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In our time, how and what we choose to do makes all the difference

Returning to four-foot snow banks and driving home from the airport Dec. 27 after being away two weeks, I hoped my neighbors had been taking care of my place.

I was almost certain that they had.  Ever since we moved into our south-side home 33 years ago, we have been part of a neighborhood where neighbors looked out for each other.  In our new home less than a month, our neighbors dug us out of an early snowstorm while we were gone for Thanksgiving.  Since then, I have been among neighbors making it a practice to snowblow driveways, mow lawns and do other small favors for each other, and for elderly and less able residents on our street.

It was no surprise—though no less welcome—when we pulled onto our street and saw our driveway and walk clear.

What goes around comes around.

It made me reflect on the convergence of historical events in January and their relationship to our American heritage and Christian service.

Deep in the heart of this harsh, record-setting winter, in the heart of a harsher financial storm, it would be easy to give in to despair, and simply hunker down and let nature take its course, let those who can’t fend for themselves fall by the wayside and just take care of ourselves. 

Another notion keeps nudging me in a different direction.  I think about words I read years ago in the first Federalist Paper, words by Alexander Hamilton at a time of greater crisis, when the existence of this nation was at stake.  He wrote:

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

When I read and reread these words, I realize Hamilton, like Jesus, was able to tap into a set of essential truths that are as valid today as they were then. 

Our fate and our future do not have to be determined by accident or force.  We still have the opportunity and capacity to determine what tomorrow may bring.  As we consider the message of change our new President hopes to introduce, we must remember it is not a change in our essential nature or purpose, but a change back into honoring who we are and where we came from. 

Some of that change can be seen in the fact that a bit of the promise the Rev. Martin Luther King saw from that mountaintop he was not permitted to cross has borne fruit—an African-American/Anglo is President! 

It is a result of choices made by people of conviction, courage and hope not only in the last election but through the history of this nation’s struggle against the crimes of slavery, segregation and racial bigotry.

That promise and choice are acted out and reflected in the world-changing actions of giants at the national and universal level.  It is clearly and personally acted out in day-to-day actions of neighbors and friends deciding to choose good instead of evil, action instead of surrender, hope instead of despair. 

Just as my neighbors choose to go into the storm to help each other make it through another winter, we are asked to do the same with each other, as Jesus asked us to do 2,000 years ago:  To feed the hungry, to comfort the sick, to visit those in prison, to clothe the naked, to do all of these for the least of those we meet, for we each, rich and poor, black and white and all hues of the rainbow, are beautiful in God’s eyes.

As I consider the bleak forecast for the winter, as I watch the grim financial forecasts on the TV screen, as I look at horrifying images of people in war’s way, I think of my neighbors coming together to do a small favor for me.  I remember how often and well we as a nation, as a people and as a community have come together so many times for ourselves and others.  I realize the lofty words of Hamilton, King and Jesus are not brought to life only on the great stage of history, but also in our own hearts and neighborhoods by our choices.

The nation’s founders, though far from perfect, wrought better than they knew.  Perhaps their greatest gift to us was the realization that no nation, people or person has to be trapped by history.  We can change. 

Now, as we listen to the challenges that confront us, as we reflect on the words of Jesus, Hamilton, King, now Barack Obama and all the great leaders who choose hope and change rather than surrender to despair and the status quo, let us remember that now, in our time, it is how and what we choose that will make all the difference. 

Steve Blewett - Fig Tree Board Member


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