Forgiving the North Side

The guy who cuts my hair normally wasn’t available. When I looked at the schedule online, I didn’t see him listed for several weeks, so I sought out the woman who had also cut my hair a couple of times in the last year and who had done a great job. I was dismayed to learn that she is no longer working at the barbershop near my home, but instead across town on Kearney Street. And thus I found myself driving to the North Side.

Everyone in Springfield knows that there is a North and South Side of the city. This was once codified, when the two towns were formed, as North Springfield and Springfield, and then they merged sometime after the Civil War. The train tracks were the natural divide, with poor workers living on the north and the merchants, doctors, and lawyers living on the south. Division Street happens to be on the parallel that divided the north and south in the Civil War, but Commercial Street is where Springfield was separated.

I grew up on the North Side. Not just the North, I was out in the country north of town. I went to Pleasant View elementary and middle school, and Hillcrest High School. A friend asked me recently if I knew I was poor growing up, and I told her that I did. We had a nice enough house, but we almost lost it to bankruptcy. I regularly stole food to get by. I didn’t have the opportunities a lot of my classmates did, and I was different enough from them that I was bullied and beaten as well. This is not an unusual tale on the North Side.

So when I have to go back there, it is with ambivalence. I am conflicted because I was hurt there, but when I drive out in the country north of town, I also love it. I love the trees and the rolling hills, and the solitude, and there were good memories too. Playing in Matt Wilson’s backyard, biking to the bridge near Fellow’s Lake with Megan, those rare opportunities when I was invited to Cody’s house. Matt Hudson’s class in high school, and working with Justin on IT stuff. Walking through the woods and across the hills behind our home. It was beautiful there.

But there was so much pain. My parents’ divorce. The concussions and spilled blood. Friends who committed suicide or overdosed or died in car crashes.

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Voting Against Discrimination – Vote No on April 7th

On Tuesday, Springfield has an opportunity to vote on the Sexual Orientation and Transgender Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (SOGI) that was passed by city council some time ago and which some people now want to repeal. Voting no means we won’t repeal it, and the ordinance will remain. I will be voting no for a few different reasons that I want to share, but I’m not looking to convince anyone about how they should vote with this post. Rather, my hope is that people who agree with me, and who also think that we should not discriminate against people as a general rule, will be reminded and motivated to go vote on Tuesday.

It is tempting to remain silent and to not vote. A lot of people I know are conservative Christians who believe strongly that homosexuality is a sin, and while they may not be comfortable with the idea of discriminating against people, it’s so much easier to just stand on the sidelines. I feel strongly that God calls us to speak out. We cannot remain silent. Jesus surely did not, and while he was clear about what he viewed as sin, he welcomed sinners and lambasted those who sinned sexually far less than those who persecuted others.

One of the arguments against this ordinance is that there’s no proof that discrimination has happened. I agree, there isn’t, but the debate and furor that has arisen while this ordinance has been under consideration demonstrates two things. First, there are clearly negative feelings towards homosexual and transgendered people in our community. Not long ago, I don’t think people would have thought about discriminating against a gay or lesbian person in a normal store (by which I mean, not a church or a church-affiliated business, like the Assemblies of God Credit Union or a Christian bookstore), but they surely are thinking about it now. All the town hall meetings and public displays have demonstrated to me that there are a lot of people who want to discriminate, even if they hadn’t thought about it before. That’s unsettling to me.

Second, all of this has to feel threatening to members of our community who are homosexual or transgendered. Like harassment, which is defined by the person experiencing the harassment, I think when the actions of our community make a people group feel threatened, we need to address that publicly and loudly. We need to say, as a community, that we will not tolerate our neighbors feeling threatened.

My job, as a follower of Christ, is to go and make disciples. I am called to love God and love my neighbor as myself. Some might say that holding people accountable and making sure they know their actions are leading them to hell is part of love, and I suppose a case could be made there if you think homosexuality is a damning sin. Except that none of us know the state of a person’s soul. C.S. Lewis writes that we cannot know if a person is Christian or not, only if they are good or bad at being Christian, and we know that by the fruits of the Spirit. And I will say, as someone gifted with discernment and prophecy, as a Christian for the last thirteen years or so, and as someone who has studied the Bible critically and academically and prayerfully, I have met gay and lesbian people who are bearing fruit.

