Secure the Future of Independence Day

This Independence Day, 2022, we find our nation filled with divisions, economic woes, violence, controversy, and worry.   Last year. we were hopeful that after the pandemic became more controllable, this July 4th would be filled with thanksgiving and enormous celebration. Perhaps, that was just a daydream. 

How do we return to thoroughly enjoying our Independence Day celebrations amid such tribulation?  We will because we always have.  We have endured wars on foreign soil and on American earth, plagues, recessions, political upheaval, and brutality throughout our country’s history.  And because we did, we must continue to believe we will do it again.   One way to heal destructive national division is to have faith in one indivisible land.

Our forebearers were a group of folks who amassed in a place called America.  These brave folks came from numerous countries with differing beliefs and strong views to find freedom.  Be free to express their opinions, worship their various faiths, and build a government based on equality under God’s leadership.   We must remember why and how we came to be who we are. 

Common sense plus listening

My grandfather and brother could argue over the Constitution, politics, and America’s current affairs until the cows quit mooing and the rooster crowed.  Yet, they were never irreparably divided. They respected each other’s thoughts enough to launch into how to repair many of society’s problems.  Nor did they use excusatory blame but instead used their minds to create answers.  As they sat in the corner being ignored by the rest of the family, they had the right idea on how to patch the torn bits of America’s fabric.

They simply listened to each other.  Granddaddy and John respected the other’s comments, took the best of ideas, and combined them to form logical agreements.  Using common sense and historical facts, they honestly tried simplifying and organizing ways to unravel complex issues.

Polarization in our nation is dampening the American spirit today. Many are not listening to others’ ideas or reflections regarding resolvable problems.  In many cases, it seems reasoning is lost.  When political pandering or media bias moves us away from building a stronger country by splitting us into fractions and factions, our celebrations are muted, and faith in our nation begins to falter.

Dire deep division

  We are an eclectic group, just like our ancestors were when they believed in something greater than their personal ideology.  They took significant risks traveling to an unknown land to find independence. Freedom to worship, speak, and forge a far safer, Godlier existence for their children than they endured.  Our great nation was born because courageous souls were united in the common belief that freedom should always reign supreme.

Deeply divided partisan politics espoused between each other from our backyards to the halls of Congress are replacing common sense, respect, and problem-solving.  It separates us by pointing fingers instead of shaking hands and builds vile hatred.  Partisan anger has split families, torn friendships, and shaken our faith in our nation. 

As a young child, in my elementary classroom in Franklin, Tennessee, we stood each morning after prayer. With our hands over our hearts and our eyes focused on Old Glory, we recited:

“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.”

Honor our pledge

I believe in those words today and know we must always strive to be an indivisible nation.  And no matter what, we should honor our Flag and what it stands for until God returns us to Him. 

Perhaps, if we recited the pledge each morning and added a prayer, we would defeat destructive divisiveness. We could calm strife, economic woes, inequality, and violence because it would renew our sense of what America’s freedom means to each of us.  

It is up to our citizens today to decide whether we will again celebrate Independence Day with a joyous appreciation or continue to damage our country with conspiracy theories, racism, lies, and self-importance.  Do we honor our heritage, Constitution, children, and faith, or keep splitting our nation into nothing?

With certainty, we will never agree on everything, nor will we vote for the same candidates.  Our ancestors and the brave soldiers who fought for our liberty assured us of the freedom to not agree and to vote our conscience.   They secured our American rights. To honor them, let’s move to the corner of rational thinking and consideration to find solutions. In doing so, we will secure future generations the freedom to celebrate every July 4th far into the future.

Improving Our Vision

We all look at life in remarkably different ways.  Some view the world as only they see it, while others view life by trying on other folks’ glasses.   We all tend to believe we see clearly, but maybe, we are looking through scratched, foggy lenses that should be tossed.

There are many ways to obtain better vision, such as eating carrots or investing in Windex.  However, I am offering a few non-scientific ideas on how to improve our eyesight.  Don’t we all desire to see a crisp blue sky instead of gathering storm clouds and view positivity and healing rather than defeat?

One: What if we begin by changing our view of our nation’s citizens as white, black, Latino, Asian, Italian, French, or Purple and instead decide that once one has become a United States citizen, we are just called Americans?   

I am as proud of my heritage as a Scottish, English, genealogical mixed Purple human as anyone, but I call myself an American.  If we can lose some of the labels we use, we will begin to ease racial tension.  Some words are not acceptable in my home, and all of them regard bigotry, which I detest and rightfully so.  It is the most archaic, ungodly, demented, selfish, and intolerable behavior we can perform as children of God.  

