Past the parents scurrying after excitable children, in the far recesses of the YMCA basement a solitary figure shoots a basketball, retrieves the miss, sets and fires again. Swish. Dribble, dribble, step, dribble, swish. Dribble, dribble, set, shoot. And so it goes, sweat beading on the brow of the man who continues the exercise while his mind is filled with the burdens of hundreds.




He comes here to stay healthy to be sure, but also to think, relax and ponder.




Dribble, dribble, the single mother who sits toward the back of the morning service on Sundays, seeking relief from the worry that has set into her forehead as if chiseled in stone. Dribble, dribble, the book of Job, a clever joke for an introduction, a string of thoughts organizing themselves in his mind, to be something a bit more meaningful than the traditional three points and poem. Dribble, dribble, shuffle, shoot, more thoughts paired with faces, each someone important, worthy of compassion and care.




On Monday, Pastor Scott Dalgarno will pack his basketball and sneakers and stake out a new gym in his new home of Eugene, preparing to care for a new parish after 11 years as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland. Deciding it was time to consider the next chapter of his life and ministry, he agreed to lead this church in need of just his type of compassionate care for one year.




After that year, he is certain, the next chapter will avail itself to him. Or at least he hopes so, he says with a chuckle.




When he leaves, so will his calm, caring and peaceful demeanor that has touched people of all faiths throughout the city.




When he leaves, the city will lose one of its true spiritual leaders. Dalgarno's ability was a favorite around town, yes certainly of those who attended his church, but also far beyond those walls. He befriended religious leaders of all backgrounds, regardless of race, sex or creed. He involved himself in the community in most everything positive, and somehow, most often avoided the nastiness that can divides us.




Dalgarno's care for the community went far beyond his own church pews. His was not a ministry of foresaking the world in hopeful expectation of heavenly glory, but a personal, hands-on faith expressed through a look of concern, a touch of compassion, a gift of assistance, an expression of grace, and most often, an ear to listen.




Dalgarno's wisdom and compassion were readily available in his column on the Saturday Faith Page of this newspaper, something he plans to continue. But for those who know him, and they are many, he will be greatly missed.




We wish him well and this is certain. On Monday, Eugene will become just a little bit better place, just as Ashland is better having had Scott as one of us these past 11 years.