One a gorgeous night at a baseball game at Coney Island, I sat next to Chris Bonastia, who’s written a book about Prince Edward County (he’s also a friend of my daughter and her husband). Focused on the Brooklyn Cyclones vs. Aberdeen Ironbirds game and our respective family members surrounding us, Chris and I didn’t get to talk about a topic we both know a lot about.* (Of course, even if we’d wanted to compare notes, we wouldn’t have been able to talk above the ballgame din.)

So what does Prince Edward County have to do with shrines? On the day after the Supreme Court dismantled a key piece of the Voters Rights Act and on the same day the shrine to the Marathon Bombings is to be dismantled, I’m thinking about American history. I’m thinking about the stories that rarely get told and the stories we know so well that, despite ourselves, we’re sick and tired of them! I am continuing to think about slavery and its insidious aftermath—like yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. (Presently reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, BTW.)

But mostly I’m thinking how moved I am, whenever I see a little cross or shrine beside a road or superhighway—or, coming home on Amtrak, beside the railroad tracks—to be reminded that we co-habitate with stories. Unknowingly we move through and past them. They’re all around us. Wherever we go, we walk on hallowed ground.

* As I discovered when I did research for Way Opens, Lynchburg’s African-American community and Prince Edward’s black community were (and, presumably, still are) deeply connected and entwined. When, in 1959 the schools in Prince Edward were shut down for five years and no provision made for black children’s education, for example, African-American Lynchburg families took them in. (But let me hastily add that many, many Prince Edward children never were able to make up for those lost years.)




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  1. Speaking of G, here’s an amazing quote by Lincoln (in Team of Rivals): “In great contests, each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God can not be for; and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party” and that God had willed “that it shall not end yet.”

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