Archive for Thursday, September 30, 2010

Daylong Atchison visit confirms goodness in people

September 30, 2010

We ambled north on a September day that felt much like a day in October. The roads and fields were socked in with fog — unusual weather for Kansas at this time of year.

It was a day to meander and let the cares and worries of the work week evaporate as rising sun burned off the fog.

We passed the federal prison in Leavenworth and wondered aloud of the lives spent there, the families who came on weekends, the children being reared in poverty, men — some women of course, but predominately men — who had ruined lives and tarnished other lives without ever learning the lesson that a life well-lived is a life lived for others.

As we came into Atchison, the sun came out briefly, burning a patch of light across the soybean fields that were turning yellow and the corn stalks that were dry and pale alongside the winding road. A breeze whisked the fields, leaving an undulating wave of green and brown in its path.

Atchison is an old town, stately, well cared for, alongside neglected stately mansions. The tall, brick homes are ensconced in heavy vines, dense hedges and trees with thick branches and heavy leaves. Gardens are bordered by tall, red brick walls — secret gardens stirring the imagination about an interior filled in the spring with purple iris and pungent lilacs, gigantic hydrangea bushes and nodding yellow daffodil.

There was such a garden behind the Benedictine monastery, of which we go in search. The ground has been leveled and the gardens replaced by yards and yards of green grass.

I am saddened there is no flower garden; saddened even more by the memory of the friend who lived there and left to find a more cloistered life among other monks.

We walked to the edge of the grounds, to a knoll overlooking the Missouri River. Through a thicket of trees, we watched a barge chugging its way up the river. The fog steamed up from the surface of the river, which was gorged with waters of recent rains.

We noticed there a couple reflectively taking in the sights and sounds. She tried to take their picture, holding the camera out in front of her as people do. I asked if we could help, took the picture and handed back the camera and noticed her T-shirt: Parent of a soldier. I asked if she had a son in Afghanistan; she replied she had a daughter in the National Guard. We reached out to touch one another.

In a moment, a belief is resurrected that there are still good people in this world. Not everyone lives for themselves alone but as pebbles dropped into a stream, the goodness of their lives emanating out across time and ages, ripple after ripple.

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