What do you do, when you think someone is a sinner, and yet God is investing in their life, gifting them, loving them, and working through them? I suppose only two reasonable conclusions are possible. Either God is more gracious than me, and I ought to learn to become more like God, or maybe I’m wrong about this act or lifestyle actually separating people from God.

All of that is in the back of my mind, but it’s beside the point. More important to me is that I’ve had LGBTQIA friends since before I became Christian. I have watched a transgendered man struggle for years with gender dysphoria who is an upstanding person, wonderful to his husband and two children, and struggling with a society both offline and online that insults, marginalizes, and discriminates against him, inflicting more suffering than I know my Lord and Savior tolerates for any of the people for whom He died. Jesus came to build bridges, bring healing, and help us learn to be in relationship with one another.

Check out the links below for the full text of the ordinance and for a great article in our local newspaper that explains some of the nuances of the ordinance. If you read the ordinance itself, though, you’ll find it’s not very nuanced. It’s really quite straightforward. Religious organizations like churches can still discriminate all they want. Pastors aren’t going to be fired for preaching against homosexuality. Landlords and realtors cannot refuse to work with homosexual people or rent/sell them property. Non-religious businesses in general have to serve homosexuals, just like they have to serve Jews, and Blacks, and Italians, and the Irish, and Catholics.

The only negative about voting for this ordinance is that businesses and individuals can be challenged if they are discriminatory. That’s the only thing being taken away: non-religious businesses can’t act like homosexuals aren’t human beings. That is a very fine thing to stand up for, in my opinion. All people deserve dignity and respect, and to be treated with love and care. We have a Servant King, and we should not hesitate to serve anyone. Instead, we should serve them with prayers in our heart and songs on our lips. We should serve people smiling and joyous that we get the opportunity to be like Jesus.

Mark it on your calendar. Set a reminder. Vote against discrimination on Tuesday, April 7th by voting no on question 1.

Divisions in the Springfield Church

I probably don’t follow local politics as closely as I ought. I met the council member who represented my zone of the city once. I will occasionally hear about stuff that the city council is discussing, and I vote regularly, but I don’t really have my finger on the pulse of the city. If the city had low blood pressure and an arrhythmic heart, I might not notice for a while.

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A brief review of Trolley’s

After receiving an email last week about Beauty and the Beast playing at Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts this weekend, I threw together a plan for a romantic evening with April. She loves Maria’s downtown, so I figured we’d go there for dinner, then go to the musical, and the whole thing would be a surprise.

More surprising was what we found downtown, though. Every restaurant was almost empty… except Maria’s, which had a line out the door! We couldn’t wait as long as it would take to secure a table, so instead we went wandering and ended up at Trolley’s. I hadn’t eaten there before and hadn’t heard much about it, despite it opening half a dozen years or so ago, so we gave it a try.

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Just Short of Perfect

Let’s say you’re an artist who has constructed an awesome story with solid characters, plot, and setting. Or maybe you’re a business person who has put together a twenty page report for a one-hour meeting with a client and you’re ready to be done with the whole thing. Your focus is on the content, where it needs to be: let SilverPen step in and polish the piece with our first-rate copy editing.

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Whether you’re local to Springfield, Missouri or you’re on the other side of the world, we’re happy to help. Ask us about copy editing to learn more about taking your writing that last step to perfection.

Who ya gonna call?

PAR Zones

After picking up litter and then writing about it, I thought I’d do some research and find out what the litter laws are in fair ‘ole Springfield, Missouri. Is it considered littering if it’s on your private property? What if it blows onto someone else’s property, or onto public/city property?

Not entirely certain where to turn, I thought I’d start with the police department. I’m not fully familiar with our city and how its governing structure is set up, but I do know that the city is split into zones with each zone having a representative on the City Council. Similarly, there are a group of police officers assigned to certain neighbourhoods and they patrol these beats and interact with the people living there. This gives the community an individual to turn to for help, rather than calling a single line with an unknown person on the other end.

