“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Okay, so I borrowed that first line. But it was. And it is. Some things are universal. History repeats itself. Over and over.
In the last six weeks our country has lived through Charlottesville, Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Hurricanes are natural disasters beyond our control. The events that unfolded in Charlottesville were not.
In natural disasters, our country pulls together. Neighbor helping neighbor – good Samaritans bringing boats to rescue the stranded from flooded homes, restaurateurs cooking thousands of meals for the suddenly homeless, neighbors offering dry homes and power for friends in other areas, churches rallying to help those within and outside their church walls.
But in equally disastrous situations not brought about by nature, a different story of a seemingly different country is told. Not a Tale of Two Cities, but a Tale of Two Countries. A country divided against itself. A country where for the first time since Germany during World War II people marched with the Nazi flag, vociferously shouting anti-Semitic slogans.
There are no white hoods covering faces in shame as in days of old in the US during equally racist gatherings. Oh no, these marchers are proud of their rallying cry, willing for all the world to see who they are and what they stand for. They are young. They are naive. And they have no clue of history.
“I may be a Nazi,” said one young man after being called out on social media, “but I would never hurt anyone.” WHAT? A Nazi who doesn’t hurt anyone? Who was this guy’s history teacher, and yes, they were all guys. White guys to be precise.
I find it singularly interesting and disheartening that the majority of WWII veterans were dead before this disturbing behavior manifested itself in a new generation. As if the generation older than their grandparents had to be unable to witness such an atrocity before even they could partake in it.
“It was the season of light; it was the season of darkness.”
Yes it was. And yes it is. There is a challenge for those of us witnessing and living in this one country divided in two – one where people care not about the color of their sister’s skin or their brother’s religion – and another that is painfully divided along racial, ethnic, and religious lines.
The challenge of not allowing ourselves to be engulfed, consumed by the darkness that is all around us. The challenge of not letting the very hate we so abhor enter our own hearts for those we see chanting slogans and carrying torches. The challenge of being a bearer of light no matter what.
In reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson once said, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Yes, it is. And the candles of hope, of love, of light are all around us even in the most difficult of times, especially in the most difficult of times.
In all catastrophes, both natural and man-made, we can look for the helpers. They are there without fail – those who risk their lives to run into burning buildings, to pull a person from their car that has been engulfed in high flood waters, to airlift a woman and child to safety in hurricane force winds, to hold hands and peacefully march in prayer during the shouting of heinous racial slurs and the brandishing of weapons.
We become what we focus most on. With God’s help, let us focus on the best in us, the light that is in us and all around us. Let us find our own candle to light. Today. Right now.
Where is yours?