He spoke of John Lewis, his work in civil rights, the counter sit-ins, the freedom rides, and the March across the bridge. He spoke of John Lewis’s kindness, his respect for others, how he never stopped, never quit fighting for equality and democracy. How he fought for America to be a new place, a place of equality and respect for others, no matter how different they may be.
I didn’t know, but I was dry inside. Not the dry of dust, but the dry of clay cracked and baked in the sun. I didn’t know that I had been hurting for the water of hope until about half way through Obama’s speech. I was watching and listening, closely, as he looked around the congregation gestured, his voice rising in praise of John Lewis, the work John Lewis did, and ultimately about the ongoing violence against people of color and about democracy, I cried.
I didn’t know that I had given up on the inside. Didn’t know that I was dry, dead, inside. The water of hope, in his words, in John Lewis’s legacy, and the faces of the congregation soaked into me, renewing me again. It hurt but at the end it was heartening.
I believe that we, as perverse as we Americans are, can be refreshed. Our cynicism and the unrelenting politics of division, hate, and self-interest have parched us, but we will be renewed. We will return to doing things because they are the right thing to do, not the convenient, safe, or profitable thing. We will forgive when the small parts of us scream that forgiveness isn’t deserved. We will rise above the inequality and the fears and hatreds that live in us all, that have been stoked in the last several years.
The message was we can be our better selves if we choose to be. Instead of following our emotions and our basest fears, we can be more.
I want more of this, I want the hope of John Lewis and Barack Obama. I want the hope for all of us. We can do it, but we have to want to. For the first time in a long time I want to.
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