When I read of the days around the 2nd World War after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I read of a time when folks pulled together for a common cause—and against a common enemy. This is when “the Greatest Generation” earned their title. They had to sacrifice personally for the good of their neighbor—the common good. All of a sudden, fathers and sons who were able were called to defend and protect their country. This left men who were aged or unable and the ladies to keep the nation rolling. This is where the famous Rosie the Riveter would earn her fame—and all of her sisters who rose to the occasion. During World War 2, the number of American volunteer hours surged. Victory gardens were planted. They submitted to government-managed rationing and price controls.
Not too many years ago, on September 11, 2001, our nation experienced yet another attack. America was briefly paralyzed and then to use the words attributed to a Japanese soldier during WW2, the sleeping giant was awakened. Once again, Americans united around a common cause—and around an enemy that was hard to identify, but broadly defined as terrorism. The generosity of Americans flooded national charities. American flags were flow proudly as a sign of unity. We were a changed nation—reminded of how wonderful life in our great country was.
Of course, as is often the case, the years come and go and memories wax and wane. Increasingly over the past few years, lines had been drawn in the sand over political ideology. Folks who were identified as an “R” couldn’t be friends with those who held a “D”. And you can forget about working together—or much less talking to one another…
…And then came COVID-19… Our country once again finds itself in the midst of a world war—except this time the enemy is undetectable and sweeps through unsuspecting communities like a flash flood on a summer afternoon. The challenge is that one doesn’t even know they have been exposed or become symptomatic until two weeks after. Once again, our country (and the world) is briefly paralyzed, but it didn’t take long for us to mobilize. In my own neighborhood, there is a mask making brigade of all those who can sew to provide protective items for first responders. A neighbor had the sign below in their yard as a reminder that we are Americans—and united we stand.
Down the road, less than two miles, our city’s food pantry (a nonprofit operated completely by volunteers) has ramped up its services and provide hot meals for the many families across our town who now face food insecurity due to the shutdown of life as we know it. Across town, a few nights ago, hundreds of locals gathered in their vehicles, tuning into the same radio station, for an evening of prayer and worship surrounding our local hospital. Every week day, our school employees feed thousands of students across the city—our school superintendent and other administrators jumping on the buses to help deliver the food. Teachers are arranging parades through student neighborhoods to encourage them. Many are voluntarily following the shelter-in-place orders from government officials.
This! This is what I am talking about…the renewal of that great American spirit. The one whose heartbeat in a steady rhythm beats ‘E plurubus Unum…Out of Many, One.” That spirit who reminds us that our reliance upon each other and our acts of unsolicited kindness are the fabric of which we are made. Those healthcare workers and first responders taking on extra shifts to help make a difference.
That is America. It is in our DNA. Sometimes it becomes latent, but it is fierce once awakened. I am proud to be an American. And I am certainly proud to see our fellow citizens rally together. We will survive this great pause. We will come out stronger. God Bless the Great State of Georgia and God Bless These United States of America.