Best of One Ringing Bell: A question we all can ask this Fourth

Again, I'm reaching into the archives this summer and sharing my most viewed posts. This one poses a question we can all ponder this Fourth of July. May your holiday be blessed. This post first ran in 2020. 

My kids in front of the US Capitol where we visited 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. 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 given, as Lincoln said, “the last full measure of devotion.” Nearly three million have been wounded.
Today, many still put 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. In this election year, we again, even in our families, may find ourselves at odds with others' opinions. Conflicting political views may quickly dissolve friendships. One comment can escalate into a shouting match in person or on social media. I have found myself at odds with people 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. We may fail often in that regard, but we still get up and try 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. 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 continue to pray because 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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