Archive for August, 2018

August 25, 2018

First Watch in North Kansas City


By Ed Chasteen


Kai was our waitress years ago when First Watch had a back room and we would fill more than one of the long tables. We’ve biked to Saturday breakfast in more than 20 small town cafes, beginning last century and riding every one of more than a thousand Saturdays. In all this time, First Watch is the only chain place we’ve ever come to. All the others are one-of-a-kind-mom-and-pops, with the probability of meeting the owner and the promise of comfort food on the plate and in the ambiance of the place.

Kai is here again this morning to welcome us and to supervise the rearrangement of smaller into larger tables and seat us at two near each other. Though a chain, with several others nearby; one recently built in Liberty, this First Watch in North Kansas City so well masquerades as a mom and pop that we forget that it’s not. When a few years back Kai was briefly persuaded to take a job elsewhere, this place seemed somehow less and lured us less often.

With 52 Saturdays in the year and more than a dozen small town cafes, we can visit each one only two or three times a year. Some, though, get encores more than others. Maybe that explains why we’re scheduled to return to First Watch in NKC two weeks from today.


Riders today: Tammy Sharp, Terry Sharp, Ed Piepergerdes, Ryan Pigg, Dustin Prockish, Paul Klawinski, John Vernickas, Dana Johnson, Richard Woodruff, Marilyn Woodruff, Cyndi Hughes, Dwayne Hughes, David Eaton, Greg Snodgrass, Bill Hessel, Mike Nason, Josh Evans, David Evans, Mary Bulman Griggs, Tom Raines

SAG driver: Ed Chasteen


August 23, 2018

Bring Him Home


by Ed Chasteen

The three of them sing together here in the Methodist church choir in our town. One of them is the leader of that choir. Dressed formally in black with bow-ties and red handkerchiefs in breast pockets, they bill themselves the Two and a Half Tenors. Tonight at our local college just across town from their church they sing to benefit our local theatre company housed on our town square.

By seven o’clock on a bitterly cold evening promising snow some 200 friends of the theatre and the college are huddled together inside the chapel on our hilltop campus. The president of the college and the president of the theatre bring greetings. No more appropriate a space could have been picked to highlight the best features of our town. Two of the three tenors were students here; the third played on this stage in his junior high band.

More than likely, no one in this audience is a first time visitor to this place. Some were here years ago when attendance at chapel was required of students. Some have come to hear national and international stars. Many have gathered annually for Hanging of the Green and/or Lighting of the Quad at Christmas time, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration each January, graduation every May. Assorted and sundry other gatherings, impromptu and planned, have occurred in this space that serves both a sacred and a secular purpose for our town and our campus. The faces of folks once here in this room and now gone from us flicker through many minds.

Of the 25 musical numbers offered tonight by Two and a Half Tenors, the sixth is the first to feature a solo by just one of the three. The church choir director brings tears to many eyes with his haunting rendition of Bring Him Home. From Les Miserables, this has been sung on stages around the world to catch the pain and pathos of students and peasants who manned the barricades during the French Revolution. Before he sings, this one of three tells of the recent death of their young pastor, bringing home to our town a nearer and deeper meaning of Bring Him Home.

Three songs later, all three tenors come together with a second song from Les Miz:Red and Black lays bare the struggle. Later in the program, the other two sing a solo.

Intermission comes. We all stand. Look around. And see neighbors. Some not seen in years. A man sitting one row in front of me sticks out his hand. I have to ask his name. We talk. I learn he graduated from this college. He came as a student the year I came as a teacher. He was in a class I taught. He lives in our town. Near my daughter. Who now teaches here on this campus.

I meet his wife. Talking to my wife later, my wife says his wife taught art at my wife’s school here in our town. So enthused at her teaching, my wife said she wanted to stay for the class.

After intermission, Two and a Half Tenors come back for ten more numbers. And an encore. All superb. Then we adjourn to the student building next door for a reception. The college jazz band plays. Friends mingle. Catch up. Armed now with this music of the night and new memories of old friends, we all step back into a cold mist to confront icy cars, a collective YES breathed to the question Thornton Wilder has Emily ask in his version of Our Town. His is called Grover’s Corners. Ours is called Liberty. The first is fictitious; the second real, a distinction made meaningless by the music just heard, music bringing to mind lines from a song not sung but singularly fitting: “Let it never be forgot/ that once there was a spot/ for one brief shining moment/ known as Camelot.”

August 1, 2018

Greater Liberty

2018 by Ed Chasteen


As a place Greater Liberty does not appear on any map. Nor as a principle is Greater Liberty found in any book. But Greater Liberty as both exists.

I live in a town called Liberty and teach at William Jewell College in the town. I rode my bicycle one summer for 105 days from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, by myself with no money, expecting to find goodness and genius. I found it. Everywhere. All the time.

Soon after I was back a neighboring state elected a Klansman to their state legislature. My students and I started HateBusters. The governor of that state invited us to come help the state redeem itself. We went. Soon we were being invited all over the country by governors, mayors, schools, universities, police, prisons, civic clubs, regular citizens. We got too busy. We needed focus.

On my longest days on my bicycle from coast to coast, I rode 125 miles. So I drew a 125-mile circle around Liberty and called it Greater Liberty, going north to Creston, Iowa and south to Carthage, Missouri; west to Manhattan, Kansas and east to Columbia, Missouri. Parts of four states: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and 114 counties. Some three million people.

Greater Liberty as a place allows us to focus. Think globally. Act locally. We know this little piece of God’s good earth. We can be anywhere in a matter of minutes. This is our home.

Greater Liberty, though, is more principle than place. The principle is this: We all have Greater Liberty than we know to live above and beyond all the labels others apply to us and we uncritically assume, labels such as race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, nation, class, and others. Inside each person on the planet is a World Class Person waiting to emerge. One who can go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe.

The office of Inclusion and Diversity at William Jewell College and HateBusters offers free of charge to come to any school in Greater Liberty. We will teach from our book, How To Like People Who Are Not Like You. If hate makes headlines anywhere in Greater Liberty, we will respond. We will provide whatever help the victim needs. Free of charge.