I was not anywhere near the tragedies of 9-11…at least not physically. We watched the events unfold on television while sitting on a couch in our tiny apartment on a seminary campus just north of San Francisco. Like most of the country, we sat dumbfounded. No one spoke. Everyone cried, including my newborn son. It was a lot to take in. Clearly the world had changed. I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do. We all do. It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy. And then, we remember again.
My mother-in-law, Karen, woke us up with the news that day. Given the three-hour difference between New York and California, my husband and I were still sleeping. Karen was helping to care for our newborn son (she had been up feeding the baby) and held him in her arms when she came into the bedroom. I remember her voice, mostly a whisper, saying, “You have to see this,” as she ushered us into the next room. It didn’t take but a moment for us to realize that this was not good news. Over the next few hours we watched news coverage of our country being attacked. Like a bad movie, it all seemed so surreal as report after report showed one plane crash and then another and another. Time stood still.
Eventually, there were phone calls. Lots of phone calls. While the East Coast was under attack, it didn’t take long for family and friends to try to reach out to one another…making sure everyone was accounted for. Living in the Bay Area, it occurred to us that San Francisco could easily be on a target list. I tried to put it out of my mind, but looking at my baby Sean I remember thinking THIS WASN’T THE PLAN! If you know me, you know I have these random (and possibly irrational) thought outbursts. Sean and I had already been through a bumpy pregnancy, a scary delivery, followed by two hospital stays and he wasn’t even two weeks old yet. I cried. What kind of a world was this?
Panic is an interesting emotion. It builds upon itself and opens the door to sadness, fear and anger. Nothing seemed right. Immediately, I prayed for those at the scene. I prayed that there would be survivors. I prayed that help would arrive on time. I prayed for justice. I worried about kids who were at schools and people on the freeway trying to get home. I especially prayed for those in the air. Eventually, we learned that Steve’s uncle’s flight was diverted to Canada. My mother informed me that large passenger planes had been forced to land at the small airport in the tiny, Kansas town where I grew up. Everyone was on heightened alert. And this is where we stayed emotionally, not just for the day…but for days and days which eventually stretched into weeks.
There is another memory that I will forever carry with me about this particular time in our nation’s history. On the way to church the next week, there were armed soldiers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Dozens of them. The beauty of this national landmark and the breathtaking scenery surrounding it took a backseat to the reality of life in the United States at that moment. My heart sank. Would it always be like this? Could we find our way back? Would anything ever be the same? I know I was not alone in asking these questions. Yet, it’s at times like these where we find our faith and ultimately our strength. That Sunday we praised, prayed and sang to an all-powerful, loving God. This, I will always want to remember.
America is a great nation, founded on wonderful principles that continue to fill its people with a sense of pride and purpose. Our country rallied. We made plans, sought out ways to ensure the safety of our people, and moved forward. Some would say that THIS IS the American way. The days since have not always been easy. The threat of terrorism has become the new normal. And we’ve had to adjust. The world is different and we are different. A swell of nationalism permeated every part of our country during those times. Many laid aside their differences as we came together in prayer and resolve. In the following months and years much was sacrificed to apprehend those responsible for this unbelievable tragedy. The events of that one day dramatically affecting every part of American life.
Unfortunately, in the fourteen years since the attack we have seen that sense of unity erode. Nowadays, America is known for its political infighting. Activists of all kinds have sought to divide the people in countless ways. Those spewing hate have managed to turn neighbors against one another. Agendas have created word wars and many have been hurt…even killed. All of this within our own borders while the threat of terrorism still looms large. I hate what happened to our country on 9-11, but in remembering the tragedy itself we can find hope. Today (on the anniversary,) in every way and shape imaginable WE REMEMBER. Today, at every turn we recall the significance of this day and remember the lives lost. Today, we seek to honor and recognize the true heroes among us. Today, social media is filled with symbolism and pride as we cannot and will not forget what has happened. Surprisingly, I find comfort in this type of remembering.
I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do. We all do. It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy. And then, we remember again…lest we forget.
