Life Is Story

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood. A cool Memorial Day Weekend is to be prized. Last year at this time we were in the midst of our Pandemic and vaccines were months away. We had canceled our Maine Holiday and soon would cancel another before the year was completed. At First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, we on the Session had voted to close the church for in person attendance in February and little did we know that we would be closed for 15 months… Twenty-Twenty was the year of the pipe for me. Having purchased a pipe package at a Tobacconist in St. Charles, Missouri during November, 2019…I busily puffed away on the corn cob pipe that was included with some pipe tobacco and pipe cleaners and the all important instructions on how to smoke a pipe. I so enjoyed the experience, as I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan for most of my life, that I asked for a pipe for Christmas from Aaron. He gifted me the most exquisite cherry pipe and I was on my way to the, ‘ smoke encircling my head like a wreath.’ Then the Pandemic struck and I…as well as all of you…was left with spare time…which I devoted to my new found pleasure. Many happy thoughts and plans ensued from my smoky solitude and thoughts of the future. As I sat in my vintage Toyota Camry and enjoyed a bowl or two or three…Two elderly ladies looked at me suspiciously each day as they passed my car on their afternoon Pandemic walk. Some days I bowed my head and smiled…and they smile back….while other days they averted their gaze at what was obviously a sinner…with an obsession.

I have had few richer or more rewarding pleasure than to be able to offer a good paying job to another human being. Often I was able to bring into the University Community people who had been marginalized by society and forgotten by the elite. My friend, Astrid, admired my axiom…that I was not hiring people for a job…I was hiring people into a career. During my 25 years in management/administration at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale Campus leaders had an appreciation for the value that their housekeeping organization brought to the mission of SIUC. On one occasion Chancellor Samuel Goldman said that if he could just get the rest of the University to work together as well as Building Services did on the night of the derecho when they prepared the foot ball stadium for commencement for the Saturday after the devastating destruction that was wrought on Southern Illinois. In 2009 Southern Illinois was hit with what was termed an inland hurricane or a derecho. We cleaned Abe Martin Football Stadium’s metal bleaches under constant lightning and with our only light the flashlights that our staff carried. The Story of Building Services was renown though out our Community.

Story compels us to action. Story captivates our imagination. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and laid in swaddling clothes in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn. Dr. Billy Graham told millions of people over his multi-decade ministry that Christ wanted them to be saved and that they should walk down to the stage where he was preaching as an illustration to the world…of their commitment to Christianity. I attended a Billy Grahm Crusade in Carbondale, Illinois that was held at the Campus Arena. I had been a Christian for many years…and also had been a life long admirer of the ministry of Billy Graham. There was an African American preacher that was the keynote speaker and I was mesmerized by the feeling in the large Arena that held nearly 10 thousand people. There were no histrionics or overtly emotional appeals…and yet the the call to Christ was palpable in the building. Much later Jonathon and I saw Dr. Graham speak in the football stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 80 years old and his shock of white hair glistend in the spotlights. He spoke a simple story of Christ love for mankind. He spoke as an 80 year old would speak…and it was compelling and magnificent…and other worldly. Dr. Graham did not have an overtly political message nor an involved theological treatise. He presented the simple story that Jesus loves the little children…all the little children of the world…and we are all children…

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