4 min read
Posted on 09.26.15
  • 4 min read
  • Posted on 09.26.15
  • Filed under
  • Autumn
  • Don Marsh
  • first responders
  • baseball
  • Cubs
  • Ferguson Commission
  • Wellspring Church
  • Pastor Willis Johnson

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. 

We are 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 neighborhoods.

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 members.

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 Ginko tree.