Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Prayer for the United States ... Everyone Should Travel the Road

I was supposed to write this blog post yesterday but I'm glad that I waited until today.  It seems more suited for today.

Today is May 2, 2013 which also happens to be the National Day of Prayer in the United States, a day on which persons of faith are asked to seek God in prayer and meditation for the health and well being of our nation. If you do a Google search on "National Day of Prayer",  it will return headlines like:   "On National Day of Prayer, America needs prayer like never before" ; "On the National Day of Prayer, time for a revival"; and  "Utahns join in National Day of Prayer."

This morning I had a strong suspicion that while millions of us may be praying we will probably not be praying about the same thing. Whose prayer does God answer if we are not in agreement on the nature of our prayer needs.  Do we pray specific prayers like, "God fix the economy" or "God keep us safe"?  Or should we pray general prayers like "God give us guidance"?   I'm sure that there will be a mix of both uttered today.  As for me, my prayer today is for our nation's leaders, in fact for all of its citizenry,  would be that they take the time to travel the nation as I have over the past month and really discover who we are as people, then pray.   

During the month of April I traveled a large swatch of this nation via Greyhound and Trailways buses through America's big cities like: Philadelphia, PA;  Washington, DC; and Chicago, IL;  medium sized cities like Richmond,VA; Winston-Salem, NC; Des Moines; IA; and Omaha, NE; and small towns like Maple Shade, NJ,  Cookesville, TN; and Rock Island, IA-IL. 

In addition to having the opportunity of enjoying the beauty of the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains, this journey has reconfirmed something which I have always known about Americans, we are more alike than we are different.

 I used the term swatch intentionally because it brings to mind the  swatches of fabric, (remnants of larger pieces that were used to make garments or other creations) that are used to make quilts.  A quilt is who we really are as a nation, not a melting pot.  The United States is a patchwork of races, religions and social classes held together by the simple common threads of our humanity and the country we call home.  Sadly, sometimes we forget that.  Too often we spend so much of our time focusing on our differences in politics, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and geography that we overlook the very simple truth that we are all humans. 

On a bus trip you experience humanity, at its best and worst.  While road trips by car can be equally enlightening there is nothing like a bus trip for people watching and simply listening.  As you sit quietly, trusting your driver to take you from point A to point B, you'll hear the conversations of families excited about going on vacation;  lovers telling each other how much they already miss each other; relatives asking other passengers to look out for their loved ones; and people just checking in to give someone at home their itinerary.

Even in this age of smartphones and iPads, you can't isolate yourself from those around you.  You are simply too close together.  You hear the snores, you see the struggles of those who need a little more leg room and, smell the morning breath of people next to whom you would not normally wake up :-) 

You can experience amazing kindness and civility like; the angel I met in Maple Shade who helped me pay for shipping my excess package, she was not asked, she just offered; the  gentleman in Winston Salem who helped me carry my bags through the terminal;  the guy in Asheville who looked out for me all the way to Chicago;  or the bus driver who tried to help me adjust my ticket because the route seemed to be way out of the way.

Of course, this is reality and the world is not perfect.  So you may also encounter the people who will stand by and watch you struggling with bags;  people who won't move out of the aisle even after you say, "excuse me"; people who won't assist a woman traveling with small children get a seat; people who will stare at you across an aisle as if you remind them of some hated enemy or are from another planet; and people, who when the boarding announcement is made, jump in the front of
people who have been patiently standing in line for nearly an hour. 

If you take the time to strike up conversations you will meet: the woman in the ladies room who is fixing her make-up to meet a boyfriend for the first time; the guy moving from one city to another in search of work; and the young woman traveling home so her parents can hold their 5 week old grandchild. 

This is who were are as Americans.  The race, religion, politics  and national origin of any of these people is irrelevant because their stories could be anyone's.  This is what we so often forget.

So on this National Day of Prayer, my prayer is that everyone will have the opportunity to experience the world as I have.  To travel this nation's big cities and small towns and get a deeper understanding of what's really on the hearts and minds of people.  To understand people's fears, concerns, hopes and dreams.  Then maybe our prayers will be more focused. 

For those of you familiar with the ministry of Jesus, this is exactly what it did. He traveled the road and met the sick, the hungry, the homeless and the heartbroken.  He listened to, conversed with, broke bread with and touched the hearts of the multitudes.  He ministered hope and encouragement to those he met and having compassion for them, he prayed. 

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