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My family got together on Father’s Day. This was the first time we’d all been together, under one roof, in ages. We hugged and hung out without masks for the first time in almost three months, and it was wonderful.
As much as I was looking forward to the day, I had also been feeling anxious about it. Recent events in the nation and especially right here where we live in South Philadelphia have had us all on edge. Not knowing what to expect from one day to the next has been exhausting. (As I write this, another protest is forming, at Broad and Snyder, which is just around the corner from my house. Will it remain peaceful? Will my neighborhood be safe?) And because my family sees the world—including current events—through very different lenses, I was worried about what our interactions would look like.
What would we talk about?
Could we avoid getting into an argument?
I was determined that we’d stay off the topic of racial tension, but then, as is usually the case when there is a huge elephant in the middle of a room, someone bumped into it, and it could no longer be ignored.
I had been so afraid that a conversation about the nation’s current state of affairs would devolve into a shouting match, leaving us feeling misunderstood and feeling that our viewpoints had been disrespected. I was afraid the evening would be cut short, and that some of us would walk home feeling angry—and feeling determined that it would be a long time before we’d get together again.
But I was forgetting a few things about my family:
We love each other.
We share common history.
We believe each other’s hearts to be good.
We believe that, deep down, we are each striving to be considerate people. When I say “considerate,” I mean it in the truest sense of the word. We are trying our best to consider every side of an issue before we decide where we’ll stand on that issue . . . even when the considering is painful (which it most certainly is right now). And so, even though we differ on many issues, we respect the fact that each of us is following our own convictions and always trying to make sure those convictions are appropriate. I know I can’t force the rest of my family to embrace my beliefs, but I know they will listen and try to understand why I believe what I do.
And that’s what we did last Sunday:
We listened. We asked questions. We did our best to understand each other’s perspectives.
Being with my family on Father’s Day gave me hope for Philadelphia and hope for America. It reminded me that what we have in common is so much bigger than that which would try to divide us.
I think the Preamble to our U.S. Constitution sums up really well the things we all want and need—the things that are worth pursuing:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Justice, tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and the blessings of liberty . . . things we all want . . . things we should all have—for ourselves and for our generations to come.
And so I pray that my family, my city, and my country will find our way through this time of turmoil, that we will listen, really listen, do our best to understand each other, that we will grow and stretch toward our common, noble goals, and never stop the pursuit of an even more perfect union.
Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash
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