Friday, December 14, 2012

Keys to the Kingdom

I received an e-mail last night from a friend who, among other things, relayed that some neighbors had asked her to join them in a quilting session. She declined thinking that the real goal of the invitation was to proselytize. She knew that she already had, as we all have, the keys to the kingdom.

This morning I was scheduled to meet my buddy Ken for a breakfast chat at 8. Donna and I were buzzing about getting ready for the day and my departure. Her car was blocking mine so she would have to move it for me to back out and make my breakfast date. As I was finishing the morning dance, finding my wallet, keys, and shoes--ready to dart out into the cold, the phone rang. I figured it was Ken telling me he would be a few minutes late. Donna went to the phone and saw that the call was from another friend of mine who lives on the Cape. I had not spoken to him in a while and had only two minutes or so to get in my car, so I let the voice mail pick up.

A little strange to get a call from him at 740 in the am after not hearing from him a while. Then my cell phone buzzed. Saw the number was my Cape friend's. Stranger still for him to call me a second time as if there was some urgency.

I've known Don, my Cape friend, since 85. I rented his house for a couple of summers and have visited him now and again for now nearly thirty years. In the 90s, he, his neighbor James, and I would rendezvous annually in Providence to watch a Providence basketball game. James was also a professor so he and I shared war stories while shmoozing at the games. We had not met in Providence for a few years but for a stretch there the three of us looked forward to our annual Providence rendezvous for the friendship more than the basketball game. On the way to my breakfast meeting I returned Don's call.

Tonight the Mount Union Purple Raiders will play the St. Thomas Tommies for the championship of Divison 3 football. I love watching this game. Mount Union is going to the championship game for the 8th consecutive year and 16th time in the last twenty years. Division 3 is an afterthought to most sports fans if it is thought of at all. Yet, for the fans and players of Mount Union and St. Thomas the game tonight is the most important sporting event in the world. I love the energy of the players and I admire the coaching of a team that gets almost no exposure but plays its collective hearts out year after year to get to a championship.

The game's excitement and all games' importance, however, has been punctured today because of the incomprehensible tragedy in Connecticut. Madmen have killed 27 kids and teachers in an elementary school this morning. What kind of sick person kills children. What kind of sick society do we live in where sick people are manufactured who bloody schoolyards and think, somehow, that there is a rationale for the act? How to overcome such a tragedy and enjoy anything? Does it really matter that Mount Union is playing in its 8th consecutive championship game and 16th championship game in 20 years?

When I called Don on my way to breakfast with Ken he told me that he was sorry to have to give me some sad news so early in the morning. He had just been told that our friend James had succumbed to cancer. When I got to work I pulled up an obituary and saw that he had been sick for a year. There's a photo of him with a big smile next to the notice and it is all I can do to not feel sick when I glance at that picture.

Twenty seven kids are dead in Connecticut. James is gone having been eaten up by stomach cancer.

Yet despite this--maybe even because of it--we have the opportunity, if not obligation, to live and enjoy time. It was good to breakfast with my friend Ken this morning. We talked about this and that and he is coming over on Sunday night so we can root hard for the Patriots.

I will think of James and the twenty seven murdered kids tonight. And I will watch 22 excited athletes give everything they can to win a championship.

We do have the keys to the kingdom. The kingdom is right here. My friend who wrote last night is so right. We dont need the keys identified by proselytizers who feel they have a secret route to a locksmith. We have the keys. We have the Kingdom. Our choice is to open the doors that will bring happiness to all those around us, and ourselves.

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