Let’s Go Flaneuring in Kansas City, USA
Today’s Flaneuring post comes from the center of the USA, as fascinating a place as any. I love being able to see the similarities and differences between blocks all over the world. And one of the fabulous things about looking at our cities with flaneuring eyes is that everything is unique, worth noting. Take a walk with Ashlee Englund around Kansas City, Kansas.
A couple miles from my house, across the parking lot from Chick-fil-A and Culvers, a senior-living apartment complex is rising from the construction dust. Three cement-block stairwells stand empty and alone like medieval castle turrets. At the top of one perches a white pole with a blue flag proudly declaring “KC.” I first noticed this after the Kansas City Royals—our own baseball team—clinched the American League division title.
But before I continue, two facts perhaps need to be established. First, baseball is somehow woven into the fabric of what it means to be American—like pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and almost as essential as the pledge of allegiance. And, second, in my memory, the Royals have been bad—so bad that some years Kansas City baseball only made national news for being in last place. There’s something demoralizing about living year after year of this.
And I should know. I was born and raised here, in a suburb of the city.
But now, there’s a breath of something new. Who knew so many people owned blue baseball caps and Royals t-shirts?
A church sign in my neighborhood reads, “Royals=David, Giants=Goliath, We know how this ends.” In the grocery store parking lot, a white canvas tent provides a temporary marketplace for the team’s postseason gear. Long sleeve shirts in brilliant blue swing on hangers in the October breeze.
In fact, the words “baseball” and “October” haven’t been said in the same sentence about the Kansas City Royals since 1985. I recently told a friend at work, “I feel like I’ve been plucked up and placed in an alternate reality where we have a good baseball team.”
Preparing to wire money on an errand for work, I entered the bank and saw that it was blue day for them, just like me. Game one of the World Series was that night. Out of four women behind the desks to my left, at least three wore the right color. Both managers in the glass-walled offices wore Royals’ shirts. And as I was leaving, one of them said, “We’re going to win tonight, aren’t we?”
“We’d better!” I answered.
He made an x with his fingers. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
It’s inspiring in the best of ways. There’s a surge of pride, a sense of community between me and that stranger at the gas station with the blue KC hat. Look, he’s a Royals fan, too. I love you, man!
But this 2014 fall season brings with it something else, in addition to startling baseball and beautiful leaves in reds, yellows, and purples. This is an election year, the off year in between presidential elections where other offices at the state and national level are filled.
Across the four-lane street from our house is an apartment complex—several multi-family dwellings enclosed by a black metal fence. A couple of their political signs are ok, but then there is that other sign—the one with three red “vote” cards added for emphasis for that would-be senator whom I hope loses. I don’t like it.
When I play my online radio station at home and at work, I keep hearing the same ad for the candidate running against our governor. They even have a poor picture of the current governor in black and white, trying to convince me of all the reasons I shouldn’t vote for him. I don’t like it.
Last Sunday night, we were gone from home for about an hour and a half. As we neared our house, I saw them: political signs in my neighbor’s yard, sprouting like mushrooms while we were gone. And they were for the other party. Inside, I felt the barriers rise; I plan to vote the exact opposite way. You mean he’s on their side?!
But then a thought came to me. If given the chance, could I cheer on the Royals alongside my neighbor? Or, in other words, could I overlook our differences and focus on our similarities for a common goal? I was relieved to discover that, yes, I think I could.
That is the story of this strange dance called life. There are multiple times in myriads of situations where we have to choose to overlook what divides and focus on what unites us to work together. Special thanks to the Royals and to my politically-minded neighbor for reminding me.
Ashlee Englund is an administrative assistant at a non-profit by day, and a wife, God-follower, homemaker, and reader all the time. She loves considering life and sometimes writes about the connections she sees. She is one of the writers featured in a quarterly devotional, Opening the Word. She can be reached by email at ae_englund(at)yahoo(dot)com or you can find her at www.yourwordmylight.com.
*image thanks to Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, KS