There’s this moment I keep thinking about lately, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our nation.
It happened a couple years back, and it was this simple moment, nothing flashy, nothing that would make headlines.
But it was a moment I won’t forget.
Anna and I sat on a long bench at the end of a dock. The sun slid down the back side of the day. If I could have taken a sip of the sky, it would have tasted like an orange smoothie.
Anna swung her legs, and they brushed back and forth against mine. She smelled like sunscreen and grape soda. An older vacationing couple came down the dock, so Anna and I scooted to the left to make room. Another couple came, so we all scooted down some more.
That way, we could watch that blaze of color together. We all ooo-ed and aah-ed at the sunset, a bunch of strangers on a shared dock. Anna laced her fingers with mine, and she pulled our hands together onto her lap.
It was the perfect end to the perfect day.
All day long, I had seen kindness in people: opening doors for one another, friendly greetings in the grocery line, families gathered on lawns to throw Frisbee and grill burgers. It was the Fourth of July.
That blessed day ended with this moment: the simple sharing of a bench at the end of a dock on a little lake in Iowa. Together, we beheld beauty in the sky.
Someone might say it’s because we were all on vacation. That’s why everyone was so happy and kind. I don’t want to believe that. I want to believe that all of us were our truest selves. We were simply slowed down enough to remember that we belong to each other, after all.
Today, I think about that moment on the bench. I think about the people in the yards, and the people in the doorways, and the people on the bench.
We are still those same people. Even if we didn’t agree in the November election. Even if we stand on opposite sides of political issues, or watch different news networks.
I worry, sometimes, that we forget that we really are in this together. I’ll state the obvious: As we celebrate the birth of our nation, we are a country in tumult. You can see it on your TV, your social media feeds, and maybe even in your family. A few months ago, I shared over on Fox News how the fault lines of division run right through our own home.
Last November, Scott and I voted for different presidential candidates. It’s not the first time he and I haven’t seen eye to eye, and to keep us sane, we’ve always come back to this again and again:
We love “us,” more than we hate what is different.
As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s all sit on one big bench. Let’s love “us” more than we hate what is different.
Scott and I have had years to practice this, and in some ways, it never gets easier. But we keep coming back to this: Practice kindness toward one another.
You might say, “In times like these, practicing kindness is not easy.”
Well, this is our chance as God’s people to show the world that it’s possible to do the thing that isn’t easy.
This is our chance, as the people of God, to show what it looks like to be civil in tone, humble in posture, and gracious in attitude.
I’m not saying we have to keep our mouths shut when we see wrong. Goodness, each of us can stand for whatever we stand for, and do what we believe is right!
But, let’s be kind. Let’s open doors. Let’s be gracious in our interactions. Let’s sit on benches together. Let’s think before we speak.
Lots of folks will say that our Christian faith is proven by our actions. I think it’s proven even more by our re-actions. How will we choose to respond when someone steps on our toes? Reacting with hate simply contributes to its power.
Let’s be kind.
Be kind to the person who marches differently from you.
Be kind to the person who posts about puppies instead of politics.
Be kind to the person on the other side of the political aisle.
Be kind to the person on the other side of the street.
Be kind to the person who chooses to be silent.
Be kind to the person who raises her voice daily.
Be kind to your friends, and as hard as it is, be kind to your enemies.
When we exit earth for heaven, we might not have a lot of money or pretty things to leave the people we love. But we can leave a rich inheritance of kindness — all of us, from sea to shining sea.
It is easy to hate. It takes strength to be kind.
And you, my friend, have the opportunity to show the world where your strength comes from. That strength comes from a place of freedom, bought for us on the world-wide Independence Day known as Good Friday. Jesus is our freedom.
Yep. I keep thinking of that moment on that Iowa lake, when strangers sat side by side on a shared bench, as the last bit of orange drained from the sky. We belonged to each other, right then. Nobody said it, but I think we all knew it.
We said goodbye, and all of us walked on.
And I think we all had a bit more hope than we had before.