This Sunday Morning

We are starting to contemplate what it is we have done this year, one so very unique to our world, our lives, our state of mind. I think we all began the year in much the same way, dealing only with our personal needs and always aware of the world around us. Some of us championed resolutions, a few of us cleaned out chapters of our lives, and many woke up and believed it was just another day in succession of many. Why wouldn’t each of those directions make complete sense as we imagine our day today.

It is Sunday, a day that at the start of the year I had begun returning to Mass after many decades of sporadic holiday attendance, I was liking the opportunity and its meditative balance on my life. Then a few weeks later, I was not. I was not alone. This time it wasn’t because of lack of interest, none of us could. On top of everything else in our lives, we were now asked, suggested, mandated to isolate ourselves for the safety of others. I remember in the early weeks of shelter at home, I would run off to the grocery store, a limited activity, and as the sun was setting in the west, I would look at the horizon and imagine zombies beginning to line the hills. Everything was so quiet, no one except for people like me getting groceries or essentials milled about. The moment was eery and unsettling.

Eight months later, I have become a rather good cook. I seldom would make meals in years past, except for the occasional breakfast, or an intriguing recipe, or holiday foods. In the last year though, I used to want to emphasize I hadn’t gone out to eat for weeks, turned into months. But then I had to come to terms with the fact that no one had. When I get out of rehearsals for high school theater, I would often stop for a bite to eat. Now those little moments were part of my grocery run. I’ll call it a win, because the food is better and the advantage is a healthier body.

This summer I needed to go outside. Thankfully we have the woods, the hiking trails and just the open country for walks and bicycle rides. I remember thinking in the early days of Covid19 what if someone a quarter of mile in front of me sneezed while I was bicycling into a head wind? That really went through my mind, much like taking my dog to the dog park and worrying about other people wanting to pet him, and thereby bringing their germs into my home. Nobody knew, some of us cared, some thought it was and still do believe it a hoax. I’ve seen the numbers of people who have died, not by choice. I have been a believer from the beginning.

Our lives are all unique and yet we live them quite similarly to one another. We need a good sleep, a warm meal, a favorite book or piece of music, a companion nearby. All of this sounds rather normal right? The thing to recognize is there are many that do not have all or any of the opportunities or lifestyle habits I just mentioned. There are people who are alone and haven’t sometimes the strength to endure this rather unprecedented and certainly sad and frightening time in our lives. This is a time of year when often we are suggested to raise our awareness of those less fortunate than ourselves. Now more than ever.

We do come upon that time of year in America where we will celebrate the holiday, the essence of family being together to share the love we all have created in our lives. Many question our ability to have feast in that manner of tradition and we find ourselves quietly confused, making different plans. We do come upon that time of year in the world where we celebrate the truth of universal love in however manner our cultural strengths bring us together. What is important is we do remain focused on what will alleviate some of the anxiety and disorientating nature of this temporary period of our lives. Acts of kindness and a simple element exist.

There really isn’t anything traditional about this year moving into the holidays except for perhaps one common denominator: Love. We all know kindness and the smile it puts on our face, the safe remedy an emotion provides our need to feel.

This is a Sunday morning, and I am in my comfortable chair with a favorite music playing, my dog wandering about checking on me thinking of his next walk in the coming hour. I’m sipping my coffee and looking forward to watching a ball game this afternoon. Tonight I will plan the week ahead. Life remains normal as long as we can allow ourselves to realize there is goodness during this temporary period of our lives. Though we must be conscious of the reality being we are not alone, all of us in our circumstance hold an energy lets us know we are together miles away or nearby.

When we can, as long as we are able, reach out, for there is something substantial being passed upon one another than simply memory not realized. We all exist together, kindness and love being symbolic of that grateful nature of our humanity. We can this year celebrate with an even stronger recognition than during a normalcy we haven’t known yet taken for granted for quite some time.

Love. Be Kind.


© Thom Amundsen  11/2020

The Strength of a Statesman

obama

Last night I couldn’t wait to hear what former President Obama would say to our nation of 2020 graduates. He has always, since that first stump speech, tried to provide a positive perspective on our lives. Whether people would like to simply reduce his words to only rhetoric, the fact remains they are his own, whether rehearsed or spontaneous. I think it is important to recognize how a public figure in our lives can become a Statesman, and just how much strength that gives them in respect to who they are today compared to a past life so often referenced.

