Galesburg, Illinois: “Building Bridges by Learning from One Another,” by Monica Corsaro

Right now my passion is:  Pickleball!  I love this sport!   I was introduced to it in December and I cannot get enough of it”. [From tspr.org]

Listen to Monica Corsaro’s radio commentary.

I love learning!  Yes I know what you are all saying; “Monica you better love learning, after all you are in Higher Education!”  Yes yes, yes, yes, of course. But what I mean is, I love learning outside of the classroom and the library.  It is actually one of my Spiritual disciplines,   I am always trying to learn something I did not know before.  In the past it has been inline skating, soccer, cycling, zumba…you get my drift.  Right now my passion is:  Pickleball!  I love this sport!   I was introduced to it in December and I cannot get enough of it.  What is pickleball? Have I sparked your curiosity?  

According to Wikipedia: pickleball is a paddle or racquet sport that combines elements of badmintontennis, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Whiffle Ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports; the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with several modifications. Pickle Ball was invented in the mid-1960s as a children’s backyard pastime.

What I love about learning something new is that my mind gets a rest from the everyday esoteric work I do and gets me to think in the concrete. How do I get a better spin on the ball? What is the best way to do a volley?  How can I beat my opponents with a better shot?  For an hour or so every few days I can rest the brain while exercising the brain and the body. 

And what I really love about my new pursuit is that I am meeting and being with a group of folks I never would have met before.  I play with folks from different age group than mine and different professional careers than mine, so the conversations are varied and interesting, and I am learning more about the community I am part of and they are learning about me.  We are becoming friends. Bridges are being built. As a life philosophy, I am more of a bridge builder than wall maker.  So much so I did a half continental move to live it.  

I felt not only a nudge but a calling to somehow get back to the Midwest. Clearly there was/is a disconnect in our country. Walls of sorts have been built, and while metaphorical, they are walls nonetheless.   So to the Midwest I had to return to follow my calling and, well yes, save the world for democracy.

Monica Corsaro

My strategy for this lofty goal was to connect and re-connect with the good people of the Midwest. My former teachers, ministers, youth group leaders, and classmates — the ones who educated me, influenced me, and raised me. 

The reconnecting has been a blast I have gotten to visit with my one of former English teachers, a basketball coach, my former tennis coach and history teacher.  I have gotten to visit with the church ladies that I spent every Sunday with while growing up. I have gotten to visit with former classmates who teach in the very schools we went to. All these conversations have led to reconnections of trust and deep conversations of the world we are in and the world we want to be in.

But let me tell you about the new connections I have made.  Those truly have been blessings I could never have even imagined.

After the tragic shooting at the Jewish Temple in Pittsburgh, an interfaith group and I got together to create a vigil for the lost. As I was building the service with my Jewish sister-in-the-faith, I learned that the 23rd Psalm is used regularly in their services of remembrances of those who have died. Wow! I do not know if I have presided or gone to a Christian service where the 23rd Psalm has not been read. Two different faith traditions but a common text we both understand deeply to connect us with the sacred. 

When we take time to connect with one another we learn from one another and then in a moment there is no other!

The Muslim students that I work with know this all too well, so much so they have instituted an initiative called “Mocha with Muslim,” and it is just that!  It is a time when they invite students, faculty, staff, and community members to come to our campus café,  have a mocha, and ask our Muslim students questions of culture and how the experience Islam.  This initiative has been so helpful and popular that our Muslim students have done this fun teaching style in not one but two school districts so far!  Metaphorical walls that may have been built are being torn down and connections are being made.

When we take time to connect with one another, we learn from one another and then in a moment there is no other!

One last illustration and then I’ll send you forth to build your bridge.

A friend of mine pastors a church that intentionally serves the LGBTQI communities – wait, not only the LGBTQI communities but everyone. They are so open they welcome Cubs and Cardinal fans! Now you feel me, don’t you?

This church has a time together each week called Pint Theology. And they were getting so big that it was hard to find a place where folks could chat, ask questions, and have good conversation, and not be too loud in the background.  So the pastor was reaching out to the bar owners she knew and who stepped up and approached her but the owner of the local gay bar. You can’t tell me there has not been a wall built in the past between the gay bar and the church. But not anymore.  In this context the wall has been torn down and melted away. The owner of this gay bar is so thankful for this motley crew of Christians that she lets them come to meet and be in community before she even opens up!!!!

I’ll explain. She opens at 8:00 p.m. every day but says, “Hey, I don’t mind opening up an hour early for you because you serve all people and give a safe place to be. So why can’t I do the same?”  Now folks have a place to meet and a place to stay if they want.

Take time friends to learn something new, connect with folks you never would have thought you would have connected with. Join me in tearing down walls and to build bridges of love.

When we take time to connect with one another, we learn from one another and then in a moment there is no other!

See you on the pickleball court!

Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro is a United Methodist clergy from Galesburg. 

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.  Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.

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