There’s something enlivening about seeing a couple, in church after morning worship, both wearing that familiar, revealing grin that says so much, walking up to me, to make an introduction and to talk about premarital work, and then ending the evening looking across the table at the one lady who pulls my lips apart in the same grin after years of being anything but a newlywed. With city views behind her, in an elegant restaurant, oddly called the Boarding House, we talk and look together at more of the future, speak of the many pieces that make our life right now, eat a fine meal, and share dessert.
We took Bryce to his Grannie’s, got in the car, and cruised through traffic Monday afternoon. Dawn slept the entire drive. After exiting the Edens, I followed these blue signs pointing me to park-n-ride. We arrived at one of the free lots in Highland Park and waited near a Metra stop for the shuttle to take us to the Festival grounds.
We were early, which is an accomplishment. We opened our chairs and stretched our legs. We talked about people. I complained about how senseless it was to spend four times as much at Ravinia on food. I judged people for not bringing their baskets and boxes and bags of nourishment. Dawn shook her head, paid me no mind.
We were worried because the boy has been sick. An ear infection and a lot of whining. Dawn did the mother thing, asking if she should check in on Bryce. I did the father thing and said no because he was fine and if he wasn’t fine that we weren’t doing anything but staying in those lawn chairs and hearing Esperanza.
Dawn went to buy a drink and chips; of course, she heard a sermon first. Then I went and bought hot tea, greeting a few people I knew from church, hypocritically keeping the sermon to myself. I was cold, coming down with whatever it was my kid was passing onto me.
Some time after returning and about two minutes into the performance, a kind woman walked up to us. She bent down slightly and said that her girlfriends were not able to make it to the show. “I want to give you these tickets if you want to come into the pavilion.” The woman looked from Dawn to me. I thought I was hearing things for about a half second. I watched her give two tickets to Dawn, and I said, “You’re kidding.” She said no and walked away. We looked at the tickets. We looked at her finding her way through a cramped line of people bordering the pavilion. We got up and packed our chairs into the bags. We smiled in belief, unbelief, and grateful surprise.
The seats were in the second row. It was a long joyous walk to that second row. Usually I hate entering shows late. Monday we stamped to those seats to the beautiful melody of one of our favorite performers.
The woman greeted us with a wave, as if she’d known us for years. Two people got up from our chairs, undoubtedly thinking we weren’t coming, and left. We sat next to our new stranger-friend, she at the aisle, us the next seats from it. We were close enough for spit and sweat, though there was none of either.
I got a text from Jillian and Krystal. They wanted to “bother” me. I told them that they couldn’t because we had been given tickets to the pavilion. Krystal lied, punching back that they weren’t jealous. I could hear them and their jealousy from the second row!
The way Esperanza sang and played reminded us of a story. A story of love and how it swirls in the smiles of lovers and how it looks when fathers take care of their children. She integrated explicit language of justice in explaining the background of Land of Free. She told us, that she wasn’t interested in selling things, that she was happy we were there to enjoy an evening with her, but that the proceeds from that night’s sales were going to free the slaves.
About freeing the slaves, she says on her site:
There are 27 million people in slavery today. They are forced to work without pay, under threat of violence, and they’re unable to walk away. You can find them in brothels, factories, mines, farm fields, restaurants, construction sites and private homes. Many slaves have been tricked by traffickers who lure vulnerable people with false promises of good jobs or education. Some slaves are marched to work at gunpoint. Others are trapped by phony debts from unscrupulous moneylenders. Slavery is illegal everywhere, but it happens nearly everywhere…Free The Slaves is dedicated to ending slavery worldwide. We believe it’s an ambitious and realizable goal.
I was already a fan. But since we only had her latest project, since we resonated with the purposeful proceeds–and since the boy was spending the night at her grannie’s–we waited in line, after buying the last cd on the counter so she could sign it.
When we got to her, we explained that our son sings, at random times, her wonderful Black Gold. She lit up, told us that that made her year. We were proud parents, even when we wanted to have a night to ourselves. It was one way that our son was still with us, present even though it was past his bedtime. She signed our cd, and we wished her well. And it was a fitting close to the concert.
Click here to learn more about Free the Slaves.
While Esperanza didn’t sing this Monday, it’s a fitting reminder of the theme she kept coming back to, which was love.
The other week I heard about this article by Deborrah Cooper on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. In it she discusses her views on the church’s impact on relationships, particularly the Black church’s impact on how Black women date. So, I asked two friends–both of them single and Black–to post a response to Ms. Cooper’s words. In the next two posts you read their responses. Whether or not you’re Black or single, I’d love for you to weigh in, considering any of these questions as you read their posts:
- What impact has a faith community had on your experience dating?
- Does faith make a difference when it comes to dating? If so, what? If not, why?
- How can the church be a supportive place for individuals looking for partners?
- In what ways has dating been easier or harder for you if and when you’ve been intentional about integrating your faith in the process?
- Do you think religious communities have interests in promoting marriage or singleness? How have you seen those communities served by both marrieds and singles?