It was 1991, the first year the Atlanta Braves went to the World Series. The “chop” had taken off – they even did a take-off on it on Saturday Night Live that year – and because I had been one of the faithful few who’d gone down to Atlanta-Fulton Co Stadium even when 7-8000 people was an average crowd, I had tickets to the Series. Those of us who are rabid fans will remember the extra inning game in which Mark Lemke played the role of “goat,” which sent us into extra innings, but came through with what would be the single that scored the winning run.
I was standing in my seat, chopping and singing the “chant,” when for some reason, I stopped. Looking around the stadium and listening for a moment, I was suddenly covered in goose flesh. In almost perfect tune and motion, 52,000 people were one, 52,000 white, black, Asian, male, female, young, old…
I couldn’t help thinking that on the street, any number of us might have passed by one another without a thought. In another setting, perhaps we would have gotten into an intense political argument, maybe even come to blows. We were probably of so many religious persuasions or moral opinions or ethnic origins, that respectful dialogue was out of the question. But for one moment, as Lemke came up to bat in the 12th, none of the differences between us mattered.
I am saddened every time I see Christians get in a brawl with other Christians and people of other faith traditions over what will, in the grand scheme of things, not matter a whit when all is said and done. I hunger for those moments of communion, when what seems almost serendipitous occurs – the unexpected joy of oneness, the alignment of hearts. But, alas, they don’t happen very often these days.
It’s been 20 years since that magic run of the Braves began, and this very morning, I got up and tuned into a link on Ustream sent to me by a friend last night. A camera focused on an eagle’s nest in Iowa is showing a 24/7 feed of three eaglets born just over a week ago, and the loving attention and protection of their parents, a couple who’s been together now for three years. These are children 9,10 and 11 for the pair. Dad lost his first mate in a freak snow storm four years ago.
When I got on this morning, 87,000 viewers were on the air, 23,000 communicating in a “social stream.” People from all over the country started piping up, and then Canada, and then I saw one from the UK. Some have obviously been watching on and off for three years. Others discovered it this morning, as I did. I, along with several others, shared the link via email and Facebook.
As I write this, at 1:00 pm, there are 132,308 viewers “on air,” whole offices and pediatric wards and school kids and soccer moms mesmerized by the sight of the most peaceful, most caring, most natural demonstration of the glory of life.
I got goose bumps again. If we can do it for a silly baseball game and civic pride, if we can do it over an 80-foot-high eagle’s nest in Decorah, Iowa, we can do it and transform the world.
Will we? Twenty years is a long time between goose flesh.
And yet, I think we just might.