It was the Sunday before the Grand Jury announced THE decision. Gusty wind slashed with a slice-through coats chill. A nasty sky spit rain. The wife and I had been to Mass. After, we were driving on Clark Street away from down town St. Charles. We were talking about Deacon Larry. He’d delivered the homily that morning.
I always like his preaching. He punctuates his words with down-to-earth take-aways, and he doesn’t talk longer than the words need him to. The goodness in his heart gilds his even-toned delivery with concern for others.
As usual, he spun a nice web of soulful thought about Christ as King. At one point he touched on Ferguson. “We should ask ourselves,” he said. “Have we done enough for the people there?”
I had some thoughts about Ferguson, about how come the place blew up, how the events had been reported, how come the Grand Jury hadn’t been able to come to a conclusion, but saying any of these things out loud wouldn’t help a thing. I wanted to wait until the Grand Jury made its announcement before I made my mind up about what happened. But I will say, it was easier to listen to Deacon Larry talk about Ferguson than any other voice I’ve heard. DL is a genuinely good man with the interests of others preeminent in his heart. He cares that people are hurting. That’s what he wants to do something about.
As we crossed Fifth Street that blustery Sunday morning, “The deacon is a good writer,” I said, perhaps smugly, as if I knew what one of those was. “He tells a story with a nice beginning, a tight middle, and a good ending.” Suddenly, as we passed the old Benton School, something rattled against the side of the car. I thought a gust of wind had blown some twigs against the rear of the driver’s side. A second rattle. This one wasn’t twigs. Nothing was flying through the air.
“It’s rocks,” the wife said. “Two boys are throwing rocks at us.”
She pointed back towards Benton School, but I couldn’t see anyone.
“There are two boys,” she said, “on the other side of the fence. The little one hit us with his rocks. The big one missed. Then the big one ran after us and hit us too.”
A shot of pure pissed off zorched through my system. I ground my teeth as I flipped a Uee at Sixth Street and stopped the car halfway back to Fifth, bolted out the door, climbed up the muddy embankment, and grabbed the railing of the black wrought iron fence around the school grounds. Two young boys sauntered across the erstwhile playground, maybe twenty feet from me.
“Hey,” I hollered. They both turned. One was about eleven, the other maybe nine. Nicely dressed, bright looking kids. They didn’t appear concerned. I think they dissed me as they nonchalantly picked up their jackets from the grass. They’d shucked them so they could throw better I figured. “Hey,” I hollered at them again. I wanted them to look at me. They did, and I took their picture with my phone. I thought it might scare them a little, get them to consider what they’d done. It didn’t scare them at all. “You boys shouldn’t throw rocks at cars,” I hollered.
The older one glared at me. I thought about climbing that fence and paddling his ass red with my bare hand, but I was angry, too angry for something like that. He was close enough so I could see hate burning pure and hot on his young face. Anger and hate, we’d had a lot of those blowing around all ready. I got back in the car, took a breath, let it out, and drove home. I have to work at it, but I deal with anger. I do not hate any one even when I’m teeth-grinding PO-ed.
One good thing. I didn’t try to climb the fence. We don’t do fence climbing in septuagenarian yoga. I’d have probably gotten hung up.
I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon with that encounter rumbling in my gut. Deacon Larry’s question was poking at me as well. Did I do enough for those two kids? People talk about talking to each other as a way to solve the issues in Ferguson. It’s my observation, you can talk over or through a fence, but you can’t talk over or through or around hate. Talking to those two young boys was not going to work. Emil Fenstermacher set Joe Snyder and me on the path of righteousness. Never again did we throw snowballs at cars. Those boys, however--
To them, I was not a legitimate moral authority. All those years ago, Emil Fenstermacher, a from-out-of-town farmer, did have moral authority over two snot nosed town boys. He knew it. We knew. Our parents knew it.
I was sure I hadn’t done a thing to help my boys.
I asked myself, “What would Deacon Larry do?”
He’d pray for them as the number one item on his list, which I did.
What gives me the right to that possessive pronoun three lines up? The boys gave it to me. I believe that when a person loves someone, some kind of spiritual DNA from the lover adheses to the soul of the loved. After seeing those boys look at me, after I did my praying, I felt something from them sticking to me. They brought themselves into my life, and all of them did not go away as they sauntered across the schoolyard.
They made themselves my boys, and I do not want to see them lying in street bleeding red life into the gutter. If hate is hottest fire burning in their little bellies, I worry about their futures.
Let’s go back to that phrase legitimate moral authority. We’ll stop here, but next were going to talk about legitimate authority.
“You twerps stop throwing rocks,” as Emil Fenstermacher would say.
"Peace be with you," as Deacon Larry would say.
Part III tomorrow, hopefully.