A Camelot Evening

2017 by Ed Chasteen

Park, Avila, KU Med, KCU, MCC and William Jewell: one person from each seated at a dining table for a late dinner on an early June Thursday evening in a family home. Not planned as a gathering of academics, this post Ramadan dinner hosted by a Muslim family is discovered as we talk to be one.

Math, Education, spinal cord injury, biochemistry, student services and sociology: the specialties in order of the six campus representatives mentioned above, who by name are Dincer Guler, Nilufer Guler, Dora Agbas, Baki Agbas, Brian Chasteen, Ed Chasteen.

Dincer lived in Bulgaria until he was 14, when with his parents, he moved back to their native Turkey. He later came to Ohio State to get his PhD and joined the mathematics faculty at Park University seven years ago.

Nilufer is teaching on line education courses for Avila this summer. With two young sons, she can work from home. Nil has prepared the gorgeous dinner awaiting as we sit to eat just as a signal sounds the setting of the sun. Before sunrise comes breakfast. After sunset comes dinner. Fasting between the two for the month of Ramadan. Determined by the lunar calendar, the time of Ramadan varies by eleven days each year, moving it through the seasons as the years go by.

Dincer and Nilufer are our hosts. They have invited us to join with them and their two young sons for the good dinner that breaks their fast that will resume when the sun comes up and continue until the 30 days that began in late May end in June, some days hence.

Brian and I are the first to arrive. He had driven from Penn Valley after his day advising students, directly to our house in Liberty. He grew up in this house, but now married, lives in Lee’s Summit. Dincer opens the door when we come. We remove our shoes. Dincer puts them into the nearby closet with his. Dora comes soon; then Baki, after he parks the car.

The lush vibrant colors in the salad standout even though all the meal would be at home in a Michelin five star restaurant, prompting Dincer to say that he has grown all the salad in his backyard garden. When he mentions fresh garlic as an ingredient, Dora is effusive in her praise. Dincer lights up and rushes out to get her a fresh garlic plant. “He loves to garden,” Nil says to all of us as he is briefly gone.

Eyyup Esen is from Turkey, got his PhD from KU and is now Director of The Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, headquartered in Kansas City. Eyyup arranged for me to be invited to a post-Ramadan dinner with a Muslim family some time back. Tonight with the Guler family is my third, each time bringing one other guest with me; first, Les Weirich, a fellow member of Second Baptist Church in Liberty; second, Tom Dunn, a Baptist preacher friend currently between churches and now attending Second Baptist; third, my son, Brian.

I want my children, as I want my church, to be at home with all people. Tonight is a brief shining moment that brings to my mind another such moment in time when Camelot was on stage and these lines were spoken: “Let it never be forgot, that once there was a spot, known as Camelot.”

With terror abroad in the land and suspicion rampant, quiet times such as tonight get too little notice. Just maybe though if we do not grow calloused and give in to despair, quiet times such as these may buoy us o’er troubled waters to harbor in a haven of peace and delight. Maybe Simple Gifts can bring us round right and land us in the valley of peace and delight, as the old Shaker hymn promises.


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