When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all. –C.S. Lewis
For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9
I like Cheerios. A lot. And not just at breakfast time. I think Cheerios are appropriate for lunch AND dinner, too. I should also note that I like them with AND without milk. So, if you are what you eat…then I’m heart healthy and packed with fiber and whole grain goodness! If only it were that easy. Truth is, in addition to my love for Cheerios, I really enjoy pizza, chocolate ice cream, nachos and several different brands of potato chips. I also think these tasty treats qualify as breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Gross, huh? Because now it’s pretty obvious that if you are what you eat (Cheerios aside,) I am junk food—loaded with calories, packed with sodium and in every way possible just a cheesy, greasy mess 😦
I don’t want to be a cheesy, greasy mess. Who does? Which is why I’ve carefully chosen the middle of the road where these food cravings are concerned. It’s called MODERATION. We’ve all heard the word. It’s the term that foodies and nutritionists throw around which serves as code for “eat what you want, just not too much.” Have a small bowl of ice cream, instead of the whole gallon. Sounds like a good system. I mean MODERATION allows us to munch on the yummy (yet less than healthy) goodies we desire without any guilt and few consequences, right? Come on…you didn’t just land on the planet! You know that while moderation is all well and good, it can (and usually does) come back and bite us in our ever-expanding back ends. We are human after all…given to temptation and with little (if any) willpower. Watching what we feed our bodies is tough stuff. Health and nutrition can be hard to manage. Time, energy, and money all factor into the equation as well. Which is why I wish Willie Wonka would perfect that “3 Course Dinner Chewing Gum” Violet sampled in the movie. It would really come in handy at my house (sans the exploding blueberry part, of course.)
Clearly, there’s no easy button here. The same goes for what we feed our soul. It seems to be a recurring theme lately. Of course, I’m only speaking for myself, but it feels like everywhere I go that it’s not too hard to decipher one’s soul food diet. For example, the kid who is cussing up a storm at the baseball diamond is palling around with a tribe of kids cussing up the same storm. Never mind that there are three-year old ears in close proximity. Never mind there are grandparents in attendance. Never mind the fact that we all know your parents and you should know better! Somehow, somewhere this child has ingested ugly, nasty words and probably without any forethought, has decided to share them with the world. Look, I’m not the word police. Sure, I personally find it distasteful, but I understand that it is pretty common in today’s culture. That being said, I still would appreciate it if there was some consideration for the “audience.” Comedians, politicians, businessmen/women…most of us know that rule #1 in many parts of the real world is knowing your audience. Bottom line, if you’re going to swear, don’t share. Your friend is sitting right next to you and can easily hear you…so shouting your obscenities really isn’t necessary.
Still, the cussing is pretty benign. When you start adding up all the other foul soul food shares out there…like berating your kids in the store parking lot, trash talking your wife, glamorizing past and current drug use (in front of kiddos no less,) your disdain for the church and religion, your lack of confidence in political leaders, and your basic hate for anyone who doesn’t see life your way…the notion that you are what you eat becomes pretty clear. Listen, I’m not perfect. I know life can be hard. Maybe things haven’t been easy. Rough family life, a bad marriage, children who try your patience and the list goes on. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Often we try to excuse our own behavior by insisting that we don’t know any better or fault the way we were raised. But whether it’s nature or nurture (or a self-labeled “bad habit”) none of this lets any of us off the hook. We’re not all privy to the good life. Understood. But I think there’s an argument to made for the fact that we all WANT the GOOD LIFE. We want to be successful and happy, so let’s start making some personal decisions that breed success and happiness. Decisions that translate into being the absolute best that we can be! When it comes to good soul food, MODERATION doesn’t seem to amount to much. In fact, myself included, we need to be visiting that good soul food trough several times a day. I mean, would it really be terrible to try to attain a little positivity by feeding our soul a few good things?
Nosh on the POSITIVE. Live better, be better. Find kind neighbors. Be a kind neighbor. Show a genuine interest in your family and friends. Practice generosity. Pay it forward. Feast on GOOD news. Share your time and talents with others. Help a stranger. Say hello. Hug your children (often, or as often as they’ll let you.) Sing! Gorge on HOPE. Seek out good, honest friends. Be a good, honest friend. Affirm others. Believe in yourself. Be playful! Smile (a lot.) Be an example. Offer grace. REPEAT. With this menu you can go back for seconds and thirds–guilt free. I truly believe we are all capable of making good choices for ourselves and others.
This is the table that I want to sit at! And I want others to feel free to pull up a chair. Let’s invite our spouse, children, family members we get along with (and especially those we don’t) and our neighbors. Maybe we could all talk it over while enjoying Cheerios (with OR without milk.) Sounds good, doesn’t it? So…who’s hungry?
Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. Dorothy Day