Time to ask, ‘What are we becoming’ as a nation?

Open Forum


When my daughters were young, and found themselves in a situation that seemed overwhelming I would say, “Take a deep breath and a few steps back from yourself.” It seems like vague or simplistic advice, but using a few moments to calm yourself often helps to put things in a warmer light. I'd like to be able to say the same thing to the nation as well. Mostly though I wish I was as good at living up to my ideals, and standing up to my fears, as I profess one should be.

It seems we are in a funk. Afraid of the stranger. Angry at the government. Scared some out of control and wayward soul may have a gun … or that we may not. With our collective nerves worn thin, and our nation's pocketbook stretched even thinner, we now feel fear when we look into the faces of a mother and her child seeking refuge or a better life. Many believe a wall will slow or stop these people. We have become the neighbors we don't want to have. You know, the ones who are friendly and polite, but then build a barrier fence on the property line between your house and theirs, because your son took a ripe red apple off their apple tree.

Where has the generosity of Jesus gone? Could it be that we have lived in a country so wealthy and so strong for such a long time that the idea of compassion and openness are now foreign to us? Has it been so long since we needed another's help, that we no longer know how to offer hope to those in need? Must parents and children now wait for many years to be processed as legal immigrants when they are suffering and in danger now? Who have we become?

When I was a young boy growing up in Spring Grove, I spent nearly every summer afternoon walking barefoot to the swimming pool. Much of the distance was hot blacktop, so I would cut across our neighbor's cool grass lawn when I could. She never confronted me about trespassing. She passed on though and a new young couple moved onto the property. One hot day when I was crossing their lawn in nothing more than my swim trunks, the young man came out and stopped me. He said, “What's your name?” “Ken Thawl,” I answered. (I had a lisp at the time) “Well, Ken Thawl,” he said, pointing to an imaginary line in the grass, “you see that line right there? That's the property line. And I don’t want you on my lawn walking on MY property!” As he said this to me I remember him bending over and poking his finger in my stomach. “You walk over there,” he said, pointing to the blacktop that curved around his house. I guess my feeling is, I don't think we should become that neighbor. We have nearly nothing to fear by treating people with respect, kindness and compassion. I do feel though that we should take a deep breath and a few steps back from ourselves. Then look in a mirror and ask, “What are we becoming?”

Ken Sawle