Archive for September, 2017

September 22, 2017

The Peace Pole at William Jewell College

Thursday, September 21, 2017

by Ed Chasteen

Ben and Bronia come back from the grave this evening as the sun goes down and gather with students, staff and faculty round the Peace Pole here on campus. Ben Edelbaum was last here in person more than 30 years ago. He had come again to tell students in my class about his promise to his father that he would survive to tell their story. Growing Up in the Holocaust was the book he wrote to keep his promise. For years in Bronia Roslowaski’s bakery and then in her home we would ask her if she hated anyone. “No!” She would say. “Not even Nazis?” We would ask. “Hate kills you first.” Bronia would say. One day a robber came to her bakery in Kansas City and demanded money. Bronia shoved a pastry in his mouth and shouted, “Hitler couldn’t kill Bronia. Get out of here.”

The spirits of these dear ones visit me again this evening on this hilltop campus, as, called together by student leaders, we, together, exalt the ideals of justice and peace. In turn come students, an official from town, the president of the college, college faculty and staff to lift us all up with moving words that remind as anew of the sacred duty and awesome responsibility we daily breathe in and out in this rarefied environment alive with ideas and ideals that lift us together into the company of saints and martyrs.


September 20, 2017

Painting a Masterpiece

2017 by Ed Chasteen

Writing in 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson said “ a friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature. Happy is the house that shelters a friend. . . . He who offers himself a candidate for that covenant comes up like an Olympian to the great games where the first born of the world are the competitors.”

One of ironies of modern life is this: As technology makes travel to distant places possible it reduces the need. For years I said to my students at William Jewell College, just a few minutes by car from downtown Kansas City in a town called Liberty: “Come with me to see the world right here where we live.”

Any food, any faith, folks from anywhere. A mother-lode of friendship opportunity within a few minutes drive time. In virtual reality only a mouse-click away. A human resource so always and everywhere available as to be almost invisible. When seen at all, made a problem by some perceptions; a promise, by others.

Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn’t like. Would he have said he never liked a man he didn’t meet? Samuel Johnson said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone.”

Because my town of Liberty is home to my college and my church and all my faith friends live so near, I have come to think of this little piece of God’s good earth as Greater Liberty. Thinking so by me and others from my church and my college led us together to plan what we are calling The Greater Liberty Experience and to pair ten members of Second Baptist Church in Liberty with ten members of other faiths who live and worship nearby.

To the twenty who volunteered for this 14 week Experience I gave seven sets of questions and asked each to hold seven online conversations with their paired one. Each then writes the life story of their paired one as if they are that person. Then send the story they have written to their paired one for additions and/or corrections. Then to me.

When all has been done, all pairs are invited to come to a celebration at William Jewell College we call The Human Family Reunion where we honor the distance we have come toward a status in too short supply all over this earth: World Class Person, one who is able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

When this Greater Liberty Experience #1 is completed in December 2017, Experience #2 will begin in January 2018.

September 18, 2017

Biking as My Doctor

Sunday, September 2017

by Ed Chasteen

I have now lived longer than my dad and all of his brothers. I’m older by a decade or more than any of the doctors I visit. What must it do to them when I describe a pain or a problem I have when they know that most people never reach my present age? What must they think but do not say to me?

I told my friend when years ago he became my personal physician that his only job was to keep me on my bicycle. Each time I climb aboard my bike, I’m visiting my doctor. The Multiple Sclerosis I live with, the heart problems some doctors have seen, the skin cancers and incipient diabetes that have come: All recede as I pedal. The miles I ride, the folks I meet and the comfort foods I find in the small-town cafes I visit heal me in body, mind and soul as no other medicine ever has and never could.

Just this morning at breakfast for example. My son Brian, his wife Kelly and our friend Mark biked to Lawrence yesterday with me and some 1500 friends, our annual MS Ride to fund our personal MS researcher. Some of us stayed overnight at Comfort Inn.

At breakfast this morning I strike up a conversation with two guys at an adjoining table. I had taken off the Team Biscari biking jersey some 40 of us wore to ride and replaced it with the yellow HateBusters T-shirt my friends from past rides would expect. One of the two men Identifies himself as Dan Fowler and the other guy as his son-in-law. “You spoke to my Sertoma Club years ago, “ Dan says. And he opens his wallet to show me the HateBusters card I gave him then.

To expect such good things regularly to happen but to be always amazed when they do , gives to my life a daily shot of adrenaline beyond the power of any doctor to deliver.

How much longer it may be so, I cannot know. None of us can. So long as we go into the future together, amazement awaits.

September 5, 2017

Labor Day 2017

in Memory of

Marvin Edgar Chasteen


The man who would become my dad in 1935 did not go to school past the eighth grade. His dad died, leaving his mother a widow, unable to read and write, with four sons at home and one in a state institution with a mental and/or physical condition never discussed and likely not diagnosed in terms used today.

Looking for work in 1924 and having no skills had to scare 13 year old Marvin spit-less. He found work making tombstones. He dug ditches with a shovel for a gas company when I was born, his third child, the first to live.

Marvin married Cora in December 1931 after she graduated high school in May with a basketball scholarship to a junior college. Cora’s dad, a farmer-carpenter, thought only scarlet woman went to college. So Cora married Marvin. She did not invite her parents to the wedding. Cora was the oldest of six daughters. Her mother could not read or write. The mother’s mother ran the household.

When I was four years old, Dad took to his bed at home with an illness finally diagnosed as tetanus. Lockjaw to us. Traced to a splinter from a shovel on the job. For weeks in bed at home Mother fed Dad liquid through clenched teeth. At last he could go back to work. His small salary resumed.

Mother and Dad made plans after they married for both to go back to school. My birth ended those plans. A new one emerged: I would be their surrogate.

When I finished high school, I walked across town to our local teacher’s college and signed up. Some years and two universities later, I got my PhD and joined the faculty of a small college where, as it turned out, I spent my career giving voice to those I came from.

I cannot rest easy that these good folks would agree with all that I say or do, and I’m not sure they know how deeply indebted to them I feel. But on their behalf and in their name, I became the person I am. They might not always think so, but all that I think and do grows out of my memories of our time together.

I think of myself as their champion.