Farewell

Note: Michael Humphrey was part of the team that helped create the Kansas City Olive Branch website. He served as its editor from October 2006 until August 2009. He is leaving for New York University to earn his Masters of Arts in Journalism. Sr. Jeanne Christensen, RSM will replace him as editor.

By Michael Humphrey

I was 19 years old when I first walked into the Shalom Catholic Worker House, in KCK. It was dark inside, a stark contrast to the bright May afternoon, but gradually distinct shapes emerged. Men played cards at a large dining table, others read, one napped on a couch, all the while a poster of Gandhi watched over them. A smiling woman with long white hair walked up to me, her casual stroll matched her baggy blue jeans, Birkenstocks and a t-shirt that stated plainly, “War is Not the Answer.”

A college professor sent me there, his solution to my desire to experience religious community. I was a suburban kid studying to be a Baptist preacher at a suburban college, but Prof. Duke saw something in me that I had not yet. And this woman, Mary K. Meyer, was his way of opening my eyes.

Mary K. walked me through the house, the dorm, the kitchen, the chapel and the room where I would stay if I joined them that summer. At the end of the tour, we looked out from the house’s back porch towards a vegetable garden growing from the care of many hands.

“Do you ever have problems in this neighborhood?” I asked.

“Not really,” Mary K. replied, “we are a house of peace. And peace begets peace.”

Dorothy Day once wrote, “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

Those two comments have always struck me as related. If Dorothy’s vision of revolution is to be realized, it begins with one person like Mary K. imparting peace to another. I have been the grateful beneficiary of that revolution … I did stay that summer and the next and, in some ways, all the way up until right now.

Five years ago, while sitting in a conference room with Conception Abbey’s Abbot Gregory Polan, another phase of this revolution became clear to me. I interviewed him for a story in The Kansas City Star about the Abbey’s profound and public forgiveness of the man who brought his pain, and guns, into their sacred walls. You might remember, at the end of his 2002 shooting rampage, the gunman was dead, so were two monks and two more were severely injured.

After an hour of explaining the emotions and reason that led to their public acts of mercy, which included offering to bury the gunman, Abbot Gregory explained the core philosophy of the community.

“We are here to live a good life,” he said.

As this site continues to dig for the principles of peace in the world, for justice that includes all and not just the powerful, all of our personal revolutions must keep the ends in mind. Stopping wars and poverty, the eradication of racism and sexism, the acceptance of all committed love, whatever hopes you have for justice in the world – these are all means. The end is a good life for everyone, even those who resist its call.

God bless you and thank you for blessing me with your lives.

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7 Comments »

  1. heather said

    Thank you for this essay, Mike. And thanks for everything.

    Take care. Good Luck. Keep in touch. I’ll miss you.

  2. Brad Grabs said

    Great essay, Mike. Thanks for so many years of faithful witness to justice and peace through your writing and your questioning and your way of living. We will really miss you. Good luck and God speed!

  3. Pauline Dolan said

    Mike,

    What a surprise to find out that you are on your way to NYU. I’m sorry to see you go but know that you will have quite and adventure in NYC. It’s a wonderful city and I hope all goes well for you there. Have fun and enjoy every minute but don’t forget us here in the Heartland.

  4. Marie de Paul Combo said

    Mike, you have been such a stable, solid servant of peace and justice. So many memories arise, especially around Mary K and her life and death. You and Lori were great contributors to that STAR interview the day after her death.

    I hope that you have time to contact Claire after you get settled in NY. She will be an asset to your presence there. And, it’s in walking distance.

    You have blessed us, now carry our blessing with you.
    Love, Marie de Paul

  5. Vicki said

    Mike,
    You are the champion of all devils’ advocates…a skill that is all too undervalued in a world that clings to the status quo. Thanks for always pushing things a little bit further, looking under rocks unturned, asking delicate and provocative questions, and dedicating your probing mind and heart to subjects that actually matter. A dear mentor of mine from college always challenged his students to “ask the impertinent questions” — you have done that, and I have no doubt that you will continue to do that as a journalist and as a fine human being!

    Can’t wait to see you in New York!!

  6. george jakobe said

    Mike it is not goodby but a break in our time together. I wish you well in the next phase of your life and I will see you along the way. Thanks for your friendship. George Jakobe

  7. Dick Brummel said

    Mike, we’ll all miss you. You’ve done great work here and I really hope you return once your work in NY is finished. Just remember: Royals good. Yankees bad.

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