Father Ed Commentary: Looking Through the Glass

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Several years ago, an announcement was made that funding was in place to completely revamp and refurbish one of the main streets in Youngstown.

Wick Avenue has long been considered one of the premier streets in the Valley. As it makes its way through the North Side and ends at our reconfigured Central Square, Wick Avenue is home to some pretty important churches and schools.

With neighbors like the Butler Institute of American Art, the McDonough Museum, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and various Youngstown State University buildings and walkways, Wick Avenue just may be the most historic street in the city if not one of the most important in the Valley. In the last decade, the re-making of Wick Avenue has been transformational.

Most recently, student housing has commanded attention at the corner of Rayen and Wick avenues. In the midst of this new college/student construction stands the Reuben McMillan Free Library whose main building on the northeastern corner was dedicated in 1910 as a wonderful resource for the entire community.

Inside and outside its walls, the library opens many new worlds to seekers of knowledge of all ages. With the development of technology, libraries have made many moves and adjustments not only to keep up but to lead in the expansion of knowledge, information and resources that can benefit all of us.

What a wonderful announcement recently that the library is embarking on a multi-million-dollar transformation of its footprint in the heart of the city. As it makes its way into the future, the library plans to include a reminder of where we have come as the main entrance is restored. Each day there is a beehive of activity where two of the city’s major streets intersect. With all that’s happening, it’s not hard to see a smile on Reuben’s face.

On a recent trip that took me past the library, a few moments stop at a traffic signal gave me a quick chance to gaze at the construction site. As the traffic signal changed, my eyes caught sight of the front windows of the library, now all behind construction fencing. In a brief pass-by, I was struck by some decorations in the windows.

My curiosity got the best of me, and I took the few extra minutes to circle the block and park for a moment to take in what I had momentarily glanced at a few minutes earlier.

What a nice surprise! Four sets of windows that shared a December holiday greeting:

  • HAPPY HANNUKAH
  • MERRY CHRISTMAS
  • HAPPY KWANZA
  • HAPPY NEW YEAR

What a great acknowledgement and expression of the diversity that fills the month of December each year.

As I gazed at the window panels, my mind started to recall some of the headlines of the past couple of years, headlines that have shattered some of these very communities represented in the simple and colorful library panels.

Locally, nationally and internationally, events have happened that have sparked fierce debates, loud protests and louder condemnations. As if the headlines weren’t enough, a virus that knows no boundaries and has infected every and all communities, cultures and faiths will forever mark 2020.

In these past several months, calls for unity have been part of our everyday life. Songs and speeches, art and poetry, virtual events of all kinds have lifted up the potential of the human spirit not only to combat the virus but also to put us on the same team that will eventually overcome the pandemic.

This call to unity has not made our social and religious and political challenges go away. But the pandemic has given us a chance to look beyond who we are and see others as they are.

How many ways and how often has the phrase “We are all in this together” been used? We are reminded of it everywhere we go, every time we tune in, every event we attend, every ad that touches our senses.

Since that first experience with the window panels, I would love to know how many people on foot, bike, car, bus, skateboard and truck have passed the windows. I don’t know what prompted the display. But a hearty thanks is in order as four sets of two windows are giving us moments to pause and reflect on who we are and that we are part of a larger human family.

Libraries are places to seek wisdom, enlightenment and knowledge. The messages on the front of the Reuben McMillan Free Library speak to various communities and cultures. At first glance, we see four messages. But if we look through the glass and the four phrases, aren’t they really one message for humanity?

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.