Does anyone believe God judges us by our ethnicity? 

Our society has faltered so many times when it comes to building better race relations.  We can improve only if we quit viewing each other through tinted glasses.

Out-of-control battles

Two:  The political battles between Republicans and Democrats are abysmal.  We must become discerning voters, find more qualified representatives, and be proud of our leaders.  If I hear the word “liberal” or “conservative” used in a derogatory way one more time, I might pick up my grandmother’s heavy iron skillet and whack the terms right out of the English language.  I hate to bust anyone’s political party chops, but we are all Americans and should focus on discovering some common national earth to stand on before it changes to quicksand and we sink.

 When political bias slants lean too far, right or left, the government will have difficulty standing tall in the middle, where many of us reside.  If we truly love our country more than our party affiliation, we must stop the blame game and instead use that negative energy to find solutions to aid our citizens. 

But above all else, a person’s character must become dominant within our leaders and within each of us.  We will find honesty, bravery, and answers through those clear, clean glasses.

Damaging hypocrisy

Three:  Religion could use a bit of a revamp.  Churches are dividing into sects, pews are emptying, and building faith is falling through the cracks.   Do y’all recall the children’s rhyme we learned by clasping our hands, raising our index fingers together, and saying, “Here’s the Church, and there’s the steeple,” and when we opened our hands, we would shout, “Open the door and see all the people!?” 

Well, where did the people go?  When we become the judge, the jury, the divine guru of all, God’s word becomes secondary.  Hypocrisy is killing faith.  How do we promote God’s teachings when supposedly Godly people espouse prejudices or political hatred and exhibit a lack of compassion?   There are countless incredible, giving, spirit-filled people whose voices and actions must rise above the clapping sounds of evil.

God’s instruction was to simply love one another and teach all nations about Him.  It is impossible to educate the earth with mere words, but we can change the world by our actions.  God’s act of sending us His only son to die for our sins showed us the meaning of love.  The least we can do is change our negative behavior to positive actions to exemplify our holy faith.  

Judging belongs only to God, who needs no glasses to see.

God’s perfect vision

These optical changes are just my attempt to help us envision a healthier world by becoming more honorable.  We are consumed by countless global views through the media, social media, religions, political leaders, and each other; we must be reminded that we are all members of one human race.

God sees distinctly and knows the purity of our hearts.  And He continues trying His level best to be seen amid dense fog.  Because when we do cast our eyes clearly upon Him, all things become more apparent, and love will begin to defeat much of the bias, hatred, lies, and self-righteousness that destroys our sight. 

Loss: A Troubled Journey

Carter is moving away.  She is the 7-year-old granddaughter of my good friend.  Carter, her brother, and her parents are moving to South Georgia within days.  I felt Saturday would be the last time I would see this precocious, spirited child for a while. 

When she turned to wave goodbye while walking toward her grandpa’s truck, something within my soul moved a flood of tears to form in my eyes.  I knew I would see Carter again when she visited her grandparents, so were the tears caused only by Carter leaving or something much deeper?  

How odd when out of the blue, our past emotions are triggered by a current situation.  Grief rises to the surface as if it wishes to choke us with sadness.  Painful as it is, sometimes we are forced to recall the heartache of loss.

 My granddaughter was only two when her family relocated to South Florida, and I remember waving to her as we both sobbed when the car drove away.  Avery is now seventeen, and there isn’t a day that I don’t miss her and wish she were just around the corner.  

When my oldest daughter moved to Washington State, I grieved for days.  It was no different when my son left for Colorado.   With certainty, I knew my life would forever be altered.

Farewells change our lives, whether from moving, a death, or the ending of a relationship.

Out of the blue grief

I recall sitting at a local car wash about a year after my brother died.  When my car emerged from the auto wash, I watched as the attendants began to dry the little white SUV.  Suddenly, my heart filled with immeasurable grief, and I could not control the tears falling down my cheeks.  My brother helped me select that car, and the pain from his loss overwhelmed me once again.

How many friends have we never seen again because life took us down different roads?  How many have died before we had a chance to visit one more time?  We rue the days when it is too late for ‘one more time.’  Loss accompanies life and reminds us that we don’t live in paradise.  Grief, heartache, and tragedy run alongside our lives’ joy, laughter, and peace.  

And we often wonder how we will survive such intense sorrow.  But we do, and we continue to muddle through the tears and search for hope.

