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What do you think when you see this image?

Some may think this is a very overused image. 

Perhaps it’s a cliché.  It’s over-done.  It over-simplifies something that isn’t simple at all. 

But about two years ago, those of us in Chicago learned, or re-learned, how a group of young white men from Mississippi sent a decoy group to board a plane, then drove out of their way, across their state border, and came to the frigid north in March, just so they could play a ball game.  

And that meant a white player shaking hands with a Black player at center court. For the whole country to see.  Including the Governor of Mississippi who had forbid them to leave their state precisely because he didn’t want them to compete with Black athletes.

When Loyola beat Mississippi State, the Chicago school went on to win the NCAA championship;  so far, the only Chicago college to capture such an honor.  A stirring reminder of that achievement reverberates throughout Loyola’s Gentile Arena whenever the Ramblers reach 63 points: the student section chants “six – ty  three,  six – ty  three.”  

Many have argued how significant or insignificant that game was.  Against a backdrop of Civil Rights issues that were yet to be addressed, and the violence and economic hardship that continued, how much did that game change? 

But in 2011, when Jerry Harkness attended Joe Dan Gold’s funeral in Kentucky, there, next to the casket was a picture.  It was from 1963, of the two of them shaking hands at the beginning of the “Game of Change” – a game that the Governor had tried to stop by issuing an injunction, and that had been overridden by a handshake. 

Waiting for Early Dismissal

Waiting for Early Dismissal

I don’t know about you, but the last time I had this feeling about a year ending was probably 4th or 5th grade. In grade school, some of your personal heroes were the room mothers. They showed up at key dates: Halloween, the last day before winter vacation, and Valentine’s Day. I associate room mothers with sprinkles, you know the kind you find on cupcakes or amazing sugar cookies.

But the most important day that they refereed was that last day of school before winter break. Because the only thing that stood between a bunch of kids getting out of school for two whole weeks was that sugar infused party, complete with sprinkles.  

Now this is when we take pity on any grade school teacher. Those poor teachers spent the entire morning trying to calm a class full of children that acted as though they had already ingested a container full of sprinkles before they even got to school. We wriggled in our seats, barely able to contain our excitement …. if it had snowed outside, the distraction reached new heights. So, in an effort to keep us in our seats those poor teachers, who we might add were completely exhausted from trying to teach an entire semester, thought that they would outwit us, by giving us games and puzzles instead of work to keep us occupied until those room mothers showed up.

We’d sit there with our pencils in our fingers and start on the worksheets.  We quickly figured out the teacher had tricked us into doing some math before we could color in a winter scene, or do a word search to review our spelling words from first semester.  

In tribute to all those teachers from our childhood, and all of those teachers who have been coping as best they can in the fall semester of 2020, here’s a word search in hopes that this just might distract you for just a couple minutes as you wait with fingers crossed, hoping that the principal will get on the intercom and let us out with early dismissal from this year.

December Lights

December is a tough time of year.

I do not like the days getting shorter. 

In typical Decembers, I do not like the craziness of holiday shopping, the hectic nature of too many invitations jammed into the early part of the month, and the frantic feeling BEFORE December 25th. But what I do enjoy about December? Candles and lights. The more candles and the more lights, the better.

Several years ago two wonderful authors entered my December. One wrote a moving children’s book and the other discussed how she, as part of an interfaith family, embraces December. The children’s book that I discovered, and delighted reading as a library volunteer, is called The Christmas Menorahs How a Town Fought Hate. It’s a true story from 1993, when Billings, Montana took a terrible hate incident and used it as both a teachable moment, and a moment of united defiance against hate. I then heard Chicago author, Barbara Mahany, discuss how she treasures the December darkness as deeply spiritual, as a way to go inside, to shut out the early December hecticness, to embrace the two candle-centric holidays that her family celebrates. In turn, I now cherish our Advent wreath that burns brighter as the days grow dimmer.

In this December of 2020, when most of the world is facing a darker December than most, when we could all benefit from lighting as many candles in the darkness until the vaccine lightens the darkness for us, perhaps you can find this special holiday book, and read it to a young person in your life? Or perhaps, in need of hope and light, you can just read it yourself to reaffirm that light is indeed stronger than darkness. 

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Every last one of us is experiencing COVID-19 Fatigue, and we’ve only been at this eight months.

A year ago I was in Australia for Remembrance Day.  When I realized I would be there on the 11th of November, I knew where I had to be at 11 am. At the Cenotaph in Sydney, an older female veteran caught my attention, medals and all.

I first became aware of the outsized sacrifice of Australian and New Zealanders (ANZACs) in WWI, when I heard a folk song called “The Band played Waltzing Matilda.”

What the soldiers had to deal with when they came home in 1919? A pandemic. A year ago, I nodded in historic empathy, “Imagine, after nearly four years of war, all that sacrifice, for a small nation of 4.5 million when war broke out.” Nearly 62,000 soldiers died, to then come home and have an additional 15,000 people die from a pandemic? 

It is November 11th again. We want to complain about pandemic exhaustion, but what we label exhaustion will never begin to compare to those that survived WWI only to battle through the 1918-1919 pandemic. We may go to war for the last roll of toilet paper, or battle with our loved ones to stay in or wear masks, but in the face of true sacrifice, it truly dims.