I noticed on social media last night and this morning all the raves and support President Obama received after his speeches yesterday to the “graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and to the high school graduates of 2020” (Wanda Fleming Notebook). I heard people say things like, “God I miss him” or “so down to earth” as he once again put words of possibility into the young hearts of America.

The students listened, and we do all continue to listen to his words. Certainly there will always be disagreement, and I respect that; however, if done in malice then all we do is break down what anyone tries to say no matter their capacity before our lives. I think with Obama we get the true nature of a man who knows how to work a crowd, but when given the opportunity does it with character and integrity. There isn’t a wow factor in his words as much as a hope and promise. He would like people to find a way, again, to smile and realize there is much to believe in ahead of us all, young and old.

To me, those are the components of a Statesman in our country, and what is important to realize is that this person or any persons who can reach such capacity are not going away. Their words still remain, it is up to us to listen or pass off. Last night I listened.

In my life I have watched many people in positions of power become Statesmen in their next lives as we speak to everyone’s newest chapter. When President Carter left office, he was quietly ridiculed by people that were the seeming nuts and bolts of governmental machinations. He went silent into the distance, and then became the gentle giant he is today, as one of our more powerful Statesmen in the country. One of his foundations, ‘Habitat for Humanity’ has a sublime history supporting our impoverished and homeless not only across the United States and America but the World. This all happened because of the passion of a man that believed in his country, in the fellowship of man. President Carter believed in doing what is right for society, not himself.

I believe I have seen this in nearly every President that has left office after having an either illustrious or embarrassing experience as the leader of our country. I have always believed myself to have moderate views on politics, most would look at me and shout liberal, very few would imagine conservative. Maybe it has to do with the clothes I wear, the length of my hair, my own insecurity with a philosophy, but the fact is I believe in people far sooner than I do any political affiliate. I feel for the human condition long before I attach myself to any religious orthodoxy. I think our ability to remain open to everything that happens around us is a key element to surviving not only this life-changing pandemic but everything we experience in our lives.

I watched as President Nixon became a criminal in the eyes of America, and then years later began to receive acknowledgement with his prowess for foreign diplomacy despite his alleged personal perils running the country. I will not believe he passed on in disgrace, more a Statesman. President Kennedy really didn’t get a chance. I reference him only because he was the first President I experienced as a toddler. I became increasingly aware with age.

I have watched both Bushes become recognized for not simply their philanthropy but their kindness toward what we find to be our world. I never thought I would say that about either, certainly not ‘W’ but now today, I do, because I listen to who they became and have become since leaving office. Perhaps they don’t stand before a podium nearly as often as some, but when they do, their voices are heard and they are respected by everyone. Will we be able to say that about every person that leaves the most visible and powerful position of office in America? For me, that reality is what caused Obama’s words to so resonate yesterday evening.

Even Ronald Reagan left an endearing legacy while his mind struggled to pass gently into the night. The thing about Reagan is he was the same man that entered the office of the Presidency that later left. He did not attempt to make himself something that he was not.

A person does not have to agree with politics to recognize the beauty in human nature. For two decades I lived in a neighborhood of mostly conservative republicans whom today I consider close friends well beyond our political views. We can even talk about politics together without upsetting each other, undermining one another, abusing our right and privilege to exist in and around society together. I thank my family for that attitude because from the moment I could speak, I learned how to defend myself and listen to others with true passion.

I think the values that have allowed us to carve out some niche of who we are today, do evolve from listening to those speakers. They are not just ‘holding the codes’ are capable of ‘pressing the button’ on our survival or demise. True speakers in my lifetime are the one who long after their visible duties have been retired, continue to embrace a world with words of logic, of consciousness of kindness.

Last night, I believe that was President Obama’s motive, and I am grateful. During this time of confusion, hardship, fear as doors begin their opening, there are a lot of posts reflecting what life will be like when we do re-enter society. Please do not imagine for a moment that people’s struggles today are temporary. It is a frightening prospect to know what this pandemic has done to so many lives already struggling long before the outbreak occurred.

Despite fear and the unknown, the strongest belief I wish to hear day in and day out is – Be Kind.

I believe that was Barack Obama’s motive yesterday, and he wakes with the same today.


© Thom Amundsen 5/2020