saternow, lynn 2010

Lynn Saternow

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. But I love Christmas when it’s actually within a couple of weeks of the holiday. And certainly nothing could ever get me to fight crowds on Black Friday to go shopping as many people did yesterday.

Even if they were giving stuff away for free I wouldn’t go. If I want to fight maniacal crowds pushing, shoving and screaming to get to the front of a line, I’ll go to the restroom at halftime of a Browns game in Cleveland Stadium.

And when Christmas carols come on the radio at this time of the year, I hurriedly turn the channels. It’s difficult to get into the proper spirit when it’s not December yet.

However, it wasn’t hard at all to get into the Christmas spirit last Tuesday in the City of Farrell tree-lighting ceremony in the beautiful Veterans Square.

While there is talk about consolidation of towns — which I solidly support — there is a lot to be said about that small-town atmosphere when you can have a party and pass out treats and presents to all the city’s children who turn out.

When Santa arrived on a city fire truck, the excitement that filled the little kids was something special to see. Each boy and girl received a gift from Santa along with doughnuts, cookies and hot chocolate.

That’s something you just can’t pull off in bigger towns.

A couple of hundred people attended and one of the highlights was the singing by the “Farrell Community Choir.” Actually, that’s the adopted name for a group of about 20 of us who were recruited out of the audience by “choir directors” Michael and Roz Wright to come up and sing. And I think we actually sounded like we knew what we were doing.

One of the nice things about a small town: It’s almost like the Boston bar “Cheers” where “everybody knows your name.”

Still, unlike most of the people there, who were born and raised in Farrell, I am a transplant and have resided there for only about 27 years. But it’s easy to become part of the place.

I coached many of the kids — now adults — in Little League or worked with others on community projects. And being part of a community — especially one as ethnically diverse as Farrell — is something special.

OK, I’m sure a few people were thinking: “Hey, what’s that white guy doing up there in the choir?”

Sure everybody else was black. And I had to laugh a little bit inside when I thought about for once being a “minority.” (And that’s not to make light of the term because in truth no white person is ever a minority anywhere in this country.) But it made me think about racial imbalance.

One of my best friends in high school was Bobby “Peanut” Flint. He was one of the few blacks at Hickory High in the 1960s. He and I worked out wrestling together every day. We went to movies together and went to each others’ houses from time to time.

Loretta Pleasant was the only black in our 1965 graduating class. At our last reunion, we talked about how tough it was for her then and the bigotry that she endured at the time. But even though we were friends during school, I never realized the extent of that bigotry. I guess it was because I never regarded Peanut and Loretta as any different than me.

As an adult, I am much more aware of what minorities face, even 40-some years after high school. And I’m proud to be part of a small community with a large African-American population.

As each little kid sat on Santa’s lap, or received a present, I wish I could have given them the greatest gift of all — full acceptance everywhere regardless of the color of their skin. Maybe, just maybe, someday that will happen.

But even Santa can’t wipe out bigotry by himself.

And maybe someday people won’t think: “Hey what’s that white guy doing up there in the choir?” Instead they’ll say: “Hey, what’s that guy with the horrible voice doing up there in the choir?”

Amen!



Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald who writes this weekly column for the Opinion Page.

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