Happy Birthday America! There is no denying 2020 has been a tough year in our country. I have personally been trying to educate myself on issues this country is facing from COVID-19, police brutality as well as heroism, and the hurdles specific to Black Americans. To see the divisiveness and hate that is flowing from both sides of all of these issues has been heartbreaking… and then yesterday I saw something that reminded me why I love this country. ABC News’ #AmericaStrong segment shared a video of a young woman singing the national anthem for her virtual graduation and was joined by a complete stranger that happened to be a trained opera singer. If you have not watched it check it out here because it was amazing. The young woman said the moment was symbolic for us as a people to not try to out sing the person next to you but to blend and harmonize with them. To see two people of a different race and gender with a commonality of music and the ability and heart to sing our national anthem in strength and harmony is what we need as a country.
In March what we consider normal changed rather quickly for all of us. We had this unknown virus, that in order to stop it’s spread, world leaders were trying to make decisions on how to keep people safe. The decisions made had huge effects on our economy and therefore the daily lives of people. People lost jobs, took pay cuts, the stock market tanked, and we are still unaware of the long term effects. In the midst of that we saw an instance of police brutality that led to a death of a man. For a moment we had unified as everyone agreed it was heinous, should never have happened, and the culprits should face judgement for their actions. That unity lasted a second as it opened a wound that had obviously been covered up for far too long. There was an outcry against police brutality, specifically against black males, which led to an outcry against systemic racism and many other racially based hurdles Black Americans face. This led to protests in which we saw both ends of the spectrum of behavior from peaceful protests to looting and destruction of property. All of these pieces have created division. Everyone is blaming everyone. I am not here today to share a personal opinion on any of this, although the fact that we have the freedom to have and express our personal opinions is one of the things that makes this country great. I am here to encourage us to not try to sing over one another and to harmonize as we engage to find workable answers to the issues of our 2020 United States of America.
As a country, we are celebrating the fact that we had to fight hard for our independence. We live in a place that was founded on fighting what we feel is right. The constitution was set up to do that in a manner that allowed people to have the freedom of opinion as well as the freedom to feel safe and have the opportunity to prosper. Because we have a country full of imperfect people (that is all of us) we have an imperfect country. My encouragement is for us to do two things as we wrestle with our thoughts, our beliefs and our actions:
1- Base our opinions on facts. If you want to throw your support out there for an organization or a movement that is awesome! But do the research to know what that organization actually stands for. We can google anything and educate ourselves. To really deal with the issues at hand is a process of education from different points of view. These are complicated issues with complicated answers. I have found that real life experience is part of the education process; our life experiences as well as others’.
2- Base our reactions on love. My life philosophy is based on Matthew 22:36-40 in the Bible. To put it simply it is to love God and love others. When we do those two things everything else seems to fall in place. One of the greatest ways to love someone is to listen to them. Hear their experiences and hear their stories. They probably want to hear your story as well. When we react in love that often leads us to act to make a positive difference. What breaks your heart when you see what is going on in our country? Does your heart break for people in nursing homes that can’t see their family for months due to COVID-19 or first responders and health care personnel? Can you do something to brighten their days in your local community? Is there something specific that breaks your heart for people who have felt marginalized due to their race? As a woman who has worked in or with churches and church people for the past 15 years I know how it feels to feel marginalized as well as to be empowered. For me personally, I don’t want to turn my back on the church. I want to educate her as she is the hope of the world! What about you? Where is your heart leading you?
Just as the church is the hope of the world, you and I are the hope of our country being the best she can be. We are the ones who can begin the process of healing – together. As we celebrate our Independence Day my hope is for all of us to be grateful we have the freedom for free thought and expression, we have the right to vote to bring policy change, and we have the freedom to love others well which brings around a change of heart for everyone involved. As the opera singer said about his experience of sharing the national anthem moment, “It is essential for us to raise our voices in empowerment and in love with one another.” Let’s be #AmericaStrong and love each other well.