Wednesday, June 13, 2007

He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother

The morning after a homestay, good or bad, seems to have an almost palpable buzz of excitement. The boys often come back with stories, phone numbers and also a remembrance of the city they stayed in. This morning in Kansas City was no different. They came from many homes, some with only one other, some came in a large group. Although they enjoy the stay, all of them are glad to return to the fold.

At the start of 20th century, the Kansas City Terminal Railway Company decided that they needed a new location due to flooding problems. They chose an architect named Jarvis Hunt, a proponent of the city beautiful program to design the structure. The Beaux Arts Station opened in 1914 as the thrid largest train station in the country. There are 3 gigantic chandeliers, a 95 foot ceiling and the main clock has a six foot diameter face. Passenger rail service peaked in 1945 and declined thereafter until the station essentially closed in 1985 after commuter service was withdrawn. In 1996 a bistate tax was levied to subsidize half of the 500 million dollar renovation which was completed in 1999. It is now a beautiful reminder of yesteryear along with an Imax theatre, Science City, planetarium and the Irish Cultural Center Museum. They also have a passageway to excellent shopping and restaurants. We were fortunate enough to sing in the Great Hall with risers and keyboard and to hear the wonderful echoes of yesterday and today. You could almost hear the loud train whistles from locomotives of a bygone era. Several boys and the director of the Kansas City Boys Choir came to see us perform. The boys took to them immediately. We then had lunch at the station, most of the boys shopped, a good percentage of them watched the 3-D Dinosaur movie and generally stretched their legs before getting back on the bus to head to our dinner at Sterling Acres Baptist Church.

We unloaded and changed for the concert after a dinner provided to us by the mothers of some of the boys in the choir. We went to Community Christian Church in the Plaza in Kansas City. Though the crowd was sparse, we loved hearing their choir. They are significantly smaller than us, but no less enthusiastic and remarkably talented. Most of the music their director, Ah'Lee Robinson, has written and arranged. Their style draws from gospel, R & B, spiritual and soul. Their is a sister girls choir, but they rarely perform together. He helps them train, but as an african-american leader, he also helps to mold them into strong male role models in a community which lacks for them. At the conclusion of the concert, the two choirs combined to sing, 'He Ain't Heavy, He's my brother', which was as moving for its message as for its beauty.

After the concert, the boys went to a sleep-over/lock-in at the Baptist Church where they played basketball, ran around and talked with the boys from KCBC. They all seemed to genuinely enjoy the opportunity to share with each other. Hopefully, friendships and kinships can be formed which will last a lifetime.

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