What tie?

A personal, national observation with only a personal, individual solution

Blest be the tie that binds

our hearts in Christian love;

the fellowship of kindred minds

is like to that above.[1]

Although John Fawcett’s words expressed his confidence in the bonds of kinship in the Christian community and although I am a Christian, I, looking around at the American landscape of diverse and increasingly divided perspectives and positions, wonder, indeed, fear whether there is anything – belief or behavior, value or virtue – that binds us as a nation.

Democracy? Patriotism? Liberty? Equality? Equity?

Perhaps at some bygone time, in some distant past day, it seems to me, any one of these words would have ranked high on the scale of importance as an ideal, even a reality for most Americans. These days, again, it seems to me, any statement or action by anyone at any time provokes an instantaneous social media fueled backlash of contrary, contentious critique. We have become, once again, it seems to me, not a nation, but a dis-union of competing, conflicting camps of enemies.

If so, then, assuming the role of a national diagnostician, there is little to no health in us. I wish that I had a comprehensive cure. I don’t. But, cleaving steadfastly to my life’s calling, I can and I will continue to love justice and, thus, just love – with unconditional benevolence and fairness – all people, at all times. And when I fail (for, as an innately flawed, self-interested human, I will), as long as I have breath and strength, I will try again.

© 2023 PRA

[1] Words (1782) by John Fawcett (1740-1817)

2 thoughts on “What tie?

  1. Dear Paul,

    I have been lurching through these weeks and months of the fall/winter/very early spring (in Minnesota) of 2022/2023. So many demands, so little capacity to respond right now. Not even sure why exactly, just a turbid time that calls each day for the best I have, and the best I have is currently buried beneath some layers of bodily impairment and mental fatigue that I am finding difficult to address. And yet, I think I must respond to your post of today. “What Tie?” indeed. Where do we go to look for the ties that bind? That bind us together? That even begin to bind up the terrible wounds we have for centuries inflicted upon each other? That bind us to the hope of a future?

    You have offered the only reasonable, thoughtful response that is possible, I think: “I will keep trying to do what I know I am called to do, and when I don’t, then I will try again.” Implied: “And again… and yet again…. “

    Yesterday Emilia and I attended, for part of the day, a nearly day-long memorial gathering for a woman I did not know for most of my life, but who, in the past several years I came to know, respect, admire, and indeed, to love as myriad other people did in the 80 years that she lived on this earth. Ms. Beverly, or as she was much better known to the people on the North Side of Minneapolis, where she lived, Auntie Beverly, was a high school biology teacher for many years, but she was equally well-known as a storyteller and, for lack of a better description, an all-around amazing human being.

    I got to know her first via a North Side writing group that Covid shut down in 2020, but then later I was privileged to be one of her students in a storytelling class sponsored by a community organization in South Minneapolis. A few days before the second class meeting took place, Beverly’s beloved husband Bill died unexpectedly. The organization let the class members know that the second class would not meet as scheduled, but Beverly immediately communicated in no uncertain terms that she was fully prepared for the class, wanted and expected to teach the class, and would be there at the appointed time, which she was, with her usual warm smile and good humor. A few moments were spent in offering condolences and flowers, but then… to work. And it was a marvelous class. She gave us her all for the entire series of classes, and I learned things about the art of storytelling and about myself and about honoring forgotten people and events that I never would have learned without her guidance, patience, and demand for excellence. I also got to know her better by visiting her with some meals after Bill’s death. She was incredibly generous with her time and her deep knowledge of Black and North Minneapolis history, stories from her extensive travels, and most of all, conveying truth through storytelling. I feel I sat at her feet and absorbed her wisdom and her indomitable spirit during those too-brief times.

    I want to offer that the gathering Emilia and I attended yesterday was perhaps the most beautiful example of the “ties that bind” that I have ever known. For one of the first times in my life, I may have been blessed with a glimpse of what Beloved Community can mean. The love that Ms. Beverly brought to her life, her work, her family, her friends, her students, her community, and her world was evident in and among the several hundred people who were there. There were people of every hue and every ethnic derivation, every age, every socioeconomic class, every description of ability and disability, and every occupation. We were all there for one purpose, to celebrate that we had known, learned from, and loved an incredibly generous and loving woman, and we smiled (some of us behind our masks), shook hands, grabbed arms, patted backs, shed tears, hugged, kissed, laughed, sang, danced to the drumming, and made our offerings at an altar that was set up to receive an unbelievable assortment of tributes to Beverly and Bill. I had the great pleasure of speaking to a man I had met once before in our lives, in 1976 when both he and I were very young and I interviewed him as part of an assignment to complete a study of North Side agencies serving youth. He is now blind and elderly, but when I introduced myself he remembered even where we had met all those years ago. Astonishing.

    I will not ever forget yesterday – to have experienced such a beautiful and loving coming-together of people in the part of our city that has for so many years borne so much pain, loss, poverty, and senseless violence was a sacred gift, a vision of the reality of possibility I could not have anticipated. It has given me a glimmer of hope beyond even the despair of the past few years of division, rancor, and inexplicable violence in our country and across the world. It has given me a hope that we CAN build community if we bring our best to it. It is causing me to renew my own pledge, along with yours, Paul, that I will never cease trying to do what I know I am called to do: seek to do justice in every way possible, but most of all by loving and doing good in all the ways that I can to all the people I encounter in this world.

    Thank you for allowing me to pour out my very full heart in your blog today, Paul.

    With much gratitude and much love,



  2. My dearest Karen, I thank you with a depth of hopefulness beyond the telling for your sharing the story — the life and times — of Beverly and Bill and your engagement with Beverly in the art of storytelling and the tearfully joyful (and joyfully tearful) gathering in commemoration of her witness of the grace of love and the love of grace.

    In this, you have done what I, in writing and sharing this post, doubtless, in part, unconsciously hoped. That is, folk, in response, would offer testaments of the power of passion and the passion of power in their lives in which common linkages in values and virtues were/are made manifest. For this, I am gratitude — this, too, beyond the telling!

    On another gracious note, recently, a longtime friend, Randy Marks, a stalwart advocate of and for inclusion via the pathways of love and justice, made contact with the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota regarding work he has devoted himself to doing in liturgy-formation. He tells me that whomever he engaged spoke or wrote (I am not sure about this) of knowing Pontheolla and me and Clevedale. I only can imagine that the “whomever” must have been Emilia. If so, once again, for me, the world hath been proven not small, but wondrously tiny!

    And, my blessed sister, please, know that I harbor you and your “bodily impairment and mental fatigue” in the heart of my supplications in hope of healing.

    Love, always and in all ways, to you, Ted, and Emilia,


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