Last night I had the privilege to listen to 380 fourth graders perform for a Veterans Day celebration. Something about children’s voices lifting up a song can cut through all the polarizing rhetoric and divisive crap of recent politics to remind us of what is really important. I was so thankful to see a beautiful mosaic of our country’s multiethnic identity on the stage of my son’s school–all singing words of liberty and patriotism. I prayed that each student and their families felt the immutable truth of what they sang.
In light of all that has transpired in our country this week, and even over the last few months, the words of the songs hit me afresh and I realized how much of our identity and hope as a nation is embedded in the lyrics of our most cherished patriotic music. I am also fairly confident that the message of these songs probably runs deeper and extends wider today than when they were first sung. We have figured out a lot of important truths about freedom since we became a country. But, as this year has shown, we still have much to wrestle with and figure out.
As I listened, different phrases popped out to me and seemed to come together in my own hopes that unity, understanding, and freedom find their greatest expression in how each of us chooses to embody them each day with our words and actions towards our fellow Americans and our world. This is my prayer in honor of Veterans Day and the challenge they give us to join in the precious and hard work of freedom:
My country tis of thee, may we let freedom ring not just in pledges and songs, but in how we humbly care for the one shackled by poverty or injustice.
Sweet land of liberty, if God shed His grace on thee, may we recognize how extending that grace anew to one another can mend thine ev’ry flaw.
This land is your land, as much as it is my land, and that is our good, crowned with brotherhood, if we are willing to wear the crown and walk with our brothers and sisters of different colors, faiths and histories.
Some say, “this is my country, land of my birth.” Some say, “this is my country, land of my choice.” But all our souls are rooted deeply in the soil on which we stand.
So, let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me, and you, and this one land that we have been given to have and hold.
lyric excerpts taken from: My Country ‘Tis of Thee by Samuel Francis Smith, America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates, This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie, This is My Country by Don Raye and Al Jacobs, and Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller.