For Such A Time As This...
Too many coincidences. I'd swear someone wrote this in a script. Not a classical novelist, equipped with subtle brilliance, but a screenwriter for a made-for-tv movie.
The first African-American president gets sworn into office the day after MLK Day which celebrated what would have been the 80th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. The Democratic Convention when Obama received the nomination falls on the 45th anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech. You couldn't have orchestrated all this if you tried. Kind of makes you believe some force out there is pulling all the strings.
I stood in the kitchen cleaning up dishes yesterday (my dear wife confirms this in her beautifully written blog here
and listening to NPR commentary and interviews about MLK's historic speech. I heard news accounts of Obama's day of service and of all these people and organizations performing community service. I wish I were among them. I've been making too many excuses.
I found myself emotional. Nearly moved to tears at one moment, not in response to a speech or a recording or anything particular, but because of something that by it's nature does not yet exist.
This thing welling up seemed a little desperate, not a little fearful and definitely profound. It's a bad time. This seems to be one of those pivotal moments in history. We may be at the beginning of THE END, or the beginning of THE CHANGE. People are hurting. Here and abroad. The worst is still to come. I feel somewhat guilty that our little family is pretty much untouched by the difficulties around us. I saw the malls relatively empty at Christmas. I've seen the stores close. I've been in restaurants and markets and seen significant numbers of people wanting job applications rather than menus. I know people who have lost jobs or who go to work each day wondering when they might lose their job. I know people who have lost their health insurance. I know people struggling with debt. I have friends and family members who have served in the wars we are fighting. And although I haven't lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, I know those who have.
I'm amazed that in this country of jaded cynics, people seem to be desperately leaping to embrace this man who offers a message of hope. I would like to join them, but I'm wary.
Don't get me wrong. I supported Obama from early on although I live in a part of the country that did not and my extended families do not. Lisa and I are something of black sheeps. We made contributions. We had a sign in our yard. But I don't consider myself a part of the Obama-worshippers. I want a transformative leader for president, but I think I'm pretty healthily cynical about politics. That's the realm where both my career and education have been focused. My expectations of wrong have been exceeded far more times than my expectations for good. But like many others, I want someone to believe in. I want someone who really will lead.
I don't doubt him. I doubt us. I wonder if we have the strength within us to really change as a people. I remember sitting on the living room sofa watching tv shortly after 9/11. If you remember, for a long time there were no commercials on during much of the coverage. We were watching a memorial for fallen firefighters and after a poignant moment, the coverage broke away to commercial. The tv shifted from a scene of strong brave men weeping for a fallen comrade to "WANT TO LOSE THAT UNWANTED FLAB WITHOUT DIET AND EXERCISE??!!!" I turned to Lisa and said "we're doomed."
I don't have much faith in my fellow Americans and especially not in my fellow Tennesseans. We seem to lead the way in obesity, waste, irresponsibility, bankruptcy, divorce... you name it. If it's bad, we're excelling at it. I'd like to be able to say I believe these people will rise up and transform themselves, transform our communities, our nation and our world.
Unlike the last 8 years, I don't doubt whether our leaders can lead, I doubt whether we can follow. And I really mean "we." I've been disappointed in myself a lot lately. I haven't done what I could in so many areas of my life. I wish I failed in bigger ways. It might move me more to change. Instead, I fail regularly by falling well short of where I could have been, by habitually settling for less.
So somewhere, I need to find faith in myself and then in you, whoever you are. We've been given someone willing to lead. Are we willing to follow?