two of us competing for the championship are my wife and I. The two of us had, like the Chiefs, moved here from Texas and been together in this house through all the seasons the Chiefs practiced at William Jewell.

Debbie, our daughter was upset that morning when she was seven. We had just moved to Liberty. She asked me where I was going. “To school.” I answered. “But Mommie said you were through,” she sobbed. Then Bobbie, her mother and my wife, explained. I had been a student at MU. Now I was a teacher at William Jewell. (Debbie teaches at Jewell now.)

As all nine of us gather in our basement, Bobbie is 40 points ahead of me. I’m hoping that she will win. That her name will go up on the family plaque that adorns our wall just beside the TV and bears the name of each year’s winner. The plaque had been her idea. So we could remember who actually won, correct faulty, maybe self serving, memory. Her sister Carolyn won last year. Bobbie’s name this year would have made Bill, their dad, proud.

When first I knew that Bobbie and I would compete for the championship I had said to her several times daily: “I hope you win. I really do. But it has to be legit to have meaning. I intend to play the same guys I always play.”

Early in the first quarter of the Denver game, Hill runs for a 68 yard touchdown and Kelce goes 80 for another. I draw within a point. The Chiefs explode for a bunch of points in the second half. I win by 15. We’re all delirious that the Chiefs are in the playoffs. But as much as I ordinarily like winning, I feel like a loser.

Reminds me of another time, the only other time that comes to mind, when winning felt like losing. I was playing checkers with Bill, Bobbie’s dad. He had months earlier told me that I could not marry his daughter. I hoped losing to him would soften him up. After I beat him three straight times, he wanted to quit. I lost by winning.

All in the family these games have always been. The early version of our team we knew personally; the second through the morning paper and Sunday games. Fantasy all. But real enough to bind us all these years.

December 23, 2016

Christmas in a Minor Key

This Little Piece of God’s Good Earth

2016 by Ed Chasteen

hatebuster@aol.com                      816-803-8371

Neither Dub nor I are native to this place. I came first to teach at William Jewell College. He came years later as pastor of Second Baptist Church. Though the college and the church are one block apart, that phrase Dub used in church one Sunday morning was intended to apply only to the square city block on which our church stands: “This little piece of God’s good earth.”

Why this description fired my imagination, I think, goes back to a similar experience Dub and I had years apart in different states and churches, Dub as pastor; me, as a teenage member. In both, we had learned that our church did not welcome all people as our understanding of scripture led us to believe they should.

Like neon in the night, Dub’s description of our church has lit up my life since the first time I heard it. And from that moment, the piece of real estate so described has grown. From that square block bound on the east by Lightburne Street and on the west by Leonard; on the north by Franklin and on the south by Kansas, this little piece of God’s good earth has acquired a name, Greater Liberty, and the boundaries have expanded.

Liberty is our town, home to both William Jewell and Second Baptist, hence, Greater Liberty. Think globally, act locally, I used to say to my students. Love your neighbor as yourself we all heard regularly at church. Fuse the two in a place called Liberty and you get: Greater Liberty.

Because my bicycle is my preferred way of getting around, the distance I can go is not great. About 125 miles I would pedal in a single day one summer when school was out and I pedaled from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim. So when I was back, I drew a 125-mile circle around our town and dubbed this place Greater Liberty: north to Creston, Iowa and south to Carthage, Missouri; west to Manhattan, Kansas and east to Columbia, Missouri.

I have pedaled to these places on the border of Greater Liberty and to county seat towns nearby. Even they, though, are too far from my home to be places I can regularly go. So every Saturday morning for years my bike riding friends have come with me to breakfast in one of our nearby small town cafes some 15-25 miles from Liberty. We call ourselves the Greater Liberty Riders and these places no more than 25 miles away we call our Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum.

The towns: Excelsior Springs, Orrick, Kearney, Lawson, Platte City, Plattsburg, Smithville, Dearborn, Edgerton, Faucett, North Kansas City. The cafes: Mill Inn, Fubbler’s Cove, Sarah’s Table, VFW Hall, Catrick’s, Fannie’s, Lowman’s, Country Cookin’, Roxanne’s, Dearborn, Harmer’s, Willow Spring.

We are closing in on 800 Saturday breakfasts in these small town inner sanctum cafes. We have become occasional regulars. Comfort food we have learned is more than what comes on the plates brought to us by those who have welcomed us before. We eat among friends and relax in a place different in appearance from any of the others yet exactly the same in the way it makes us feel.

Greater Liberty is more than this little piece of God’s good earth. Greater Liberty is also a principle drawn from the college and the church nestled in the heart of this place. This is that principle: We all have Greater Liberty than we ever exercise, the liberty to rise above and beyond all limitations of race, religion, nation, gender, age, income, language, education.