God is there

Well, folks, if we can’t see God’s work through all our pain, we need to look closer or clean our glasses.  Because it is when we suffer the most, God hands us the gift of abundant strength.  And, when we endure those moments of “out of the blue” grief, perhaps God is reminding us to retake his hand.

The passages we travel and the changes they cause can put us in a tailspin.  Sometimes we grow weary and full of resentment or crumble from the weight of despair.  Yet, at some point, most of us pick ourselves up and continue down the road.

We learn to value life because of loss.  I appreciate that even though I don’t often see those I love the most, I know they are still there, still a flight away, and thank God for the invention of Facetime.  Faith allows me to see my brother and the rest of my family in my dreams and know they are alive in paradise where ‘loss’ is not a word.

Friends who have moved away or traveled different paths are forever in my heart, and lost loves are still loved.   Yes, we will never physically see some folks again, yet they are still a part of who we are.

Finding those we lost

After I began writing, many of my columns were published in USA Today Tennessee newspapers.  When I was fifteen, my family moved to Georgia from McMinnville, Tennessee, where we had lived for seven years, and I never returned for a visit.     After my first column was published with the byline Lynn Walker Gendusa, I received a note from a reader.

“Are you the same Lynn Walker who left McMinnville after 9th grade?”  After affirming I was, my reader was a childhood friend to whom I waved goodbye almost 60 years ago.  Since then, other lost pals have contacted me.  How grateful I am for the chance to now wave, “Hello.”

We mourn, suffer, lose those we love, and rise to the challenge of living because God gives us the strength to do so.  He reminds us that because of Him, there are no final goodbyes if only we believe.

“Let not your heart be troubled….”  John 14:1

Pie and Ice Cream in Heaven

Occasionally, there are times when I wish I could laze away a day.  Do nothing, think of nothing, ignore the chores, and not require food.  The only problem with the whole scenario is that, thanks to my father, I am not made that way.   And, Lord, to miss a meal might send me to the hospital!  Again, thanks to dear ol’ Dad!

When my father passed away in 1999, I informed my mother, “Don’t worry, Mom, daddy will be back if they don’t offer pecan pie and ice cream in heaven!”  So, just for you folks out there who are concerned, there is ice cream and pie above the clouds; Dad didn’t return.

My father believed in working hard at whatever endeavor one attempted throughout life.  Sitting down was never encouraged.  “Pull your share and contribute to humanity” was a Walker family mantra.  As far back as I can recall,  our Walker clan were hard workers and fearless doers.  I’m proud of that heritage, except when I get bone tired when the doer in me does not sit.  Stopwatches must not be in our DNA because my cousin Bobby is like me; we never stop.

A foul word

‘Lazy’ is akin to a foul word in my family.  Like my father, it drives me nuts to see people who ‘could’ but don’t.  Most of them wind up being complainers and ill-tempered.   As we become older, it is natural for most of us to slow down, except for Bobby and me.  I can tolerate loafing just so much, and then suddenly, I want to pull the recliner out from under those sleeping, drooling, healthy crabby folks.  Don’t they know there is still much to do before they can’t?

Often, I lay in bed, dreaming of what I might accomplish if I had more time.  There are more words to say and write.  I must tell my children a million things to avoid heartache because I, unfortunately, learned the hard way.    Gosh, it is a bit unfair that wisdom mostly comes with age.  If they installed more knowledge up front, you would think we would have less regret on the back end.

I  discovered that life isn’t about my life; it’s truly about what my living will do for others.  Will my life make a tiny imprint on the earth for good?  Don’t we all need to ask ourselves that question?  Perhaps, if we did, we would make a more significant imprint than the one on the sofa. 

It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor or somewhere in between because leaving our mark on society is not only about donating money; it is about sharing our spirit.  Bobby, Daddy, and I don’t rest due to a genetic issue, but all folks should not waste precious moments in life if we are able.

The blessing of our time

The people who made the most extensive impact in my life were not those deemed by the world “successful.”  Instead, it was those who successfully changed the world by what they did.  And folks, they didn’t stop just because they aged; no, these special ones continued until they ended.

We often say, “Well, those folks need to do this for the country!”  Or “It’s nice that those people helped others!”  It is always what “those” did.  Perhaps the correct word is “we,” not “those?”

We have a minuscule amount of time on this earth, and I am grateful for my many years compared to others who were never given a chance to live a long life.  How many children have died before seeing what tomorrow held?  How many teens pass away hours before they walk into the future?  That should prompt our appreciation of our time and humble us enough to promote personal action.