When looking up who our Police Area Representative was, though, I discovered that we don’t have one. After I saw the big white spot in the middle of the map and then went back to the page to see that we just don’t have one, I remembered a neighbour telling me this when we moved in. They pulled our officers due to staffing shortages, which has been a problem here since our neighbourhood has the second highest crime rate in the city. ((The lowest crime rate areas got to keep their PARs, but those are also the wealthier neighbourhoods; correlation, not causation, I’m sure…))

The City Manager had stated that new officers wouldn’t be hired until the pension matter was settled, ((Our police and firefighter pension was underfunded, and as a city we have a legal obligation to fund them, so we passed a tax increase; now that that has passed, I had hoped the freeze would be lifted)) but now that it has been, I wonder if they will hire new officers in? I contacted our City Council representative to ask, and his reply was most encouraging.

I actually wrote this blog entry when I sent him the letter, so it originally ended a bit more morosely. Nick Ibarra’s reply was lengthy and detailed, and he knew exactly where to go in regards to addressing the litter. He asked my permission to forward my email to the City Clerk so that she can send an inquiry to the appropriate departments, as there may be more than one involved. Since some of the litter is making its way into the road (there’s currently a large black tarp that has blown into the avenue behind our house), it involves more than just the Department of Health.

In addition, he wrote that the police department is working on hiring more officers and restoring those positions, but the latest batch of candidates was none too great, so it may take a while. I guess the fire department is doing a lot better and had several hundred applicants, but there weren’t as many for the police force. I’m just glad to hear that progress is being made, and also that he continues to represent the need for PAR Officers and restoring those positions in our community.

I’ve never taken much of a role in our city politics or management, or even really paid much attention to them, but once we bought a house all this stuff became significantly more important to me. I’m glad we have such a responsive and dedicated council person for our zone and the Grant Beach Park Neighbourhood.

First encounter with the Springfield Blogger’s Association

Though I had visited the Springfield Blogger’s Association a couple of years ago with Ryan (it’s crazy to think that much time has passed!), I’ve never made it to another meeting. It seems like I’ve always got something going on Monday nights, or at least I’m exhausted from a hard Monday at work, but I went tonight. Since I no longer have class on Tuesday/Wednesday nights, I didn’t feel as pressured to have Monday night off, and with the topic of discussion this month being statistics and analytics, I thought I might have something to add to the conversation.

It was a great two and a half hours of talk about stats and the means to gather them, how traffic will affect site performance, different content management systems one might use, genealogy, and  food. Talking about it, not eating–we were at Patton Alley Pub, and while they have some great stuff, I settled for just a Bass and the good company.

I enjoyed finally meeting Sarah Jo and Teresa, who I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere in the last two years but never met in person, as well as some new people I hope to speak more with in the future such as Nigel. Looking forward to next month’s meeting and some new additions to my RSS feed!

The Pressures of Antiquing

April and I celebrated our second anniversary over the weekend and decided that we would spend it here in Springfield doing the touristy things we never do. Since we live here, there’s a lot to the city we take for granted and never experience, so we wanted to spend the day seeing the sights, such as they are, and eating really fancy food. Two of the places we visited were little shops we had walked past on occasion, but which had always been closed when we were near. On Saturday, they were open.

The thing about little shops, the really frustrating and unavoidable thing, is that you’re easily noticed in them. The shopkeeper sees you right away, says hello, offers to help, hovers nearby, suggests you look at and perhaps even purchase things. This is all well and good–their job is to sell things, after all–but let’s be honest here: April and I had no real intention of buying anything. We just can’t afford that much. We especially can’t afford it in shops that are horribly overpriced and stocked with garbage.

But we felt guilty, and we hemmed and hawwed and wondered if we ought to buy something after all. Here was this nice old man, just trying to make his way in the world, with a shop filled with crap and nobody buying anything. Antique shops are like the slightly-less-poor beggar’s tin cup.

We left, because if we bought antiques then we’d soon have to open a shop of our own just to get by in this crazy, filled-with-overpriced-garbage kind of world. But we felt bad about it, and here I am two days later still thinking about it. Man, I have got to lay off the antiquing…

My first sip of Clover

I first heard of the Clover coffee machine when The Coffee Ethic opened just off the downtown square of my hometown, Springfield, Missouri. This $11,000 coffee brewing machine was supposed to make the best coffee ever, one cup at a time, through some fancy weighing, heating, and water distribution processes. Coffee Ethic had managed to grab one of these machines before Starbucks bought the company that made them, preventing anyone else from getting a Clover machine, but I still hadn’t tried any Clover coffee despite Coffee Ethic opening well over a year ago.

