Yesterday we were talking about the fact that the United States is cutting back on the amount of attention it is giving to formative Presidents such as George Washington and Abe Lincoln. I expressed my opinion that I think that is sad. The ability to remember is one of the greatest of human gifts. We all have it, and should celebrate it, and should be guided by it.
In this context, I have noticed a strange tendency popping up. Many of my friends, whether in early middle age or older, are not interested in birthdays. They don’t want to talk about them, they don’t want to celebrate them. I think this is just as regretable as forgetting about ole George and Abe!
Remembering our birthdays is very healthy, and can give us a sense of rootedness, if at least once a year we stop, think about, and celebrate the reality that one special day, we arrived here. That day was to be the first of all that would follow, filled as they would be with learning, excitement, hard work, pain, suffereing, a sense of loss, and finally, preparation for the other book end- our earthly death and birth into eternal life.
None of us are free of pain. None of us avoid suffering. Although these negative realities follow our birth, they do not negate the awesome reality that we have been born, brought into existence as part of the plan of a loving God. That plan is with us every moment of our existence. What a wonderful thing to celebrate! Happy Birthday this year, and many more. Bring on the cake!
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Recognize any of these faces?
Public holidays are expensive for our government, and there is a natural resistance against multiplying them, and actually a tendency in the other direction, to cut back when possible. This is the reality that cut George Washington out of his own special day, and the same is true for Honest Abe Lincoln. I regret this because I think that their contributions to the reality that is the United States of America is so massive, so important, so permanently transformative as to forever have given them their own special day.
Every little child in the country heard the George Washington stories, several of which are actually true! Remember the cherry tree? Every struggling young adult has had the example of Abe Lincoln’s determination in the face of adversity placed before him many times. Now, our kids are told “rejoice and be glad, because today is President’s day!” Do you think that will excite a ten year old, or encourage a discouraged law student? I doubt it.
Despite this sad merger, each of us is free to continue to spotlight the influence that these two national heroes have had in our own individual lives. George Washington is still touching each one of us, and Abraham Lincoln continues to give an example of faithfulness and integrity that is desperately needed in our country today.
The presidency is probably the single most difficult job in our society. We should be thankful that there are men and women willing to seek it, and thankful that when and if they achieve it, they make every effort to give it their best.
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