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October 30, 2006

Common Ground

Yesterday as we waited for church to begin we noticed an elderly couple walking up the aisle toward us. Our church has a tradition of “passing the peace of Christ” at the conclusion of services so we speak to them often but rarely get beyond just exchanging pleasantries. On this Sunday the wife was dressed in red from head to toe inlcuding a red hat. Her husband, who I have never seen without a tie, sported a bright red sports shirt under his jacket. When they stopped by our pew my wife commented on their “Cardinal” red. Immediately the wife began telling us about their many trips to Cardinal games including three World Series in the 80’s. Their daughter had been college roommates with a girl who married one of the pitchers and they often had tickets to games. They took their friends and grandkids and have an abundance of wonderful memories. As we talked I realized that here was a couple with whom we had before had little in common to talk about and now the only thing on this day that could stop our conversation was the start of church.

Last week I found this phenomenon to be true all over the city. At one restaurant I had a conversation with a busboy about the difference in “hope” and “belief,” all brought on by our mutual affection for the St. Louis Cardinals. He, by the way, felt that belief was superior to hope, a distinction I am not sure I totally grasp. One thing for sure, he believed the Cardinals would win.

All over town Friday night people were hugging. In the stadium, in bars and restaurants, in living rooms all over St. Louis, people were united in praise of and pride for the home team. On Sunday another 500,000 or so turned out for a parade to honor the newly crowned champions.

I thought about this snapshot in time and how I wished that we could experience this kind of unity more often. For a brief moment we were willing to forget our political and cultural differences and just enjoy something we could all rally around. Maybe that is the true value of a World Series Championship.

I expect that it will be fleeting. Soon, people will be just as unwilling to let others merge on Highway 40, just as impatient standing in line, just as reticent to speak to strangers. Negative political ads will skewer opponents even more frequently as the election approaches. But maybe there will be some residual goodwill and pride in the city that will linger for awhile longer, at least until Christmas. I sure hope so.