by Glen MacPherson
“It’s the Homeless Newspaper! Only one dollar suggested donation, otherwise free. Get your Homeless News, right here!” It’s a baritone incantation, more melody than carnival bark, beautiful in a way, a non-threatening siren. George was peddling his publication as we stood in line for the State Theater. Tracie procured us a copy then proceeded inside while I chatted with George. Having read a previous issue where he eulogized Bill Montgomery, I asked if he was looking for other sources of The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Foreign Affairs, or, The Economist. He told me, “No, maybe eventually, but Ann hasn’t cancelled the subscriptions and still brings them. But, you know, I’m not the only one who appreciates reading those fine publications. What you should do with your copies is bring them to Jubilee House. Do you know where that is? It’s near Grace Church.” I told him I did indeed know Grace and we’d had Ann over to dinner just a couple of nights ago. I could see in his eyes how my street cred swelled as I told him this: “My name is George!” he exclaimed, thrusting out his hand. We shook like friends with good things in common.
At a school district outside Houston, the principal announced any student taking part in 17 minutes of civil disobedience on 14 March to commemorate the 17 lives lost in Parklawn, Florida, would be suspended for three days. “Please be advised that the Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!! Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for 3 days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension. Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved.” Tracie and I contrasted this with the e-mail we received from our kids’ schools. “In order to provide a safe location for students to assemble, GTA Leadership will be directing students to the courtyard, and providing supervision and security in that area. The drive around school will be blocked off during this time period. Students will be asked to return to class when they are finished exercising their right at 10:17 am.”
Superheroes in capes vs. Scholars in mortarboards. Tracie was the coach of “Wonderful Readers” the 5 member 4th grade team that included our triplets in the Battle of the Books. Twenty-eight teams read 10 books over the course of 4 months and competed 10 March at NMC to demonstrate their mastery of plots and details. The books were donated by the National Writers Series and the level of organization demonstrated was astounding. One of our judges was a New York Times best-selling author. Our superheroes placed 27th of 28 teams but they had fun! Reading! And I was so proud of them, their coach, and this community.
One of David Brooks’ themes is the importance of institutions and local community in serving as a foundation of individual purpose and happiness, and our strength as a nation. “Some organizations are thick, and some are thin,” Brooks explains. “Some leave a mark on you, and some you pass through with scarcely a memory. … A thick institution becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person—head, hands, heart and soul.” In a city rife with institutions, one that reminds us daily of how lucky we are to live here, we are part of a thick church that’s become part of our identity. Thank you, Grace.