At the national birthday party in Washington, D.C., on July Fourth the president spoke of Americans who’ve changed the world with positive contributions and praised the millions who’ve served in the military.
I was surprised how much I learned that evening.
It made me think of Col. Walt Kealey, a former Indiana Junior High principal who served in Desert Storm and held yearly programs honoring veterans.
I realized, sitting in that darkened auditorium, that my family served in every war from the American Revolution through Vietnam. Not all of them came home.
During the Vietnam War there were frequent stories in the Gazette of local people who paid the ultimate sacrifice — you can find their names engraved on a wall in downtown Indiana. Gazette editor Carl Kologie said it was heart-breaking, interviewing their families. I struggled reading those articles and often skipped over them. If that was your loved one, forgive me.
On the Fourth, I enjoyed fireworks from the comfort of our deck, treasuring the memory of our youngest on my lap as we watched them together during her growing-up years. That led my thoughts to less fortunate kids I know little about. Topping the list are children of immigrants, some confined in overcrowded detention centers that reek of urine and lack adequate food.
Would I rather not know?
I also haven’t closely followed the unprecedented challenges border agents and border communities face due to what appears to be an unstoppable flood of humanity. It’s easy to criticize them from my easy chair.
All of this seems overwhelming, but America is rooted in faith.
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was played in D.C. on July Fourth, including this verse: “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.”
The challenge of that hymn rings on, as if God is saying don’t shrink from what makes me uncomfortable. That means not turning the page or the channel when I’d rather skip ugly news.
While I’m not called to take on every burden in the world, I can do more.
At least I can pay attention.
Last summer I marched for children separated from their families but heat and chemo don’t mix, so I stayed home yesterday while friends protested some horrendous living conditions of children still isolated from parents.
If we all can make a difference, what’s my part? For one thing, I’m re-posting why I joined other marches from a column last July headlined “I marched for the children”:
I marched because God’s Word commands that I stand up for the oppressed.
I marched against a policy that traumatizes children.
I marched to say we need family-centered ways to respond to people who cross the border illegally,
beginning by defining them by their personhood instead of treating immigrant like a dirty word.
I marched for the shipload of Jews who sought asylum during Hitler’s reign and were denied entrance to America, the land of the free and the brave.
I marched because I believe the tablet at the Statue of Liberty is still America’s most noble response to people seeking a better life: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”
I marched because I didn’t join protesters in the ’60s who demonstrated for civil rights and have always regretted it.
I marched because of the Good Samaritan story. Lutheran pastor Stephen Bond messaged that when we see someone lying by the side of the road who is beaten down by life’s hardships, the question is not what will happen to me if I help, but what will happen to them if I don’t.
I marched because God holds us accountable for what happens to the “least of these.” Jesus, a refugee child, fled to Egypt with his parents.
I marched for the Christ Child, who teaches us deep humility.
Americans have the privilege and right to protest government policies, even when we don’t have all the answers.
I’ve also marched on Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg on behalf of unborn children. How then, can I not protest the living conditions of children in detention centers and remain true to God and myself?
The prophet Micah wrote, “What does the Lord require of you but to love justice, do mercy and walk humbly with your God?”
Justice. Mercy. Humility.
If we begin by striving for humility — not greatness — answers will begin to unfold.
It won’t be easy. It will be costly. But this is America. Fifty summers ago we did the incredible, landing men on the moon.
God shed His grace on thee.
All will be well.