Giving Thanks for Righteous Moments in a Broken World
“You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Seattle Times ran an opinion piece suggesting that The Youngbloods’ cover of Chet Powers’ iconic 1960s song “Get Together” could be an anthem for what lay ahead. The author of the piece, Dave Brown, suggested that love would prevail over fear, that it could serve to “improve our individual and collective welfare,” even in the face of a global crisis.
It likely will take years to determine how prescient Brown was in his assessment. However, at the micro level, I am witness to the validity of the equation. When true love is present, it packs transformative power.
This year, I draw from the wisdom of my pastor. On the subject of sin, he is prone to referring to the “thou shalts,” rather than attempting to compile an inexhaustible list of the “thou shalt nots.” Thou shalt live in righteousness with God and all humankind. Righteousness, particularly with respect to the human dynamic, means nonpossessive, altruistic, charitable, selfless, serving, open — agape — love.
It’s a divine construct that is much easier said than done. On many days, I can hold my breath longer than I am able to continuously behave righteously. Even the best among us often succumb to the prideful, egocentric pratfalls of human nature.
That makes righteousness elusive. But when it rules the moment, the consequence is glorious. When, as Sigmund Freud theorized, the superego influences the psyche to focus on moralistic goals, in my experience, blessings and peace abound.
Suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has meant having to rely on such unilateral outpourings of noble behavior in order to merely exist. It has rendered any quid pro quo arrangement an impossibility. I have nothing meaningful to offer in return.
Thanksgiving Day, every day
Yet, despite longstanding and consuming ALS fatigue, my family still tends to me. In the face of my ever-declining interaction skills, my friends continue faithfully to check in. The professional care team invests off-the-clock time in pursuit of my comfort. My gratitude runs deep for these displays of righteous treatment.
In a larger sense, whether coincidental with ALS or because of it, I’ve grown increasingly more surveillant of examples of virtuous human contact, even when I’m not the beneficiary. I look and listen for it. It moves me if demonstrated, however briefly. Whenever the key to unlock love — rather than fear — is chosen, I rejoice.
When I overhear about my stepdaughter, Lou-Anne, wanting to rush out in support of someone who is troubled, the effervescent effect is long-lasting. When I learn of my congregation’s resolve to offer a helping hand to the latest identified casualty of life, tears of joy may well up.
Redemptive human interest stories are a lingering compensatory salve to the myriad tales of human antagonism. Examples of how someone — to paraphrase a famous part of the inauguration address of U.S. President John F. Kennedy — seeks not to parasitically draw from the community, but instead serve it, lift my spirit.
It will be my treat this Thanksgiving to observe a smattering of truly righteous interludes as our family gathers for the holiday. Sure, there will be some contention. After all, there are only two drumsticks and but one wishbone. In spite of those squabbles-in-waiting, the love that my pastor says is the antithesis of sin will emanate early and often.
Although when my wife and her family are together, they often converse in their native French — which I, at best, have only a superficial command of a few words and fewer phrases — righteousness is nonetheless obvious. Tone, body language, and facial expression are unmistakable signs. Righteousness transcends language. It is an aura, an energy — the pinnacle of human reach, the greatest show on earth.
This year, among countless unmerited blessings, I am thankful to have been in the audience for the ultimate entertainment experience — the occasional display of righteous living.
Come on people now, smile on your brother. I am.
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