Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream Waters

Fort Chapman celebrates.

From encounters with con men selling cars, to cancelled health insurance, to crooks in the business world, to well-meaning people who simply let one down, I've been reminded this week that life is not always a cabaret, old chum.

But in the midst of it all, I find moments of almost heartbreaking beauty. Last night, as I sat on my patio in the cool of the evening, pondering the vagaries of life in the modern world, a hummingbird cruised the nearby agapanthus and then hovered in mid-air, just beyond my reach, apparently trying to decide if my rose-and-green sundress had any potential for sweetness. You have to store up moments like that.

Good luck is like the whimsy of a hummingbird. Incomprehensible, transient, mysterious. On this Fourth of July that seems even more true than usual here in the Land of the Free. America is one giant cauldron of messy government and yet, still, a jackpot of good luck for anyone with a scintilla of sense. You can start from way behind and catch up. Working hard helps.

I was reminded of this when I happened to encounter a man who came to America from Somalia. Somalia--the land of the teenage, khat-chewing pirate. Somalia--where kids still die of malnutrition. This man was working in a not-so-easy job. But he was happy to be doing it and living in San Jose, California. "Thugs are running my homeland," he said. "But not so here in America."

He's right, of course: though there are lots of thugs who are always hoping to give it a try. I've spent some of my life trying to expose those thugs and some of my life trying to give them a wide berth. Either way, I keep in mind what the Quakers say: he who commits the evil is to be pitied. He damages his soul, not yours.

And the ideal of what we have is such an engine for good. The ideal continues to bring people to our door by the millions. So remarkable is our story that people who speak a hundred different languages know about the American dream in little villages all over the planet and wish to join in.

So that's what we celebrate on this Fourth. "It's a Republic. If you can keep it," said Benjamin Franklin as he left the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

The upsides are many. I've met an awful lot of really good people in my life, who keep to a straight course and still take time to give a hand to their neighbor and, yes, to help their country too.

My lifelong friends are like that: they circle near me like a rescue chopper, always there to toss me a safety line if the water gets too deep in my solo sail around the world.  I hear their wings--like those of the hummingbird last night. The freedom handed down to us is as fragile and as enduring as our loyalties and our values. Both as vulnerable and as tough as that little hummingbird God made as He made us in all our own imperfections.

What a life of blessings I've seen--amid such a strange world, in a country designed by geniuses, run far too often by fools, bought and paid for by the average Janes and Joes who make the whole thing work by their duty and their honor.

God bless it today and all the many fine people who dwell within.

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