I start to write this as I sit in a coffee shop in a mall in India. It’s early August. The monsoon is ending, but it feels like the beginning. The heavens have favored this parched land, and the earth and leaves appear nourished, refreshed and renewed. It has been difficult to avoid another spectacular deluge taking place on the other side of the world – the dissonant downpour of the US Presidential election. I am protected by a loyal umbrella: my unshakable faith in humanity.
This is how I see her. This is the America I got to know.
Late one evening years ago, during the depths of a difficult winter in New York, my car got stuck in the snow. Without me asking, two young men pulled over and pushed the car out. For many years I lived without family nearby. A co-worker, who has four great sons, treated me like his fifth. I was invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, helped countless times with my house, and shared precious uninhibited moments discussing favorite scenes from the latest animated movie. Hilarious impressions ensued. I worked at a university. A kind-hearted man who held meditation sessions on campus became a friend. We often talked long after the sessions ended. He listened when I needed help with some old wounds. This is the America I got to know. Perhaps not the America many outside of her borders know of.
I stopped watching and reading the news weeks ago. There is only one source that I go to. A girl asks her mother’s boyfriend of 17 years to be her dad. He breaks down in tears. An 86-year-old man is paying for the college tuition of eight high school students he’s never known. An 11-year-old boy has donated 6425 smoke detectors to families across Texas. He dreams of one day becoming a firefighter. This is the America I got to know. Perhaps not the America many outside of her borders know of. Many inside may not either.
I am not a citizen of America. But I lived on her shores. And how blessed I was. Whether I get to set foot on her hallowed soil again or not, whether I have the opportunity to give back even a fraction of what I received, I wish upon her the words — a prayer — of a Nobel laureate published more than a hundred years ago.
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action –
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
Indeed, it is a prayer I wish upon every nation.
It’s late in the evening now. I go back to my one source before going to bed. A homeless man offers money to pay a student’s bus fare. A Chinese billionaire donates $2 billion to support educational, medical and environmental causes. A teacher in Afghanistan turns his bike into a mobile library and cruises the countryside, giving kids a chance to read. Syrian refugees are giving back to their host country Canada and those affected by the Alberta wildfire – money, hampers of toys, clothes, food, provisions, and furniture that they received only months before.
This is how I see humanity. This is the humanity I know. Perhaps not the humanity visible to those distracted by the dissonance. But clear as day to those returning her sacred embrace.
SPREAD Some Good News… (Photo by Rajiv Ramchandra)