Long days for fixing what’s broken

June 17th 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.

Author: joekay617

Feel free to add your thoughts and comments. Or you can reach me privately at joekay617@aol.com. Peace!

3 thoughts on “Long days for fixing what’s broken”

  1. I am reminded to read your blog when JoAnne Viviano posts your latest on Facebook which she did with this one. I have perused quite a bit and read quite a few.
    I especially like this one because it reflects your struggle – our struggle to come to terms with this tragedy, getting the news in the midst of our daily routines, in your case, writing your baseball story.
    I also appreciate that you found a strong measure of hope through an interfaith – interracial gathering to commemorate the loss and engage in personal acts of reconciliation. You also make a strong call to action –be committed, work together.– Good stuff. Thanks very much.
    Skip Cornett
    Columbus, OH
    ELCA Lutheran Clergy

  2. This is a good place to add a little more, to make my comments.
    Joe, what I like about your blog is your amazing capacity to tell stories. You go into great detail which is obviously thought out very carefully. You’re a writer, and probably a preacher too. JoAnne told me that you are on track for church leadership in the UCC, and I gathered some of that from your blog postings.

    I like that your stories are very close to what I do in my preaching. However, the difference is that I am very impatient with writing, telling stories that way. I have been ordained in the ELCA for 36+ years. In my early preaching I was very tied to a written manuscript. But, I evolved. These days I preach, usually without notes or anything, speaking off the top of my head. Of course, I write a lot of pages of stories, comments, theological reflections and more in preparation and then throw it away. But, when I get to the moment of preaching, I stand up and deliver, very often telling stories to illustrate my points.

    Sometimes I do not know quite what I am going to say until I get started preaching, although I do have an outline in my head, and the background is always the lectionary texts for the Sunday.

    I think it is so interesting that you know how to tell stories, to write them down, on a blog. What a skill, and a gift. I do hope that you are on – track to give more leadership in the church, the UCC or whatever. Living Gracefully is a good title for your blog. If we live by grace, then the outcome toward ourselves, toward our neighbors and toward the world out to reflect the notion of ‘living gracefully.’

    I have been thinking about this for awhile since I first started reading your blog. I really appreciate your strong emphasis on ‘living gracefully’ or living by grace. Great potential here for preaching.

    Meanwhile, I have also set up a few blogs here and there. The problem with my blogging is that I am very political. I have worked on so many issues through the church over the years, and have been reasonably successful at bringing those issues foward — coal mine heath and safety; strip mining; the nuclear arms race; homelessness, poverty and hunger; peace in the Holy Land and so much more. So, I am always trying to figure out how to convey these concerns in a graceful manner, in a way that will cause peope to stop and listen.

    You seem to be very skilled at this, presenting topics in a way that serve to invite and engage rather than alienate and distance others. You certainly did that with your posting at SOJO. What an excellent job. You really turned a trick on the words that we associate with Independence Day by going back to the original sources.

    Thanks very much. Good job in what you do. I’ll continue to follow here and there. If you ever come to Columbus, please feel free to contact me. We could meet and talk.
    wcornettIII@gmail.com Not only have I served parishes — many, many; I also worked for 18 years as director of continuing education and life long learning at the Lutheran seminary in Columbus.

    Skip Cornett
    ELCA Clergy
    Columbus, OH

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s