This morning, I heard the sound of a siren echoing through the woods. Most of you may be thinking, “So what? I hear sirens all the time.” That may be true, but here amongst the hills and hollows of these Ozark mountains, it is not a sound I hear frequently.
I have lived in the city before. I once lived for three years in El Cajon, California, in an apartment a mere two blocks from the police and ambulance station. When you hear them all of the time, you learn to tune them out. But here in my little house, on the edge of Rodgers Ridge, the loudest sounds I typically hear are the hoot owl who occasionally lights outside my window, or the bullfrogs in the pond in my front yard. Here, when I hear a siren, it gets my attention. Here, when I hear a siren, it means one of my neighbors is in trouble.
I stepped onto the back porch to determine which direction it was coming from; North, headed South. In my mind I started listing all of the folks I know who live down that way. We are not extremely good friends, but with many of the folks on the other end of the road, I have a friendly acquaintance with them; if we see each other in town, we stop and chat for a bit. There are also people on the other end of the road that I don’t know. Does that lessen my concern for the unfortunate unknown soul on that ambulance? No it does not.
As the sound of the siren faded away, all that was left was the sound of the crows cawing up in the field and the January breeze rustling the the dead leaves on the ground and the late hangers in the trees. I came back in the house and made a cup of coffee and began to ponder a bit.
What if we were all concerned for our neighbors? What does it mean to be a neighbor? Well, I did a little bit of traveling this past summer. During my travels, I met a lot of people from all over the world. Here’s my conclusion: we are ALL neighbors. We should all be concerned about each other. Guess what the immigrant from Korea wants? He wants to live in a free country, to be safe and to be allowed to work hard at a business of his own choosing. Guess why the young woman from Vietnam, who made fast friends with me, was in the US? To get a quality education in New Orleans, and to see the wilds of Alaska for the summer. Guess what the native Alaskan man I met in Fairbanks wanted? For his people to be recognized as the only true Americans, having been the original inhabitants of the area, long before we immigrants came.
Right about now, you are probably thinking, “Wait…what? I am not an immigrant! I was born in the United States of America!” You would be right, on one hand. You are an American. But if you are like me, my roots were planted in the soils of other countries. England, Ireland, France, just to name some of the ones I know about. Most of my American roots were planted in the 1700’s. I even have a few revolutionary soldiers in my heritage. Does that make me any more American than anyone else?
No; it does not.
But before I get off course, talking about immigration, (we’ll save that discussion for another time), let me get back to my main point. We are all neighbors. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, who you love, what your religious or political beliefs are, where you come from or whether you are a man, woman, boy or girl. We are ALL neighbors.
I emerged from the presidential election feeling a little battered and bruised. I felt that way largely because of the way we neighbors were treating each other. There has been a lot of ugliness. I withdrew from social media for a few weeks, hoping it would calm down and people would return to being decent to each other. But when I returned, I only saw that it has not gotten better. It has possibly even escalated.
What I hear coming down the road is a siren so loud, we cannot ignore it. When we wonder who is on the ambulance, we should be concerned. Because, folks, WE are on that ambulance. If we don’t stop hating each other and start working together, things are not going to get better; they will only get worse. We should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by anyone in power; we need to think for ourselves, pull ourselves up by our boot straps, roll up our sleeves, get shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors, and get to work.
Hate cannot win.