I do not trivialize. These are all important. But "life is more than what we will eat and what we will wear. So be anxious for nothing." (Matthew 6). These, I think, are the most ignored words of Jesus in Christian history.
I went on a walk yesterday. It was a fine and pleasant walk. Strange too. No traffic on W. 7th. Families out walking--together!
I came down Michigan Street toward Cooper's SuperValu, I was met by the gorgeous tones of a lone saxophone.
I was not in any hurry, so I approached and listened. Filled with appreciation, I opened my wallet and had nothing but a $10 in there, with which I happily parted. He paused and we introduced ourselves from a distance.
Bob Neighbors told me his main instrument is harmonica, but today he felt like people needed saxophone. "Nothing connects people like music," he said, "especially when we make it together; but also when we just listen." His momma down South where he grew up used to tell him, "Don't hide your gift under a bushel basket." Share it with the world. The world needs your God-given gift. "My gift is not great," he said. "Like I said, I'm a harmonica player. I just play sax well enough not to get tomatoes thrown at me. Furthermore, I'm an introvert. It's my inclination to hold back. But today, at this time, people need connection! So I showed up. Here I am. Putting a vibration out that comes from love. It's a spiritual thing. Music can change the world. I believe that. Every musical vibration is eternal, so we gotta make it our best."
I listened. I felt what he was telling me, and the power of his simple music. I thought about how true it is that music perfectly captures both our connection and our distance from each other. It's vibration. I thought about how whatever vibration we put out into the world, for better or for worse, has infinite repercussions. I am convinced, however, that in the end all is swallowed up in love, and that what we put out in love is eternal life.
Just then, a neighbor I already knew came out of the grocery store. I introduced Jim to Bob, and we chatted a bit. Jim had a problem, though. While in the store, he decided to buy more than fewer groceries so that he would not have to go back for more for a while during the pandemic. He had four heavy bags and about 1/2 mile to walk. He asked for help to carry them, and I was more than glad to do so. We bid goodbye to Bob and set out.
During the walk, Jim Sazevich, an amazing freelance local historian, began to muse on the cholera outbreak of 1854 in St. Paul. You know, like historians do. Inspired obviously by the present Covid-19 outbreak, his mind went to 1854 and a subject close to home for him.
You see, his home, a little brick house on Smith Ave. built in 1854, was never finished by the original builder, one Mr. Adams, who had just moved to St. Paul in that year with his new bride. Young Mr. Adams was a shirt-tail relative of John Quincy Adams, former President of the US.
The small brick structure was finished in 1854, though not the intended wooden additions. That year cholera invaded St. Paul, and it killed an unrecorded number of people, "but certainly dozens," Jim told me. One life claimed happened to be Minnesota Territory's most famous citizen, Mr. Charles Fillmore; brother of then-President Millard Fillmore. Fillmore's house was in Irvine Park, just next door to Alexander Ramsey's house. It was mere blocks from The Adam's house. And Mrs. Adams was pregnant.
Death must have seemed everywhere in that little settlement. The funeral for Fillmore processed by horse-drawn hearse down Fort Street, now W. 7th St., toward the new Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul's first cemetery.
But as black crows gathered and cawed in the trees lining the street (I embellish, sorry Jim), the hearse caught a rut in the dirt road. The coffin slid off the back of the hearse-wagon and crashed on the ground, spilling the body of Minnesota's most famous citizen out onto the dirt.
We don't know, but it is hard to imagine the pregnant Mrs. Adams and her husband were not present for this spectacle that occurred only a block or two from their residence.
Thereafter, the Adams family walked away from their house and St. Paul. They just walked away--70 miles they walked, she pregnant--to Steele County MN, where their son was born: the first white child born in that county.
And now Jim lives in their house. He has learned their story, and even has a wedding photo of Mr. and Mrs. Adams in his (their) house. He is in touch with their descendants. "We need to preserve the artifacts," Jim tells me with genuine passion. "They are gone, but the artifacts remain, and keep them with us, keep us with them. And they still have much to tell us."
I am moved by the people who put good vibrations out into the world, who follow the calling of Love. This was quite a day. Thank you Bob and Jim, for being great neighbors, and doing good and healing work, during this contemporary "Time of Cholera."