The 4th of July makes me crazy nostalgic. Colorful explosions are popping and booming across the valley and I find myself genuinely loving my new home. We have plans to go to the local parade where we’ll salute our flag and honor the veterans who have served our country. If past years are any indication, I’ll be hit with strong patriotic feelings throughout the day.
This year I’m forced to readjust what my idea of America is. I still believe in the land of the free and the home of the brave. A land of choices. But the world can be an ugly place.
Let me correct that.
America can be an ugly place.
Particularly if you’re not white and middle class. You guys, we can’t keep pretending that we don’t have some problems. Because nothing will ever get better if we don’t face our ugly. And it should get better. We can do better. We are better.
Amidst the discouraging national news that seems to just get worse and worse, I still have hope. Let me tell you about the America that I see. The America that I hope for.
We were in Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Overwhelmingly, I saw people–not democrats, not republicans, not black, not white, not Hindu, not Baptist, just people–reaching out to each other, anxious to do what they could to help those around them.
I watched the Cajun Navy roll into town and wept at the coverage of how many countless lives they saved all at their own expense. Local churches worked with each other to provide immediate supplies for displaced people. I couldn’t buy diapers for weeks because the shelves had been picked over by other people who had the same idea I had to donate diapers to the temporary shelters. I had the chance to join with neighbors and strangers who worked happily to gut out homes and clean up after the disaster.
This is the America I see. Amidst all the ugly, it’s there.
I stood in line at the store a few days after Harvey had passed, and the man next to me asked me how we’d done during the storm, genuinely wanting to know if there was anything he could do to help. I’d never met him before, and I never saw him after that encounter. But it didn’t matter. The storm was a unifying experience for those of us who lived through it. Why? Because people are mostly good and they want to help during times of trouble. I believe that.
The lesson I learned from that experience? Maybe I can’t single-handedly bring about change on a national level. But I can be that soft place to land for my family, my friends, my neighbors and my community regardless of how our personal beliefs differ.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
You have space with me.