I know I haven’t written for a while. I have been reacquainting myself with America; a process that does not lend itself naturally to a pen and paper. Smells and sounds; my land, my people – my desert. We all have our ideas of home nestled deeply within our consciousness, whether we like to admit it or not. Like a beacon they call to us, at first faintly but with increasing insistence as time eats away our outer shells; layers of rebellion and ambition slowly wearing thin, cracking before they are discarded. They did not prove to be lasting. Our true selves are always under there, beneath the painfully painted veneers of who we pretended to be, who we wished we were, what we thought was our birthright. Passing flights of fancy all.
I went to a memorial service the other day. An old friend who I had not contemplated for years – and who probably would not remember me even if he’d been able to greet me at his farewell. There I sat in the auditorium at the front of which I had stood as a child, missionaries on furlough – painted faces on parade. But that was then, this time I was anonymous, unpainted. One of three hundred who had come to offer gratitude in exchange for a life lived in honor. Two hours to repay a lifetime of dignity and sacrifice and faith. Yes, faith. It was a deeply Christian event – though the people there were from all walks of life. Some doctors and some ministers, some janitors and others teachers – together to remember a young man of substance.
What struck me was the goodness of it all – the wholesomeness of the relationships; the discipline of the commitments; the rectitude of lives lived facing outward and upward. Not inward, not self-seeking and certainly not self-dealing. People confronting their joy and their pain; their loss and their rewards with a sense of composure and joy – even at that saddest occasion.
I found myself wishing that the unpretentious event could have been live-streamed across the country; that the simple healing of a family and friends gathered to mourn their private loss could be taken as an example to the rest of the country of how to deal with adversity and where our eyes should be focused anyways. Because isn’t that what America is about? And isn’t that what Christianity has always been about?
As you can probably tell, I am currently in one of the flyover states. Despite what many would have you believe, they are not hateful places. They are not places of ignorance and darkness and envy. In fact – that is the one emotion I have not sensed, not once, despite the fact that flyover America must work harder for less – places where opportunity is earned, not bequeathed and where money is not freely redistributed because people here know its value and where it comes from. It’s ironic to me that those who talk so much about redistribution and inequality have so much more themselves; and yet still seem to resent those who have less. Could it be that it is not wealth that they really want redistributed, but peace and fulfillment, and joy?
The monsoons are upon us, and so I must go; the rains cleanse and refresh and I will not miss them. But as I put down my pen I do so with a renewed sense of, well I guess the only word is spirit. My departed friend returned that to me – a last gift before he went on his way, to a stranger he probably did not remember. For you, who are reading this – I admonish you, look to the flyover states; and look to yourselves. Have the courage to light your own beacons and then allow them to lead you to that place where you too nestle your own ideas of home.