Archive for the ‘Hatebusters 2012’ Category

Me Worry?

November 3, 2012

 

By Ed Chasteen

November 2012

Worry does not come naturally to me. I expect rainbows and silver linings. It is not my world that makes headlines on the nightly news and morning papers. I tell myself that these behaviors draw attention because few people do them. If they were normal, they would not be newsworthy.

My world is the normal one where people care about one another and look after each other. I expected to find this world that summer I got on my bicycle at Disney World.

My doctor had told me I have MS. “You can’t be active.” He said. “Rest and don’t get hot.” He said. Living that way was killing me. So I got on a bicycle to find out if my doctor knew what he was talking about. Ride from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim—Disney World to Disneyland—that was my plan. If I made it, MS would live with me on my terms. Somehow I knew that.

My church had taught me that we are created in God’s image. I figured that must mean that every person on the planet has at least a spark of goodness in them. I wanted to find that spark. So I planned to ride all by myself. With no money. I would ask people I met for a sandwich, a drink of water, a bed for the night. If I found their spark of goodness, they would help me. And I would tell them stories.

I found that spark in more than 500 people. No one said no to me. For 105 days I rode. I discovered that summer that my doctor was wrong. My MS doesn’t mean I can’t be active; it means I must.

A quarter century has passed since Mickey Mouse gave me that trophy, Disneyland held that parade just for me, and Disney dubbed me The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College. And I’m still riding. Still looking for goodness.

My doctor thought he was announcing my doom when he said I have MS. He was, in fact, granting me greater liberty. So I drew a circle around my hometown. On my ride from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, my longest days had been 125 miles. So my circle went 125 miles out in all directions from my town. My town called Liberty. Greater Liberty: That’s what I call every place in this circle.

I wrote a book, How To Like People Who Are Not Like You. I started a 501 C-3 non-profit called HateBusters. My MS taught me that I am my own doctor, my own minister, my own person. Thanks to my MS I now have greater liberty to live above and beyond the limitations that other people expect of me, limitations of race, religion, politics, age, gender, class, culture, physical condition.

As The Pedalin’ Prof I ride to places in Greater Liberty. I teach people how to like people. I help people who have been hurt by someone who hates them.

For a map of Greater Liberty, go to www.greaterliberty.org or www.hatebusters.com To contact me, call my bike phone 816-803-8371 or email me at hatebuster@aol.com

Invite me and I will come

(free of charge)

Join me and we will win

The Seventh Cross

October 31, 2012

The Seventh Cross

By Ed Chasteen

 

Why has the name of that movie and its star stuck with me all these years? I was eight years old when I saw it. I’ve seen thousands since. A handful I recall. None with the clarity of that one.

 

It was night in Cleburne, Texas in the summer of 1944. Mother, Dad, Jerry, Pat and I went together to the picture show at the Yale Theater. For a dollar and twenty-seven cents we sat in the dark to watch Spencer Tracy in The Seventh Cross.

 

More times than I know over the ensuing 68 years I have mentioned that movie by name and star when any topic even remotely related to movies has come up. No one has ever seen it. Or heard of it. I searched Tracy’s filmography on line. I didn’t find it. The library didn’t have it. Or know of it. Folks began to smile at my mention of The Seventh Cross. A manufactured memory they must have thought.

 

A few years back my wife and I bought a big screen TV. She records a lot of movies off Turner Classic Movies. The on-screen menu tells her what’s coming. One recent evening it showed up: The Seventh Cross, starring Spencer Tracy.

 

We watched it last night. And I understood not only why I could not forget it, but also how profoundly it shaped how I see the world and how I try to live in it.

 

Bobbie saw it too. We watched together. Near the movie’s end, as Spencer Tracy as George Heisler, an escaped prisoner from a German concentration camp, describes his view of life, Bobbie says to me, “That’s you. Is that where you got it?”

 

The story is set in 1936 Germany. Hitler is rounding up any Germans who oppose his Nazi plans. These Germans are put into concentration camps. The movie begins with the escape of seven men from such a camp. The first escapee is caught within hours. The prison commandant orders him tortured and tied to a cross. He has seven total crosses erected, one for each escapee. Within a few days, the first six are captured and tied to a cross. The seventh is for George.

 

George has been brutalized in prison. He has grown hard and cynical. He trusts no one. Believes in nothing. But now he is free. To survive, he needs people. After several narrow escapes, George makes it to his hometown. Many friends have disappeared. The woman who promised to wait for him has married and refuses to help. A man he thought his friend is now successful and does not dare help.

 

In desperation, George goes to someone he remembers but does not think strong. He intends only to ask to stay the night. As they talk, George’s story spills out.

 

George never sees that friend again, but unbeknownst to George that friend, at great personal risk to himself and his family, sets in motion a series of harrowing events involving many people, most of whom George never meets, that eventually lead to George’s escape from Nazi Germany. And as the story ends, the camera fades to that seventh cross, empty still, a potent symbol, reminding us that though evil is persistent and sometimes powerful, the quiet and stubborn resistance of good-hearted ordinary people will always deliver us from its clutches.

 

As he must leave a loved one he will never see again, George says to her the words Bobbie said were mine: “I have a debt to pay to the people who healed me. There are some whose names I’ll never know. I have a debt to pay, not only for their help but for what they taught me. Today I know something I never knew before in my life. I know that no matter how cruelly the world strikes at the souls of men, there is a God given decency in them that will come out if given half a chance. That’s the hope for the human race. That’s the faith we must cling to. The only thing that will make our lives worth living.”

 

This message has been playing on a subterranean back channel of my mind, inaccessible to conscious thought, since that long ago night, infusing my life with direction and purpose. I will be forever grateful.