This I Believe

Byron - 07853, New Jersey
Entered on July 13, 2006

A cup of coffee, a gin and tonic, a coke – the 60th birthday party – over, we sat bowed but not unbeaten next the younger crowd of women “looking for love in all the wrong places.” In a city of secrets and shadows with more fruitless than fruitful business and life deals we asked ourselves – Why? Why, after ten grandchildren among the three of us were were still able to say, “I love you.”

Washington DC, a place of monuments and memories, where metal men ride horses that never touch the ground, building have reliefs that few actually see, and we are asked to remember stories from the past with the hope that these stories, these metal men, these Greek reliefs will somehow influence our lives today. The majority of people, like the Prometheus, however, rush to their appointed tasks so mindlessly that Star-bucks is more relevant in their lives than the memories Washington so desperately tries to preserve.

They, we, the world itself seems to be returning to barbaric times. (Even our television revels in the disfiguring approach to the Fair and Balanced presentation of daily lives – even the Most Trusted Name in News panders to the disgorging of stories. With friends like this, it is no wonder that the “clouds in our coffee” have become more sinister than soulful.)

The young women next to us are well-dressed in the appropriate short skits and exposing tops (I didn’t look – for too long) hoping that somewhere there is a person who will still need them when they’re 65 or if that is not possible maybe – just maybe – they might find a comforting body willing to revel in a midsummer night’s dream.

At first glance our lives seem to run the same path. We lived in difficult times. We could not choose war – for the Vietnam soldiers, the war chose them. One of us was a draftee, another a conscientious objector, the third, a a teacher. One was wounded, the other spit upon. (Forty years later we are all teachers – one teaches Shakespeare, one religion, one recalcitrant students.) We came from large families and small families. Our parents – religious, although two of us no longer practice our parent’s religion. As our lives ran past our spring, and summer years, we have eased the fall of our lives. We are still married, still struggling, still worried about our children, our grandchildren, our wives – ourselves. Yet, we are bound together because we love each other. Forty years ago we made a choice – to live.

Growing up at Fairfield University our life-choice was easy. We watched the uneasy world at war, shared the disbelief that each side claimed a divine right, and realized that life does not begin at the moment of conception. It begins when you decide that you and your friends are important. It begins one person at a time.

But, a life-choice can fall from the sky just as quickly as it began. We chose, independently of each other, not to follow the American Dream of success. (Willy Loman does not live here) Instead, we chose to help others learn how to help themselves. In this dream people are more important than spread sheets. Bread more important than bullets. In this dream we discovered that life is not fair, that governments are not always right, and that bad things happen to good people. What we did learn is we must participate each day – not in the politics of life – but in life itself. We must be willing to laugh and cry; to accept blame and give praise; to believe in a god that dances and sings instead of an angry almighty that discriminates and punishes. In this dream we discovered that real men do love each other.

Perhaps on this eve of discovery, it is time for Washington – not to stop building statues – but to also offer places where people of all ages, all races,all colors, all religions can sit down and talk with three old friends who love each. Perhaps it is time for people to participate in life.

This I believe – it is time for people to make their own life-choices.