London Postcard: A City of Contrasts

London is at an interesting intersection of two contrasting phenomenon. On the one hand it is the capitol of a nation that has elected to pull out of the European Union and retreat into the womb of sovereignty; on the other, it is a kaleidoscope of ethnic diversity: Anglo, Indian, Middle Easterners, Caribbean Islanders, Eastern Europeans, and Asians. I had conversations with people from Hungry, Romania, Spain, France, the USA, China, and India.

Since March, London has been attacked three times by terrorists and suffered a devastating fire in a high rise housing complex that took dozens of lives–––the deadliest London fire since World War II. Yet the people are out and about enjoying the parks, theaters, stores and restaurants.

Conservatives dominate the UK parliament and are leading the march toward Brexit. But London’s mayor is a liberal, a Muslim man who marched in the city’s Gay Pride Day Parade. This liberal in a nation governed by conservatives is the most popular politician in the United Kingdom. There is hope on the horizon.

The British Open: A Teaching Moment

I had a morning through noon engagement outside of town on the Sunday before my departure, but returned to  London in time to watch the last nine holes of The British Open golf championship in a pub near the train station.

It was nice to hear a room full of British men and women clapping their hands and cheering for two young Americans who were leading the tournament as it made the final turn.

As the two leaders approached the 14th tee, a woman seated next to me in a row of barstools was effusive in her cheering for Jordan Spieth. Why? The 23-year old from Texas had led the tournament through the first three rounds, but faltered badly on this last day and had dropped into a draw. He hit an errant drive on the 13th that flew not only out of the fairway but over the rough, over a hill and onto the downslope that paralleled another hole. On the way to earth the ball hit a spectator who was watching two other golfers, and it ended up in a thicket.

Not only had Spieth lost the lead and fallen into a tie in what many golf fans consider the world’s premier tournament, he now had to take a penalty and hit a blind shot back across the hill. He faced the certain prospect of falling at least one stroke behind and in danger of a complete collapse.

But he didn’t pound his club, cuss and stomp angrily through the crowd in search of the ball. Instead, he walked calmly up the hill, sought out the man who the ball hit and shook his hand. It was a moment of grace from a young man who was looking at a humiliating defeat in front of a worldwide television audience

Emma, the woman to my right, noticed his gesture and she loved it. Many of the men in the pub ridiculed Spieth as a choker, and sarcastically suggested the handshake was the gesture of a loser who wasn’t tough enough under pressure.

He ended up with a bogey and fell one stroke behind with five to play. He had seemingly lost his momentum. But, as if buoyed by Emma’s shouts of encouragement, Spieth proceeded to finish his round with a barrage of incredible golf shots, going birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, and par to win going away. Emma was beyond ecstatic, cheering loudly for his every movement.

When it was over and Jordan Spieth had become the youngest man since 1979 to win the British Open, Emma stood and spoke: “The lesson here, blokes, is that you will be rewarded for good behavior. Good guys definitely can finish first. Jordan got good juju for what he did and the golf angel rode on his shoulder those last five holes.” She had all of us in the pub on our feet laughing and cheering.

I am not sure what “good juju” is, but I would love to have an email address for the golf angel. Maybe I cold get a reservation for her to ride on my shoulder the next time I play a round.

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