In my father’s last year of life, he struggled to walk because of circulation problems and congestive heart failure.  My parents lived in an independent living facility near me.   You could find Dad in the parking lot many mornings, walking among the cars, armed with a bottle of Windex, rags, and cleaning all the car windows. 

Until his last day, Dad followed the old Walker mantra.  And just before he passed away, I asked, “Dad are you scared?” His response, “What in the world is there to be afraid of?!”

My father had no fear of leaving earth to meet the Lord; who knew Dad lived his life helping others until he couldn’t.  Be assured that pie and ice cream are waiting for us in Heaven if we keep doing and going until we can’t.

The Tragedies of Hopelessness

As I write this column, it is a beautiful Monday, Memorial Day morning.  The birds sing while American flags proudly display their colors around our neighborhoods across America.   Folks prepare for cookouts or a day at the lake and relish time away from work.  It is a happy picture of American life, yet there is undeniable grief amid such joy.

Twenty-one white crosses rise from Texas soil, memorializing the children and teachers who died in an explosion of gunfire.  A white supremacist killed 10 innocents in a grocery store in New York.  Violence injured teens in Tennessee, and an intoxicated boat driver killed a family on a river in Georgia.  This is just a brief synopsis of a few weeks in the life of a saddened America. 

Why do we seem at a crossroads of either rising above our pain or just giving up?  Some events seem too much to bear.  Suicides, violence, racism, division, bullying, and complex mental health concerns increase every minute.  Why?

The danger

I am no minister, scientist, doctor, or counselor, but just a person who believes one thing to be true…. Rising hopelessness is killing our spirits and is a danger to our country.

When people feel hope is gone, there is no one to listen to them, no escape from poverty, and God is missing, evil breeds, and light becomes darkness.  Violence is born of hopelessness.  Suicide is giving up hope.  When people are bigots, they breed division and bullying.  People who cause anguish to swell in our society bring us all despair.

Conspiracies, bogus theories, and errant information have contributed to a lack of faith in each other, thus creating more uncertainty and confusion.  Too many are so enthused to locate others who agree with their beliefs that they refuse to check the facts before spreading falsehoods.  

When our elected officials cannot reach a consensus for the betterment of all Americans, they contribute to the falling spirit of our country.  Some politicians are frantically trying to keep their jobs instead of doing their jobs to give others hope in our democracy.  I believe, perhaps, the uncompromising two-party system, lack of Congressional term or age limits, and the special interest groups today are becoming destructive to society.

Spread joy not anger

Each week I post my column on my website and on Facebook.  While I am on social media, I will scroll to view pictures, read quotes, or see what my pals are doing.  One friend posted that because nasty opinions made her so sad, she would instead share poetry to calm her and others down.  Another pal from Tennessee always posts images of cool cars or old scenes of American culture.  A new grandmother displays her chubby, precious little grandboy with his sparkling blue eyes and a big smile.  These shared images bring us joy and harmony because we can identify with each one.

Yet, others are posting rants over policy, collusions, or tirades against anything too liberal or too conservative.  Hate groups attempt to topple each other while children also read the ire, filth, and misinformation.  So, one gets a like or a love emoji for their diatribe, but do they not understand how words can affect those on the brink of hopelessness?  Do they not understand that words can kill? 

To defend their actions, they may say, “Oh, I am just trying to help America because I love her!”   Do they not love America’s people, or do they just love those who share their views?  How does hate aid our nation?

Putting God first

The answer to all hopelessness is God.  Perhaps He is letting us see what division, hypocrisy, defiance, bigotry, disease, and war will create in real-time.  Don’t we know they all produce pure agony?

Before we spread vitriol, put God first, and soon hopelessness will wither, and faith will rise. 

A belief in tomorrow is why soldiers go to war.  Our defenders are black, white, Latino, Asian, Republicans, and Democrats who fight together to protect our freedoms.    Many give their lives for us to have a sunny day filled with flags flying.  Perhaps, before we decide to cause more separation, remember that unity saved America from enemies.

Before we spread more doubt, lend a hand to hope.  Help God to build faith not only in Him but in each other.  Urge members of Congress to promote goodwill for our citizens so that our children will continue to live in a tolerant democracy.

Let’s try new endeavors, compromise, and respect to give hope a chance.  We will continue to live amid darkness where crosses rise from the earth bearing sorrow without us doing our part.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for evil.  To give you a future and hope.”  Jerimiah 29:11