Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A question we all can ask this Fourth of July

A sweet memory of my kids in front of the U.S. Capitol one summer.
 I sat in a third grade classroom at Medlock Elementary probably stumped by some arithmetic problem, which was usually the case. The intercom box blared on with static, and for a moment, I was glad for a distraction from the drudgery. But the static subsided and we realized we were listening to a radio broadcast. The announcer said in an urgent way, “President Kennedy has been shot. The president has been shot.” The shock of it caused the young students to respond in various ways.  I only remember growing very quiet.
From a child’s perspective, the Kennedy presidency did indeed seem like Camelot. I had a tea set made just like Jackie’s and my mother wore pillbox hats like hers. And so as his death and funeral unfolded over the next few days, the sadness seemed profound.
Though as an adult my historical perspective helps me see some of the illusions of that time,  John F. Kennedy said a few now familiar words that I memorized as a child which will always be  important to me, and I know to many, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Since our country’s birth, more than a million have answered the call to service and giving, as Lincoln said, “the last full measure of devotion.” Nearly three million have been wounded.
Today, many are still putting themselves in harm’s way to defend our country. But though we may not serve in a branch of the military, we too, need to ask what we can do for our country. Its people are hurting, polarized, angry, and sad. Even in our families, we find ourselves at odds with others opinions. Friendships are dissolving because of conflicting political views. One comment can quickly escalate into a shouting match in person or on social media. I have found myself at odds with people very close to me, and remember often my grandmother’s advice to “bite my tongue.” I’ve said here before if I had known how important that piece of wisdom was going to be, I would have had it tattooed on my forehead.
I have a lifelong friend, with whom I have found myself on opposite sides of an important issue. When I was around her, I sensed she was almost scared I would reject her because of it. But God has called us to love unconditionally. He didn’t say only love the people that agree with you. I went to her and said, “Listen, we may be in different places on this thing, but you and I are going on. Let’s not allow this to split us apart.” And it hasn’t. In fact, we may be closer today than we were before.
When someone disagrees with us, we could have a dialogue, instead of flaring and sounding off. We might learn something. We might aim to live loving but perhaps not agreeing on all things.  
I’m trying my best to listen and love every day. Failing often, but getting up and trying again. As we celebrate our nation’s birthday this year, I invite you to join me in this endeavor and let's remember the words President Kennedy spoke at his first inaugural address. Yes, asking what we can do for our country rather than what our country can do for us may take us to a new place entirely.  And let's all continue to pray because really it's the most important thing we can do.

Friends, have a happy Fourth! May God bless America.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).




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