Let's try this solution: having happened on two experiences today which, lacking any reason to, I immediately thought of as connected, I now have to discover, as I write, what I saw in them, or felt in them, that imposed this connection on them, and on me.
One was a song, and the other was a parade.
Perhaps twenty years ago, my daughter brought to my attention a recording by one Syd Straw of a re-discovered Stephen Foster song titled, Hard Times." I was instantly smitten with both the sound, and the feeling within it. It became and unthought emotional experience for me, and so it has remained ever since. The line central to the whole thing was, "Many years have you lingered around my cabin door; Oh Hard Times, come again no more." Given that it was Stephen Foster, and that it was being delivered in something of a country or bluegrass framework, I immediately attached it in my mind to the poor people of the Appalachians, with a particular picture image of a wretchedly poor woman sitting on her back porch in the hills somewhere, deprived of hope, but carrying on anyway. The fact that she is telling "Hard Times" to "come again no more," surely indicates some innate spunk that has her fighting inspite of her situation.
Well, many years have passed, and today I played a CD of Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor, Yo Yo Ma, James Taylor and Allison Krauss performing some new, some old, music of the mountains, and lo and behold, I hear James singing "Hard Times." Since that moment, I have been busy with that image of the forlorn old woman sitting on the porch of her rickety cabin somewhere in Appalachia. Having some ongoing, however distant, awareness of the conditions that prevail in Appalachia by way of a contributory connection to the Christian Appalachian Project, I often receive materials describing those conditions. Of course, those conditions are not limited to old women on back porches, and those of all ages are troubled by them.
Given that Stephen Foster wrote the song about a century and a half ago, the simple idea came across to me that for some people, things haven't changed much, have they. One could as well apply the song to Foster himself, since his last years were a disaster.
Later today, as I watched the Tournament of Roses Annual Parade in Pasadena, CA, I was impressed with the content of some of the earlier floats and groups, as to the heroic content they illustrated. One such was a blind marching band from Ohio. They were led by an arm-in-arm cadre of mature blind people walking along with just one sighted person at the side to set the pace. As to the band, each playing member had a marching assistant to guide them along as they played. And yes, they negotiated that big turn into Colorado Avenue that all the marchers have to make.
The second group that caught my attention was a float bearing the images of many who had been in the organ donor program, and whose generosity kept just as many others alive. Sitting along both sides of the float were people of all ages, recipients of the organs that now allowed them to take part in the greatest parade in the whole world.
Shortly after, a combined Marine Corps marching band came along. No nonsense, good old John Philip Sousa music, standard Marine dress uniforms, nobody looking like a caballero, nobody playing a drumset hanging off the shoulders with five different drums, all just straight down the line traditional. They were damned good, and I loved it, as much as I loved skipping along at hometown parades, trying to keep pace with my Dad playing bass drum with the Fife, Drum, and Bugle Corps of the Waverly Engine Company in Eastchester, NY.
And so, there they were, the little old lady on the Appalachian back porch, and the Tournament of Roses Parade, pushing in on my sensitivities in the course of this New Year's Day, 2010. And so, what's to be made of it?
It doesn't matter if there is any rhyme or reason to it, I have to figure out my own connection. The only thought I had awareness of in all this, was the continuity of things. Human misery doesn't quit, and neither does the human urge and capacity to fight it through. There was also an element of trust in these pictures. the blind marchers trusted in each other and their assistants to march five miles without tripping or falling. The organ recipients trusted that someone else's body part would work for them. The marines trusted in John Philip Sousa that he would keep them all in line and on the tune. Most of all, I believe that back-porched lady in Appalachia was trusting in God that she would find some way, some how, to carry on, because by God, she wasn't put on this earth to Quit.
Okay, I figured it out. Trust, and our connection to, and reliance on, others, and in the end, on God, was today's message for me. That's enough.
Keep the faith, Fight the Good Fight, and remember, Darfur is right next door.