One of the big circles in my life is in the process of closing
After forty years of travelling the world, I find myself back in the place where I grew up. Part of that journey has been physical and part has been spiritual. The physical part includes travelling and visiting over 650 cities, towns and place names on a map. My journal attests to the amount of miles my body has endured to an extent. Frankly, I have no idea how many miles in the air or on (and under) the sea I have gone. I only know that after all that time, I found myself this morning back in the pew of a small church I sat in right before I left so many years ago.
The sanctuary is the “New” sanctuary (meaning that it was added in the nineteen seventies). The old sanctuary was torn down years ago but pieces of it remain in the rebuilt structure. The pew where my family sat is in the chapel now as are the old pews occupied by so many families who are either dead or have long since moved away in many cases. The old alter is there as well and when I sit in there I can feel the spirits of the “Saints” that have gone before. (Hebrews 12 1-2 for the full reference).
I’m connected to the new sanctuary as well. I have sung with a choir and alone, given a message or two along the way, and one fine Saturday in late August of 1980 walked up the center aisle to stand next to the most beautiful blonde I could have ever asked to stand beside and joined her in marriage. Through the years, we’ve come back for short visits and slowly watched the people from the old days slowly disappear. One by one, they left for their great reward and there was a hole left in the pews.
The hardest day of all was saying goodbye to Dad on that day in May of ‘93. They held delayed burying him until I could make it home from sea. The casket was open in the church parlor and I slipped in a ball cap from the USS Hunley before we closed the lid for the last time. Dad had lived long enough for me overcome my biggest challenge and I wanted him to have one last Navy hat for his journey home.
Sitting in the pew this morning next to my Mom I was struck with how rich we were when I was a kid.
Not money rich. I grew up in hand me down clothes from my older brother. We travelled many roads in an old station wagon that had no air conditioning. Come to think of it, the house wasn’t air conditioned either (at least not until I left for the Navy). We lived five miles from a country club but never belonged to it. I shared a room with three brothers. But we never really wanted for anything.
We were rich in ways that meant so much more. We watched the moon landing on a black and white TV but the important thing was that we watched it as a family. Our social lives revolved around church and the community. We learned about discipline from the Boy Scouts and neighborhood leaders who took the time to teach us. Our schools were not easy but I can still use much of what was taught us.
Not only did we have black and white TV’s, we also had faith, focus and families. Our churches were full and extra chairs had to be brought in for the big holidays. We honored our elders and would never think about showing them a lack of respect. You were expected to be on time to the dinner table or you didn’t get fed. I never knew there was such a thing as a TV tray until I was long gone from home.
We had parents who loved us and took care of us even when we were bad. We had neighbors who volunteered to teach us and lead us in the midst of some trying times. We had aunts and uncles who took responsibility to give their time, talents, and tithes to see to it we got a good spiritual foundation. They were selfless and dedicated to nurturing us. Here’s the rub: No government on earth could have forced them to be that giving. Frankly, no government on earth did.
What the heck happened to that life?
I suppose you can blame it on the baby boomers if you really want to but its probably more complicated than that. Its really about unfettered freedom.
Advances in communication, transportation, and our ability to process information all play a role in the changes. Radio led to TV which eventually led to the internet. It has become so much easier for us to share our new found freedoms we are blessed with methods that also curse us. Today I can travel to almost any corner of the world in speeds unthought-of in previous generations. While the methods have become hyperlinked, our brains didn’t have much time to keep up.
Neither have our moral compasses.
There’s nothing really wrong with freedom as long as its coupled with an understanding that there are responsibilities tied to those freedoms. Unfettered freedom means that you can chose to do anything you want and not have to worry about the consequences. They will still come, you just no longer care. They become someone else’s responsibility. That’s the part that those silly children in “Occupy Someone Else’s Stuff” have failed to grasp.
I have some hope though. With the rise of new leadership, we may just claw our way out of this mess. As more and more of the bills become due, there is a better chance now that we will get a real opportunity to have a rebirth. It will take some work, but I have faith in the real American spirit. Its not too late to take some advice from the people who built this country and brought it to greatness. Here are some thoughts:
- Let’s remind our leadership that they are sent to Washington and our local centers of government to serve us not to dictate to us. We all want clean air, water and energy, but guys like Edison, Ford, so many other great innovators never worked for the government a day in their lives. Come to think of it, the only really truly innovative thing the government has ever created was nuclear power (and the jury is still out on that achievement).
- As much as I like the space program, unless it has a defense reason, I am actually okay with us taking the time for a creative market based solution that will someday bring us back to the possibilities.
- The wars on poverty and drugs are not working. Both have become rat holes into which we through endless amounts of money and keep people in abject slavery.
- The agencies of government that were started so many years ago for seemingly good ideas need a restart. Shut them all down, thanks them for their service, send everyone on their way and start all over. They have failed to sustain the dream of America and serve nothing more now than to throttle down on progress and add waste to every part of our lives. Think of all the money we would save if they were gone.
Maybe when we quit wasting so much time and energy on huge government programs that don’t work, we can find our way back to a place where we can rebuild families. Rebuilding families without the burden of a historically over-reaching tax burden may just be possible. I am willing to bet that any leader who truly believes that and is willing to reign in this out of control government has a fairly decent chance of getting elected this time. The real trick will be for them to lead once they are.
That will be a refreshing change in color or in black and white.