Last night Claire sat perched on the kitchen counter as I whipped up some Friday night pizza, and asked me to tell her about my experience on September 11th when it actually happened all those years ago. It was sobering to sit and discuss all the emotion and deep sadness wrapped up in that day, and I was glad for Claire’s eager questions, her eyes filled with concern.
May we never forget.
Each year I’m so grateful that there is so much that swirls around the news and social media to remind us. And to honor those who lost their lives. Because I believe one of the most important and empowering things our minds and hearts can do is remember.
This year I pondered a little extra on how our country came together after that awful day.
How we rallied.
How everyone reached outside of themselves to unite and become stronger.
We were faced with something new that knocked us to our knees. Yet it didn’t render us bitter and judgmental. Instead it made us dig deep for more love and compassion than ever before. And it was beautiful to sit with Claire last night and remember how that felt. The American flags proudly displayed in what seemed like even the most obscure corners, the love spilled out for those lost and for our neighbors, friends and family as we were reminded not to take each other and the relationships right in front of us for granted.
How I miss that feeling in America right now! We are in such upheaval and isolation at a time when we need to bond together like never before. We cannot rally together in person, but we sure can in heart and mind!
A couple days ago a friend sent me a link from a talk from President Hinckley (a former prophet from our church) and as I listened I teared up thinking about how much we have to gain from one another (the talk is HERE). It seemed to me to be almost a rebuttal to some really negative articles about our country I had read recently. This talk was given nearly fifty years ago, yet it had so many gems of wisdom that hit just as close to home now as they did back then. Some of my favorite parts:
I come this morning with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey and blossoms. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated.
What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.
He goes on to talk about America:
There is too much fruitless, carping criticism of America. Perhaps the times are dark. There have been dark days in every nation. I should like to repeat the words of Winston Churchill…he had said to his people and to the whole world, following the catastrophe at Dunkirk when the prophets of doom foretold the end of Britain:
We shall not flag or fail. . . . We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. [Speech on Dunkirk, House of Commons, 4 June 1940]
It was such talk as this, and not the critical faultfinding of glib cynics, that preserved the great people of Britain through those dark and deadly days when all the world thought their little island would go under.
It shall be so with America if we will do less speaking of her weaknesses and more of her goodness and strength and capacity.
I know there is so much going on in this country of ours. So many difficult things that seem impossible to maneuver, and that naturally cause hearts to heave and cause us to look for blame and retaliation. To lash out at one another. This is a part of human nature. But if we are not careful to keep ourselves in check and to soften our hearts, we will find ourselves gliding easily down the road to implosion rather than what, in fact, is most needed…common decency. Pointing fingers at one another and waging war across parties and races only creates more ashes.
One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite books Just Mercy:
An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and—perhaps—we all need some measure of unmerited grace.
I want to challenge us all to work a little harder to be part of the solution rather than the problem. To give each other that sometimes seemingly unmerited grace. To strengthen the feeble knees. To mourn with those who mourn. Even the ones who think vastly differently than we do. Even the ones who lash out at us in anger and could be perceived as our “enemies.” We must learn to soften our hearts. To look for the good in our neighbors, to accentuate the beautiful things rather than pulling each other down.
Oh, it’s not as easy as that, I know. There is a lot to work through. Layers upon layers.
But we have to start somewhere.
And why not start with ourselves?
Each one of us can try to be more like those “selves” of ours who did our part to hold together a nation, bit by bit, all those years ago when those planes hit those buildings and changed our nation combining sorrow and strength. May we remember the greatest strength we have is when we band together, freely handing out unmerited grace.