Not all about me

An elderly, immaculately dressed couple, who introduced themselves as Peter and Mary, approached me between the two services at my church last Sunday. They were visiting for the first time, and asked if we would be singing “For All the Saints” at the second service. The church closer to their home had eliminated it in favor of a newly commissioned hymn marking their centenary. “It’s my favorite hymn,” Peter said.  “It always brings a tear to my eye to think of all those who have gone before me, and I didn’t want to miss it, particularly the Ralph Vaughn Williams’ arrangement.” 

“For All the Saints” is not my favorite hymn.  Its lyrics reflect Victorian theology, and like a too-well-loved toy, the Williams tune has worn itself out through endless repetition. We had sung it at the first service, but now I was glad we were repeating it.  Not for the first time, God had shown her sense of humor in sending Peter and Mary, reminding me that it’s not all about my needs and wants.

Which brings me to Donald Trump’s election.  The character defects that Mr. Trump displayed during the campaign will bring risk and danger to his presidency.  But I know people, like my business partner George, who believes Trump’s election shows that our democracy still works.  George works part of our family farm in Missouri.  Not having a shred of mechanical ability myself, I admire George’s ability to fix anything.  He’s deeply patriotic, and the best neighbor I know.  In the many years we’ve known each other, George and I have never talked politics; some of what I see on his Facebook feed makes me cringe, and I’m 100% sure he voted for Trump.  But if there’s a silver lining to this election, it will be knowing that George feels heard, because he also wants what is best for our country.

I also know people who need comfort.  This morning, I called Issam to see how he was doing.  Issam and his family fled Syria for the United States four years ago.  He was previously on the faculty of the music conservatory in Damascus, and he shows genius when he plays the classical music of the Middle East.  Issam didn’t want to comment about the election, but he said that he wished the best for everyone in this country, and for all countries.  There are many people in our country who have been deeply frightened by Donald Trump. I talked with Issam about checks and balances in our system that will make it hard for Trump to carry out his threats against immigrants and Syrians. 

Abraham Lincoln, also inaugurated during a time of deep divide, ended his first inaugural address with these words: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

In the coming days, I will be reaching out as best I can to those who voted the way I did and those who didn’t, keeping Lincoln’s words in mind, praying that wisdom and grace descend on us, and hoping that the better angels of our nature guide our path.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jane Gilgun

    Well-written, Steve. The thing is, somehow the wonderful words of Lincoln did not heal our country. The rifts we had then are still with us. Arlie Hochschild has a new book where she gives many example of people with anti-human rights views become more open when the person they talked to sought to understand their perspectives. Here are a few quotes from the review.

    “One key issue is that people want to feel heard before they can open their minds to other people’s points of view.”

    “People don’t want to be immediately dismissed because they might have a view that you consider wrong or even vile; they want to feel heard. And once that happens, it’s a lot easier for them to make mental space to understand other people’s problems.”

  2. 2Qtrs

    I’m glad that ‘George’ feels that his voice was heard but I can tell you that the people who put Clinton ahead by over a million in the popular vote feel that their voices were not heard. I agree that we need to find a way to calm tensions and to work together going forward but this election, more than any other, highlights the dysfunction in our system.

    We need to accept what is too late to change in this election cycle but we need to stay engaged and do what we can to support abolishment of the electoral college. This is not the first time the presidency has been swung in favor of someone who was not voted in by mandate. When it only works for one party there is obviously something innately undemocratic about it.

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