When I was around 5 or 6 years old, I asked for a tow truck called “Big Bruiser” for Christmas. My parents looked everywhere, but every store had sold out of it. Instead, they got me what they figured was the next best thing: A two-story repair garage.
It became my favorite toy.
The garage was made entirely of metal – yeah, back in the day before everything was plasticized. There were metal cars and a metal tow truck and a repair shop on the bottom floor. When the cars were fixed, you turned a crank to make the elevator work, transporting them to the upper floor for storage.
And there was a pretend office with a calendar on the wall that said June 17. For a number of reasons, that date – 617 — has stuck with me. I use the three numbers in my email address.
I spent a lot of time playing with the metal repair shop. My dad hadn’t yet joined AA, so it became a refuge at times. My own little world where nobody fought and everything broken could get fixed.
Plus, June 17 coincided with the start of summer vacation. The days were long and brimming with possibilities and promise and hope.
Over the years, I’ve turned it into a personal holiday. One of the best days of the year.
This year was so different.
I covered a baseball game that had a long rain delay and then went interminably for 13 innings. It ended with a player from the home team hitting a grand slam at 1:20 a.m.
As the game went along and I kept rewriting and rewriting, I noticed a surge of stories about a shooting at a church in Charleston. Some people might be dead. Nine were dead, in fact. It was an historic black church. The shooter was a young white man, still on the lam.
I finished doing postgame interviews and updating the baseball stories at about 2:30 a.m. When I got home, I wanted to see the images from Charleston. They were so disturbing. My heart hurt. In the middle of the dark night, the images were a reminder that there is so much hatred and brokenness in the world.
From now on, that’s something I’ll remember about June 17th as well. The time it was a stormy day followed by a deep and unsettling darkness.
I’ll also remember what came next.
One week later, there was an interfaith service at a synagogue in Cincinnati. It started at 8 p.m., the same time that the Bible study had begun at the church in Charleston.
People from different backgrounds and religious traditions filled the synagogue. A Muslim, a Buddhist, rabbis and ministers spoke of love and diversity and the need for justice. They quoted their scriptures in the original languages, a reminder that God says the same thing to us in many voices.
Love, in your own way.
Show the world what it means to love one another. Work together to make the world a more peaceful place, a more just place. Embrace the struggle to change hearts.
Be committed and work together. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.
And never forget that a divine someone is working with you and in you and through you. All of you. In different ways.
The service concluded with people of different colors and religions clasping hands tightly and letting those powerful words touch them and inspire them once again.
It was well after 9 o’clock when I left the synagogue, but some sunlight stubbornly lingered in the sky. I was reminded that the days are indeed long, brimming with possibilities and promise and hope.
And that broken things can get fixed. Brokenness can be healed, if we choose to work at it.