“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” – (The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, revised, 1954)
I’ve probably said this before, but I seriously love every opportunity I’m given to share my life and my passion via invitations to speak. Irrespective of the venue – keynoting a conference or retreat, sharing the message at a church, lunch or dinner speaker, leading a seminar or workshop, doing a radio interview, teaching a class – I always enjoy the unique exchange that happens when there’s a live audience in play.
Yesterday I drove round and beyond the south side of Raleigh (it was a beautiful drive) to speak at a “senior luncheon” that brings together retirees from several rural churches. The fellowship hall was full of good people, the food was wonderful, and the atmosphere was warm and inviting.
My topic was a mixture of “How I got to be an American” and “Why I love America.” Then, as I got to know the audience, and gauge their response, it became a little more, “How and why I have fallen in love with North Carolina.”
They were a very gracious audience, and surprised me with several outbursts of applause – which is always extremely gratifying to a speaker. And that nudged me toward what turned out to be the big applause line, a thought I hadn’t prepared ahead of time, but simply presented itself to me at the right moment.
“I want you to know I’m not being political,” I said (which I’m not sure was one hundred percent true!) – “but, having lived here now for three and a half years, I’ve got to say that nobody needs to make North Carolina great again – because you most undoubtedly already are!”
Like I said, BIG applause line, HUGE.
Of course I went on to say that there’s not a single one of us, let alone a state, that wouldn’t benefit from some improvement. Because we’re all moving forward, we’re all on a journey, we’re all better when we accept the proposition that we are works in progress, and that God hasn’t nearly finished with us yet.
But at the same time we need to celebrate the goodness, and the faithfulness, and the hard work of so many Americans, and to embrace the foundational understanding that we are a free people, and that our freedom necessarily involves commensurate responsibility.
They are so many good, fine, already-making-American-great folk out there, and it was a great privilege for me to be in a church hall that was full of them, and to share from my heart.
Our Common Heart:
I believe that all these restrictive and constrictive labels – “conservative,” “liberal,” “progressive,” “reactionary,” etc., labels so glibly applied to whole groups of people – say very little about our hearts, our dreams, and our common love for living life in freedom and joy.
Yesterday I hung out with good, freedom-loving, faith-filled people from rural North Carolina; this evening I’m going to be with a couple of hundred good, freedom-loving, faith-filled folk from Wake Forest; on another day I may be hanging with some good, freedom-loving, faith-filled social activists from the inner city.
The point is we are a great nation, filled with millions of people from a variety of disparate ideological frames of reference. But we all want more progress toward the realization of “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” and it doesn’t do any good to label any of us anything other than freedom-loving, faith-filled, and good.
So that’s what I learned yesterday lunch time, and it’s something I pray more of us learn… instead of constantly tearing one another apart.
In love, because of love, and in the truth of promise – DEREK