Disney dubbed me the Pedalin’ Prof that summer I rode from Disney World to Disneyland. Now in and for Greater Liberty I ride, teaching the book I wrote at my college. Called How To Like People Who Are not Like You, the book does just that. Over a meal at a small town cafe in a Greater Liberty county seat town (105 in number), my host and I talk about liking people and what it is I do as Ambassador from Second Baptist Church to Other Communities of Faith.

December 22, 2016

The GKCIC, WJC & 2BC Together

for

The Olympic Friendship Project

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council held its most recent annual Table of Faiths on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. HateBusters bought tickets for 30 folks to attend, about equal numbers from William Jewell Coollege and Second Baptist Church. This year, 2016, also being an Olympic year, HateBusters, this very night, began a year-long project that concludes with the next Tables of Faith in May 2017: The Olympic Friendship Project

World Class Athletes gathered in Rio this August. World Class Persons will gather all year from May ’16 to May ’17. As preparation for our gathering every seventh Tuesday during this time, HateBusters has paired folks from the council with folks from WJC and 2BC

Each member of the pair has given their email address to the other. Each then holds seven conversations by email using the seven sets of questions I provide. Then every seventh Tuesday from last May 3, we hold a Gathering Beneath the Steeple at William Jewell College from 7:30-9:00 in the evening, where we sit at round tables to hear each tell the story of the other.

A World Class Person can go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. Through one-to-one-private conversations with a person of another faith, each of us over this year moves along this internet-interpersonal highway. We become more a World Class Person, more confident within and more useful without.

When tensions arise between faiths, as they seem always to do, World Class Persons already have a friend of that faith. Our knowing one another, while also being committed to our faith and being trusted by our fellow believers, may help defuse an otherwise explosive situation.

This is our HateBusters hope. This is why we do what we do. As of December 22, 2016, we have 22 pairs. To learn more and/or to sign up to become one of an interfaith pair, Email me, Ed Chasteen, at hatebuster@aol.com

    Our next Gathering Beneath the Steeple is Tuesday, January 5, 2017 from 7:30-9:00 PM at William Jewell College

December 20, 2016

My Debt to My Grandmothers

2016 by Ed Chasteen

I was a high school senior in Cleburne, Texas when the first of my grandmothers died; a professor at Harlaxton College in England when the second departed this life. Between these two deaths, I learned in an indirect way that these two dear ones to me were so little valued when they were young that were not taught to read. How could I have been with them both almost daily for the first 12 years of my life and not have picked up some clue? Why was I living miles and years away before I found out?

Years after my first grandmother died and I was a college professor, I wrote a book in which both grandmothers played a part. I sent a copy to my living grandmother and asked her by letter to tell me her opinion. When months later I had not heard from her, I told my mother, her daughter, how surprised I was not to have heard. Then came the news from my mother: “She can’t read.” A condition, I later learned, that was also true of my other grandmother.

What must the lives of my grandmothers have been like without being able to read? They are gone. I cannot ask. But if I could, how could they know? They had not been given this key that unlocks the world. Their world and mine had been by this single omission made intrinsically different, imposing on me a responsibility I did not seek but could not shirk

“From those who have much, much is expected.” I read this. They never did. They may have gotten the message from hearing a sermon or overhearing a conversation. But not being able to read also meant they had little, hardly ever enough for their own needs. Not being able to read means not being able to write, robbing those so afflicted of any wide influence during their lifetimes and none at all after death. No library anywhere records a single word they never wrote. No long lost letter of theirs is ever found.

I think almost daily now of my two grandmothers and wonder about their mothers and their mothers and their mothers and on and on back until I’m lost in the fog of time. My own mother escaped the treadmill. She learned to read. I was her third born. The first to survive past infancy. She read to me. She took me to the library. She sent me to college. I read books. I wrote books. And write on. Everyday. With two fingers. Hunt and peck. Words by the thousands.

I write for my grandmothers, as if by writing ever more I could somehow bring them back into the world of the written word where they would be at home. In a house where books were everywhere about and they were transaported by them to people and places and ideas they never knew.

My many words may never add much to the world’s wisdom. But at the very least they will testify to my existence at a place in time and perhaps cause the names of Maude Christina Booth Chasteen and Elizabeth Regina Clark Revier to become part of the written record.

These two through reading never had reason to think of reunion as including more than those few others living nearby related to them by blood or marriage. The Human Family Reunion, where who is right is the wrong question and the sole (soul) agenda is to get to know and learn to like one another could never come to mind.

The notion of a World Class Person is likewise foreign to a mind devoid of reading. Only through reading can a person imagine becoming one who is able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

So I come when I am old to think of my life as an extension of theirs. My grandmothers never knew they lived a life kept small by those who hid the key. Though I did nothing to deserve it, I was given that key. Now for my grandmothers who never got to come, I call folks everywhere to the Human Family Reunion where we all work to become World Class Persons.

Red and Yellow, Black, Brown and White

Christian, Buddhist and Jew

Hindu, Baha’i and Muslim, too

All are precious in our sight