Like old friends

As if they were old friends, Terry and Cubs owner Tom Rickets smile for the camera in Wrigleyville. [Gretchen Lord Anderson photo]

As if they were old friends, Terry and Cubs owner Tom Ricketts smile for the camera in Wrigleyville. [Gretchen Lord Anderson photo]

We had to be there.

That’s what I thought last year when my “home team,” the Kansas City Royals, played in the World Series.

But “being there” in Kansas City is a much different experience than being there in Chicago for the Chicago Cubs World Series.

Wrigley Field, you see, is located in a neighborhood within the city (ironically, “Wrigleyville). Those of us who find ourselves in the city needn’t worry about transportation because the “L”, the elevated train, has a stop within a block of the field. In Kansas City, being in the vicinity of Kauffman Stadium takes a little more ingenuity.

When we found ourselves in Chicago for other reasons and had a free afternoon, we couldn’t resist finding the “L” stop closer to downtown and hopping on for the trip north.

We’ve done this many times. Public transportation for me is a real gift. Having grown up in a city where I regularly hopped on a bus to get where I needed to go, having both buses and trains just seems like a natural thing to do.

So we made our way to Wrigleyville. We had no tickets and we knew that even if we found some, we would not be able to afford them. On that day, the cheap seats or even standing room were going for thousands of dollars.

But we wanted to be there. We wanted to experience Wrigleyville during a World Series.

We made our way down to the street and proceeded leisurely to the sports stores awash in Cubs paraphernalia. We had a few items in mind to purchase but we had to weigh those decisions too as they don’t give that stuff away.

As we were leaving one of those stores, we walked right up to Tom Ricketts, one of the owners of the Chicago Cubs. It appeared he was out shopping too. And while he had no answers for us in terms of tickets, he was willing to wait while I snapped his picture with Terry, grinning as if the two of them were old friends.

That's us on our outing to Wrigleyville during the World Series. Never got inside this time. Tickets, if they were available, were beyond our ability to pay. A complete stranger took this picture and then we returned the favor. Everyone was smiling.

That’s us on our outing to Wrigleyville during the World Series. Never got inside this time. Tickets, if they were available, were beyond our ability to pay. A complete stranger took this picture and then we returned the favor. Everyone was smiling.

Old friends. That was the sense we got during the four or five hours we wandered around Wrigleyville and the stadium. We were surrounded by smiling, hopeful, good-natured people who helped one another get pictures in front of the famous Wrigley Field marquee. People held doors for one another. Folks decked out in Cubs hats and gloves traded information about what was going on and where to find this or that. Fans stood behind the stadium with ball gloves ready and waiting in case a fly ball found its way out of the stadium during batting practice. Law enforcement, first responders, and security teams were good natured and welcomed. Folks who wandered into Murphy’s Bleachers, a bar just across the street from the bleachers-end of the stadium were sampling brews, trading information about themselves with complete strangers, watching snippets of news from the TVs hoisted high overhead.

Joe Wiegand promotes himself as "the world's premiere Theodore Roosevelt reprisor" introduced himself to Terry while we sat at Murphy's Bleachers, a bar in Wrigleyville. [Gretchen Lord Anderson photo}

Joe Wiegand who promotes himself as “the world’s premiere Theodore Roosevelt reprisor,” introduced himself to Terry while we sat at Murphy’s Bleachers, a bar in Wrigleyville. [Gretchen Lord Anderson photo}

What struck me the most was that during that entire time, the closest we came to having any kind of political discussion was with a guy who claims to be the “premiere” impersonator of Theodore Roosevelt. Even then, most of the talk centered around the early 1900s when Teddy was busy expanding the national park system and creating the Bull Moose Party. Theodore Roosevelt – a mass of incongruities in this age with ideas ranging from what we would dub conservative to progressive, encompassing the ideas of many people of many opinions across the board.

Now with the thousands of people milling around that afternoon, there had to be a wide variety of political persuasions present as well. There had to be vehement Clinton and Trump supporters. But not once in the hours and the miles we walked or even bellied up to the bar did anyone feel compelled to express their partisan positions. It was as though we were all one with the common goal of seeing the Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908; come to think of it, for the first time since Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States. What a relief to feel united instead of deeply divided.

This week I was a simple participant in a worship service as part of the homeless ministry where I volunteer. At the end of the service, we were all invited to “pass the peace of Christ” to one another. That’s a common thing to see in churches these days. Some of us who appreciate a higher liturgy, offer our hands and say, “Peace be with you.” Others may just say “Good morning.” But the purpose of that time is to express to one another what the Jewish tradition might express as “Shalom,” a desire to share with one another a sense of deep peace, of communal respect and love, the imparting of the love of God to each other.

The Wrigley Field bleachers from the outside. On this trip, we never saw the inside of the stadium. [Gretchen Lord Anderson photo]

The Wrigley Field bleachers from the outside. On this trip, we never saw the inside of the stadium. [Gretchen Lord Anderson photo]

I had tears in my eyes as I made my way from one person to another. They were tears of joy and appreciation. I shook hands and extended my peace to the homeless and to those with lodging. As I had made my way almost all the way around the huge circle, I came upon a man who had not left his seat. I recognized him from his previous visits to the ministry but I did  not remember his name.

As I smiled and extended my hand to him, he literally shrunk back into his hard-backed chair. I was taken aback. Then he quickly said, “You don’t want to do that. I don’t deserve it. I’m voting for Trump.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The idea that he thought I wouldn’t want to extend Christ’s peace to him because of his political persuasion? And even though I had never and never would express my personal political positions in that setting? Hardly a second passed as I stepped up to him and put a hand firmly on each of his shoulders and I said (and I hope warmly), “May the peace of Jesus Christ be with you.”

He didn’t push me away. He just looked at the floor. I moved on but then I realized I had tears of deep sadness in my eyes. Here we were in this holy place and this man thought he would be judged or was being judged because of a vote he would be casting.

This photo is here "just because." The Chicago Art Institute put Cubs hats on the two magnificent lions in front of the building. [Terry C. Anderson photo]

This photo is here “just because.” The Chicago Art Institute put Cubs hats on the two magnificent lions in front of the building. That’s me enjoying the ambiance of the city during the World Series.  [Terry C. Anderson photo]

How is it that we could spend literally hours walking around Wrigleyville with thousands of other people, talking and laughing with them, helping one another out, enjoying the camaraderie and never once broaching the subject of such a politically charged election year? And then how is it that a group of 35 to 50 people gather in a church and at least one of them feels he doesn’t deserve an offering of God’s peace simply because of his upcoming vote?

Thank God for baseball, apple pie, and hot dogs. And maybe beer. Those seem to be the only things holding this country together. The only thing making us feel as though even strangers are old friends.

 

24           The Lord bless you and keep you;
25             the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26             the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:24-26

 

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:2

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1 comment for “Like old friends

  1. Susan Norby
    November 7, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Wow, that is powerful! What an opportunity we have as followers of Christ to spread love and grace. I hope we recognize it as an opportunity rather than getting caught up in the rhetoric. Thanks for another great reminder.

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