When I think of an American I don’t think of the exceptions, I think of the rules. The media loves to find the outliers in any situation because typical doesn’t sell. “One dies from eating lettuce!!!” is going to get way more attention than “Millions of people don’t die from eating lettuce.” Sadly, the same is true in their coverage of the American people. Who leads the coverage? Racists, anarchists, looters, mobs, gangs, and criminals, these people don’t really represent America anymore than a death from a salad represents the typical risks of eating healthy.
I want to talk about REAL America. The America most of us experience every single day. Real America has a lot of hard working folks. Salt of the earth people who will quietly do what needs to be done and ask for no recognition in return. I’m looking at you first responders, farmers, factory workers, teachers, nurses and more. I’m talking about the kind of people who dug through the rubble on September 11th, 2001 or jumped in their boats to rescue strangers after a hurricane. These are the hands and feet of America doing what needs to be done.
Real America has a heart too, it is easy to find strangers helping strangers, rescuing animals, donating to those in need, giving their time to charities and just being kind to their fellow humans. These acts occur by the thousands in every city, every day, you’ve probably been the giver or recipient of one yourself. I refuse to let the identity of REAL America be stolen by a hateful minority simply because they get all the attention.
If you are old enough just think back to one clear September morning where we all remembered what it meant to be American, to grieve with those who grieve, to help those in need, and to recognize the good in our fellow man. We reached out and held hands across pews, across religions, across genders and races and financial divides and we were a stronger people for it. September 11th will live on vividly in my mind as a somber day but September 12th? That will forever remind me what it means to be an American.
“You’re a 30 year old mom of two who teaches elementary school; college students don’t want to hang out with you.” That’s what the mean girl in my head told me as I looked at the info for my church’s international student ministry. Not old enough to be motherly, not young enough to be hip. I am at a stage in life that can feel awkward, but I knew the mean girl was wrong, in fact God had called me to this church for this exact purpose. Knowing the mean girl is wrong and silencing her can be different things though.
Socializing is not something that comes naturally to me. I am a very confident person…until i’m not. Put me in a professional setting and I am self-assured and collected, certain of my God gifted abilities. Ask me to dig into a deep philosophical question or summarize a complex idea and I’ll jump at the opportunity, thankful to utilize my God given intelligence. Give me a practical need and I will strive to meet it assured of God’s calling for me as a servant. But ask me to interact with people I don’t know well in a social setting? Suddenly i’m in fifth grade again and the mean girls are watching for me to do the wrong thing so they can laugh. I have to fight the urge to withdraw and force myself to engage.
I am comfortable with who I am but I am not always confident in my value to a world I increasingly don’t understand…. It is only by recognizing I was not made for this world that I am able to embrace my deeply flawed person as a vessel of a holy and perfect God’s will. My brokenness is the very attribute which allowed me to be shaped into a new creation and so it is only in my brokenness that I can find beauty. When I reach out in spite of my inabilities and insecurities it is in that act of self-denial that I see Christ (because it is certainly not me). Each time I push against what the world has told me I am I find strength in the action and rest in the obedience.
I am very thankful I silenced the mean girl. I spent this afternoon hanging out with one of our lovely international friends and watching my children begin to understand another culture in a meaningful way. We would have missed a blessing God had for us.