In watching the funeral for Ted Kennedy today, and parts of the Celebration of Life at the Kennedy Library last evening, it is impossible to avoid the fact of his faith, and how central it was to his entire life.
He was no armchair Christian, no lukewarm, Sunday-only practitioner. He was not a public man who mouthed a faith and then lived as if it did not matter.
As many assess his political life, it seems clear that the core of Ted Kennedy was his God and his faith as a Christian. And, true to that faith, he wrestled every day with the implications of it for his life.
Of course, he fell short, sometimes with hideous consequences. But his faith told him to get up again, and he did. And at other times, he soared.
I believe the essence of Jesus’ life and teachings is not to live a perfect life so much as it is to exhibit a zest for life–for giving life everything you’ve got. Ted Kennedy came about as close as anyone I know to doing that.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins writes, “Being people of faith doesn’t keep us from facing challenges, but our faith tells us we are equal to the challenges.”
Durrell, senior pastor of Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Ft. Lauderdale, is responding to the 28th anniversary–today–of the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that a task force had been formed to investigate the cases of Karposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis in gay men. What we now know as HIV/AIDS begins to be isolated and named.
28 years. So many dead, and still dying (especially where the drugs are not easily available).
And many now living with what has become a chronic, and mostly manageable, condition–so some refuse to take elementary precautions against infection.
Still, there is stigma and shame attached to those with the disease.
Our challenge is to keep the dialogue open, to resist in every way perpetuating the shame, to pray for a cure, to care for those whose immune systems do not respond positively to the drugs, to agitate until everyone in the world has easy access to the medications, to put condoms everywhere, to demand funding for cure and care.
Keep the faith, share the faith, live the faith. Never give up.
At the center of my personal campaign for improvements in health care for our nation is a daily walk.
I also write to my Senators and Representative, and I have improved my eating habits, but it is walking every day that is the core of my campaign.
As Jonathan and I walked together this morning, and as we met various neighbors and dogs on the road, my spirits lifted. We came to a small hill and I lengthened my stride, pushing myself and feeling the endorphins kick in–and I felt as if my feet would soon leave the ground. Then, we encountered our neighbor Rebecca, and I believe I did rise above the earth.
I thought to myself: I want everyone to have this opportunity, to walk or engage in some activity that pleases them and helps them be more healthy.
Yes, everyone needs access to adequate and affordable insurance (the debate should be over how best to do this, not whether we can do it), but most of all we each need the personal commitment and socio-economic opportunity to take good care of ourselves.
I know the Creator of Life wants that for us. What can you do today to make that more possible for yourself and others?
I was standing in a line behind five people at the post office at 4:55 pm. A man came up behind me, muttering, “Only one clerk–think they’d plan ahead and have more just before closing.”
I bit my tongue. There were two other clerks, who had momentarily gone to the back for their customers.
Then he said, “Wouldn’t be like this if it were privatized.”
I loosened my tongue. “Only time I ever lost a package, with no explanation or apology was with FedEx,” I said.
“Hmmmph. All I know is that when health care is taken over by the government, it will be like the post office–inefficient, uncaring . . . .”
Just then the two clerks reappeared, finished up with the two customers, called the next two forward; then the third clerk called me.
“Hey,” I said, “not bad–joined a line less than five minutes ago and already at the window.”
The man looked away.
I sympathize with his frustration: government is often inefficient. But frankly, business is often about the same. Government is not evil, any more than business.
One of the great things about Ted Kennedy was that he believed that together we can work together, through our shared institutions, to create a better life for everyone. And he practiced that every day.
I have been home for a week, spending part of each day working our yard. The work has been ordinary–trimming, weed pulling, that sort of thing.
But the experience has been transformative.
Peace has settled deeper into my soul than it has in a long time. I have begun to see our yard as a beautiful universe of color, texture, energy, and joy.
Thomas Friedman, writing of a visit to Botswana, quotes his guide: “If you spend enough time in nature and allow yourself to slow down sufficiently to let your senses work, then through exposure and practice, you will start to sense the meanings in the sand, the grasses, the bushes, the trees, the movement of the breezes, the thickness of the air, the sounds of the creatures and the habits of animals with which you are sharing that space.”
I discovered that without going to Africa, in my half-acre south of the James River in Richmond, Virginia.
Prayer is like that, too. If you spend enough time with God, and allow yourself to slow down sufficiently to let your senses work, then through exposure and practice . . . you will start to sense the meanings of . . . life.
Fifty years ago today, Hawaii became the 50th state.
I remember the debate that preceded approval by the Congress. A bunch of influential people–on the conservative side of the political spectrum–opposed statehood because they claimed that Hawaii was secretly controlled by communists–the Longshoreman’s Union was a hotbed of radicalism and it was very powerful in Hawaii.
It turns out that they may have been more prescient than they knew. About two years after statehood, one Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii.
Some folks today are saying this Obama is a socialist. They are not saying so–probablythey do not remember the statehood debate–but maybe it is so because he was born in Hawaii (his father, supposedly a scholar and teacher, may have secretly been a member of the Longshoremen’s Union).
Of course, that would put them in conflict with another group–potentially related to the earlier anti-Hawaii group–whose members claim he was not born there at all. They are sure that the folks in charge of the vital records for the State of Hawaii–no doubt offspring of those original communist sympathizers–are lying when they sustain Obama’s claim of Hawaiian birth.
Besides, how can you trust a department whose address is 1250 Punchbowl Street?
Either way, we are indeed fortunate that some people work so hard to share what they know is truth.