Friday, October 20, 2006

A Night to Remember

Last night began with me in my Sunday best before a group of folks who had made my sabbatical here possible. Coming from a rather modest background where only a generation or two ago we would have been labelled "hillbillies," walking into a room of people who have known power and wealth can be somewhat disconcerting. But, one must remember that it is our common faith in Christ that binds us together--rich and poor, powerful and weak.

The most surprising part of the evening was the fact that, as scholars, we weren't lined up to go in alphabetical order. I had anticipated going fairly early on--the second in line in the alphabet. But, our Executive Director had decided, in good baseball fashion, to shuffle the line-up. So, there I was, the last of eight--the guy who has to bring up the rear, lay down a bunt, and let people get to the bathroom before their bladder bursts.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the evening was getting to meet John Forliti who sat next to me, and hearing him describe his work at the Prep school where he teaches. I am always looking for new pedagogical ploys to try in the classroom and John told me about his attempts to get adolescent boys to understand the connections between good food, fellowship, and Christian spirituality. Every year he brings over about 30 young men for a day of cooking, hospitality, and catechesis. He was kind enough to share with me the five things that he tells these testosterone-filled boys make for a good meal and so, I pass them on:
1. Whenever you come to the table, bring a smile.
2. When you gather at table, bring a story.
3. Always take a moment to see the love that stands behind the food--the good gifts from the earth and the hands that prepared it.
4. Come early and offer to help.
5. After the meal has been eaten and others withdraw, offer to help clean up.
These are simple lessons, but ones I hope to share with my students--particularly those in my Introduction to Worship class where we gather to make homemade bread for the Eucharistic table.

So, having made it through an evening where I knew I would experience some discomfort, I retreated to my apartment to watch what I was sure would be the remainder of a nailbiting seventh game of the National League Champtionship series between the Cardinals and Mets. Whenever Rolen's home run was robbed in that amazing leap in left field and Edmonds was doubled up, I thought for sure that it was a fatal blow to the Cardinals' heart. And then, twice there were bases loaded up--first in the bottom of that incredible sixth inning and later in the bottom of the ninth with the kid, Wainwright, on the mound. I knew that the world was about to come crashing in--despite that incredible home run Yadi Molina had hit in the top of the ninth. But it didn't and, despite all of my pessimism, these faltering, beat-up Cardinals incredibly won. And, the best news was that Don would not have to open up apartment number 5 this morning and find one of his scholars dead from a heart attack. The baseball gods had been kind.

So, in honor of the Cardinals' win, I wore bright red to Morning Prayer. And when I saw my colleague, Kathleen, a fellow St. Louisan, I just patted my heart and said, "I'm exhausted!" and then we got down to prayer. But, I have a confession to make. For years, my heart has been back in Toronto where I watched those great teams in 1992 and 1993 claim world titles. It was there that I had taken my girls to watch them battle the Oakland A's and Atlanta Braves and, despite a dozen or more years away from Canada, I was an American Leaguer at heart.

But sometimes, conversions happen in strange ways. Having turned down an opportunity to go back to Toronto a year ago this past summer, I guess maybe I need to learn to be a Cardinal fan after all. If Greenville is where I belong, then I guess I'm just going to have to learn to love more than one bird. The women in my family have been working hard to get me to lighten up and wear brighter colors. And after that win for the ages last night, I've decided red isn't such a bad color after all.