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Editor’s Note: Evanston Essays is an ongoing series highlighting people’s thoughts, memories and opinions of Evanston. If you’d have an essay of about 500-600 words you’d like to share, please send it to susy@evanstonroundtable.com.

Our lives have been enriched in the most unimaginable ways because of the City of Evanston.

My wife and I first visited Evanston nearly 20 years ago when the Second Baptist Church was looking for a senior pastor.

Credit: Graphic by Jasper Davidoff

Upon our arrival we did all the things families do who are thinking about moving to a new location. Our twin sons were 10th graders. So we visited Evanston Township High School.

Both boys fell in love with the school and were awed by its size. There was a fire drill that occurred that day and the twins had a chance to see “all” the students as they made their way outdoors.

We had a daughter who was just completing kindergarten. So we learned about District 65 and also visited Chiaravalle, since she was in a Montessori school in Michigan.

We walked around the downtown area. One morning I jogged along the lake.

Rev. Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors Credit: NAACP Evanston/North Shore Branch

We were impressed with everything, and especially the members and officers of Second Baptist. We visited with a Realtor and looked at one or two homes.

As destiny would unfold, we did not move into Evanston in 2003. That would not happen for another 12 years, when Second Baptist once again announced a search for a senior pastor.

Our sons were now in their 20s, our daughter was a senior in high school, and we had two younger children.

There were powerful confirmations in our very spirit at the time that Evanston would be our home. I don’t use the word destiny lightly. But please consider these events:

1) Our daughter was going into her senior year at Bloomfield Hills High School in Michigan and was not at all excited about the idea of moving. An active forensics student, her team had a tournament booked in January in Buffalo Grove.

In a snowstorm, I drove her over to compete. She met the coach of ETHS’ team and many of their students who were also competing. From that moment, she shifted her attitude (somewhat) regarding the move.

She would go on to compete on the ETHS debate and public speaking team in her senior year. She is now a third-year Ph.D. student at Northwestern and is a coach on the ETHS debate and public speaking team.

2) Our youngest daughter was going into first grade and had been in Montessori school during her pre-K years.

We revisited Chiaravalle and the admissions director said something out of the blue, “I remember you from a dozen years ago when you visited with an older child.” The youngest child is now an eighth grader at Chiaravalle and preparing for ETHS next year.

3) Our son was going into seventh grade and had the most difficult time with the move. Naturally, he did not want to leave his friends and the comfort zone he had in Michigan. He graduated from ETHS in May. During his senior year he belonged to several clubs and was team chaplain of the varsity football team. He is now a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

4) Sydni Craig’s (my wife) employer found an opening with the company in the metro Chicago area, making the move much easier. She has since become very active and engaged with Evanston and North Shore groups like Jack and Jill, the AKA Delta Chi Omega Chapter and Links North Shore Chapter.

5) In a short period of time I was asked to run for president of the Evanston/North Shore NAACP. Later I was also asked to serve on several local boards: St. Francis Community Leadership, North Shore Evanston Community Advisory, McGaw YMCA, Northlight Theatre Advisory Council and Shedd Aquarium.

6) We were looking for a place to live for the first year. This would give us time to go house hunting for a permanent home. One day a retired professor was walking by the front of Second Baptist on Benson and introduced himself. He wanted to know if I was the new pastor. He invited me to his home to meet his wife. They lived on Davis Street between Wesley and Ashland avenues. They were looking for someone to rent their home to, as they were taking a sabbatical in France for a year. We had a home for the first year.

7) A year later my wife and I were at a very large luncheon. We were at a table engaged in small talk. Part of the dialogue included our search to purchase a home, and soon. Someone heard us talking. They walked to the other side of the large ballroom and heard a couple talking about their need to sell their home, and soon, before the luncheon ended, we were introduced. In less than a month, we had purchased our home.

8) Finally, somewhere between 2003 and 2015 I learned that my maternal great-grandparents (my mother’s grandmother and her husband) lived in Evanston for more than half a century. Both are buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens.

After my mother’s death in 2004 we found a treasure trove of letters written from 1747 Grey Ave., starting in the 1930s.

For me, this is the richest and most powerful asset of the city: the unlimited potential here, found in the vast resources and network of the residents.

I dare not believe that such good fortune happens once or with just one family. In Evanston, there is a remarkable willingness and desire to help, aid and assist others.

There is an intersectionality of mutual, compensatory goodwill that permeates the atmosphere. I believe most Evanston residents are ready and willing to help others. This does not mean our town is perfect. It is not. But then, no town is.

  • There are shortcomings everywhere and real issues abound.
  • Housing costs are hurting most people who are not in a certain economic range.
  • Academic disparities abound between white students and Black/brown students.
  • The wealth gap is egregious.
  • Racism still exists.
  • So, too, does anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia.

Yet I would rather be in Evanston fighting against these social ills and sins than anywhere else.

Because I am convinced that if any place on earth has the ability to exist as a Beloved Community, where all residents are treated equally and equitably, it is this rather tiny hamlet on the side of Lake Michigan, upon the grounds of the Potawatomi.

We have nothing less than an army of advocates – Black, white, brown, yellow, women, men, rich, poor, east of Sheridan, west of Ridge – who are working together to move us all forward.

I’m just proud to be in the number. It took 12 years for my family to get here, but it was well worth the wait.

These are some of the reasons I love Evanston. And really, I guess I would have to also call it destiny.

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  1. Well said, Pastor, about passages of time. It took me 30 years to get back to Evanston — 20 years ago — and it still feels sometimes like Old Home Week.

  2. I was born here 66 years ago in st Francis and I agree with you rev we have a base for real change but only if we get on with the show and less time believing our own commercial