A Heart Filled With Expectations
Graduation night! Finally, I could escape the small town I grew up in and head off for college. The world was out there, and I was determined to experience as much of it as possible. My heart longed for the safety of what I perceived to be the adult world and I was ready to explore every corner.
We wore our caps and gowns as the members of the choir stood and headed for the front of the gym.
“Give me your tired your poor…your huddled masses yearning to be free.”
My eyes filled with tears as my voice blended with the others. Our parents and siblings sat in awed silence as the emotion of the song filled the very air we inhaled.
I don’t know why I cry every time I hear this song. I also cry when we sing the national anthem.
Am I perhaps thinking of my father’s experiences in WWII?
Is it the horrific story my stepfather told of the carnage in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and his days as a POW under German guards?
I might have been thinking of my friend Bertha describing her father’s nightmares after being one of the first American soldiers to enter the concentration camp during the war.
It might have gone further back in our nation’s history.
The Very Heart of Our Birth
I looked at Grandma and Grandpa in the audience.
As I sang the words, I promised God I’d always strive to achieve the compassionate soul my grandfather exhibited each day.
I thought about his ancestors who arrived as one of the original colonists under a land grant from the King of England.
How many people had arrived on our shores with the same dream in their heart?
Aren’t we all striving for the freedom to raise our children in a land of possibilities?
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
The tears I cried as I sang at my high school graduation were tears of hope. My heart ached for a life free of the fear of more abuse. I wanted to help those who wanted to breathe free, as I did. We have so many lofty goals in our hearts as we set out into the adult world. Where did those dreams go?
Have we silently become bitter as we watch what’s happening in our world day in and day out?
Were there too many wars and too many losses for us to be able to see the torch lighting our way?
Does the lady in the harbor mean nothing to us today?
The Heart of our Government
We expect our government to strive to do it’s best for our citizens.
From the knee of my grandfather, he taught me that our compassion is shared with everyone, regardless of wealth or standing.
Where was our heart in the wake of the hurricane in Puerto Rico?
Can we profess to be a compassionate people when children are removed from the arms of their parents?
How do we explain to our children that possibilities are determined by the color of their skin?
Where is the line we refuse to cross? It appears to have moved since the day I stood at the front of the gymnasium singing the words, “Give me your tired, your poor…”
A New Beginning
The greatest gift my grandfather shared with me was hope. There is always an opportunity for new beginnings.
When I wrote the blog post “You Will Respect the Office of the Presidency,” I meant every word of it. So much has changed in the past two years.
It is through my grandfather’s eyes and heart that I see the world.
Aren’t we all allowed second chances?
The choice is whether we live up to the expectations or continue to spew the hatred and disgust that got us into trouble in the first place.
In Grandpa’s own words: “Something terrible must have happened to that poor boy when he was little to have made him do those horrible things.”
The Tears Still Fall
As I listen to the song today, the tears continue to slide down my cheeks. They are tears of lost opportunities.
I remember the first time I saw the lady standing in the harbor. My husband and I visited New York City for the first time one year after the Twin Towers fell.
As I looked at her, I remembered how excited my aunt and uncle were to attend the one-hundredth anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.
And so today, I finished my watercolor depiction of the lady who holds a torch to light the way for all of us.