Since I had some time to kill before April’s class ended, I thought I would come try a cup. I have to say, the difference is quite remarkable.

I’m not really much of a coffee snob. I avoid a number of different coffee blends (Folgers chief among these) because they really upset my stomach. I don’t know if it’s the high acidity or the poor quality of ingredients, but the lower-end coffees really screw me up. Most days I drink 8 O’Clock Coffee, which is very cheap and available from Wal-Mart, yet was rated #1 by Consumer Reports several years ago. Most of what I get from our local coffee shops is safe for me to drink as well.

I usually grind my own beans, though most of the time I don’t think this is to much benefit, and we have a relatively expensive and very nice drip coffee pot at home. Coffee is good, and I enjoy it, and I can note differences in its flavour based on temperature, type of coffee, acidity, body, etc. However, it all tastes pretty much like “coffee” to me, and there is little subtlety to it.

This cup of coffee, made with a Clover machine, progressed through four different flavours in my first sip. It is far more robust than I am used to coffee being, far more complex, and far more enjoyable to drink. This cup of coffee is an experience in and of itself, similar to smoking a pipe, and I think I could enjoy just sitting here and doing nothing other than drinking it just for the joy and challenge of tasting the coffee.

I’m not actually a fan of this coffee, ((I tried a dark Sumatra roast. It is a little more earthy in the middle than I like, but I asked the young man assisting me to describe the different coffees and, of the two available, this seemed like the one I’d most like)) but I can say without a doubt that I am not fond of the coffee, rather than having my opinion tainted by the brewing. This is clearly a superior brew, giving far better insight into the beans and the roast (which was perhaps a slight bit too much, I think) than other coffee pots can grant.

At almost $3 a cup, I certainly won’t be drinking Clover coffee every day, nor am I ready to give up my coffee pot at home or the office. Maybe my Dunkin Donuts blend via the Mr. Coffee at work isn’t as complex or wonderful, but it’s still hot, satisfying, and good. Most of the time I’m drinking coffee as a beverage and for the caffeine, with only about 30-40% of my desire being for good taste. ((It has to taste good, but if good taste was my primary requirement, I’d be Clovering it up every day)) During most days, I want coffee in mass quantities, and that’s not feasible with Clover at this time.

But it is delicious, and the next time I’m going out for coffee with someone, I think The Coffee Ethic is where we shall go. The Mudhouse shall certainly remain the place for fancy coffee drinks and longer-term work (writing and studying), and I love Hebrews when I can get there on a weekend, but for a great brewed coffee experience, I don’t think anywhere will beat Coffee Ethic’s Clover.

City Utilities Cuts Neighborhood Water Without Notice

City Utilities TrucksI was surprised to see the City Utilities trucks on my drive home from work today, just as one might be surprised to see a clown car or a tank. I know these things exist, I just don’t see them in my day to day life, and certainly not on my street. As I squeezed past them, I wondered what they were doing and wished they had posted some sort of neighborhood notice, but whatever. I recognize that they can’t always give notice when they’re working in a neighborhood, so I pulled into our garage and thought nothing more of the matter.

That is until I tried to turn the water faucet on a few minutes ago and got nothing but a gurgling sound and a bit of air. I tried some different water faucets, then went down to the basement to make sure a pipe hadn’t burst. As I started to call City Utilities to find out if there was an outage of some sort, it dawned on me… “There were some CU trucks just down the street earlier. I wonder if they did something?”

Venturing outside, which I so rarely do unless provoked, I tried our outdoor spigot and then knocked on the doors of a few neighbors. It’s a mixed blessing that no one else seems to be home tonight, I suppose, and I quickly found myself wandering down to the CU trucks just a block away to find out what was going on. As I approached the truck, four men in a huddle turned to me.

“Your water’s down,” one of them said.

“Yeah, I wondered about that,” I replied.

Their huddle dissolved and one grabbed a tool, another a hose, and a third began to walk towards the front of the truck while the fourth picked up a large, metal T-pipe. “We’ll have it fixed in just a few minutes!” the presumed leader said.

I loitered for a few seconds more before heading back to my house. Nothing more to see here, move along.