Autumn has arrived in St. Louis.
Our baseball team is closing out September closing in on 100 wins. We find a
baseball team that has clinched a place in post-season play. Yet in a season that
already ranks high among our storied franchise’s best, there's no guarantee (as
this is being written) it will win a divisional crown. The final standings may be decided in the forthcoming
three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates — pesky perseverors (we may have made that word up)
still very much in contention. But regardless of the regular season tally, we are
thankful -- not least for NOT being the 1909 Chicago Cubs, a team that won 104
games in the regular seasons but finished in second place, trailing six and
half games behind the 110-42 Pirates.
Autumn, after all, is our City's season for thanksgiving.
thankful for the bright, clear, colorful, crisp Autumn days — the kind that
arrive each year as predictable as clockwork, rivaling even New
England foliage. We are thankful for the smell of dampened leaves, as they
beckon us to rake them and place them in green alley dumpsters. (Note: “IN the
green dumpsters. Thank you.”)
We are thankful for the excitement of the school year,
and for the loving commitment of teachers who help our children grow and succeed.
We are thankful for our network of more than a hundred parks
and public spaces, and for a full roster of festivals and street fairs and their
cornucopia of good food and artistic and craft-y accomplishments on display.
We are thankful to first responders who keep us safe in all
seasons. We know that they, working with us, as a community and as people of
faith, will help to reduce violence and build up and bring peace to all of our
We are thankful for those who help us to stay healthy and
who care for us when we are sick — nurses, physicians, technicians,
researchers, emergency medical staff, clinics and hospitals (including two for
children) second to none in the world.
We are thankful for the silent super-majority of our
neighbors — men and women and young people who infrequently make the news as
they quietly watch over and look after and care for their neighbors and family
In this tense (and intense) period in the history of our
community, we are thankful for the tools to make lasting
progress. We are thankful for the chance to understand and confront as never
before and reverse through persistent, deliberate steps a reality of
deeply-entrenched, daily injustice based on race and economic status.
We are blessed with
practical strategies for achieving justice by long-time activists and other
persons of high accomplishment, many brought together in and by the Ferguson
Commission. And we are thankful for the energy and urgency of people new to activism.
Don Marsh, of St. Louis Public Radio, a newsman who
occupies a position in this community that is comparable to that once held,
nationally, by Walter Cronkite, recently circulated a sound
clip from a Town Meeting he hosted. It excerpts a statement by Pastor Willis
Johnson of Ferguson’s Wellspring Church.
Mr. Marsh presented it as an incisive statement of how
“one of the reasons for the racial divide in this country is that whites do not
fully understand reasons for frustration and anger among blacks.”
Rev. Johnson was commenting on needed reforms to this
community’s systems of justice and opportunity, especially the recommendations
advanced by the Ferguson Commission. He acknowledged that anger is not the way “to
get out of this mess we are in.”
But Rev. Johnson also said we must “acknowledge and
accept how somebody feels” and be mindful of how “we have taken the humanity
out this whole experiment of community,” and that “these are not just
strategies and recommendations … these are … lifelines, shields of protection,
reservoirs of resource, literally water for sustenance for people to not just
live but to be respected and treated and to live as all of us inalienably are
gifted to live,” concluding that it "gets tiresome trying to explain to people
that it’s important to let me live.”
Rev. Johnson also observed, though, that “there are
people who haven’t talked to each other for a while, or ever at all, who are
now talking to each other.”
And, so, as the sun sets earlier each evening, and we
cover over (or just neglect) our gardens and organize seasonable family
gatherings, and we contemplate our many blessings and challenges, we can be
thankful for an unprecedented opportunity to take talk and turn it into action.
(In the language of the season: To turn over a new leaf.)
Pictured: The spire of St. Margaret of Scotland Church at
night, in Shaw Neighborhood, seen through the autumn leaves of a Goldspire