Monday, September 12, 2011

Gift List- The semi-sorta- patriotic addition

So I’m not actually the most patriotic person in the world. I was when I was a child…the Citizenship Badge was the first badge I wanted to earn while I was in Missionettes. (basically the Christian version of Girl Scouts, of which I was also a part) But somewhere along the way, I lost that patriotic love. Well, ok, it was lost in the midst of deep historical political research...but that’s another story…

ANYWAYS…the point is…irregardless of my non-existent patriotism…9/11 will obviously bring out even the most mundane levels of nationalism. (I even teared up as I listened to Alan Jackson’s song ‘Where were you’ all the way through for the first time yesterday, instead of rolling my eyes to the cheese-factor and flipping the station) At the very least, during this September anniversary, us non-patriots at least step back and allow those around us to proudly and boldly proclaim their red, white, and blue spirits, with our sarcastic or jaded lips firmly sealed.

I had the privilege of being with a group of exchange students on September 11th. They were finishing up a weekend long orientation and had put together presentations about their countries for the 50+ set of host families and friends that were present.

My heart was touched, and I counted my gifts as I sat in that room watching the students and families around me.

291- Being so blessed to continually be surrounded by international people for the last 14+ years. I feel truly saddened for the Americans who are only surrounded by other Americans and miss out on the vast beauty of the people in this world.

292- Stereotypes flattened. Because I am around international people so much, I feel like I don't hold many cultural stereotypes. But one was definitely shattered in a shocking but hilarious way while an introduction game was played. A fully covered Muslim girl introduced her name, and then boldly announced she liked to fart. Ya, I didn't see that one coming. 

292- Watching the students tell us about their countries with pride and excitement…and the sincere invitations extended to come visit them and see the uniqueness of their lands for ourselves.

293- I was touched as I looked around the room at all these families who had chosen to take a student in for a year…despite the difficulties and fear of the unknown, despite vastly different religions or belief systems…and fully welcome and embrace them as one of their own family members. 

294- The respect given, as students sang their own national anthems…audience standing, hats removed, whispering stopped. This especially touched my heart, that even on this 10th anniversary of 9/11, a time when American patriotism is at its highest...respect and honor was easily and readily extended to the other countries represented that day.

295- Standing in that room…full of Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Atheists, Hindu’s...Americans, Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhstanis, Thai, Moldovans, and many more…with statements being made that were highly contrary to other's beliefs...some things that could have easily been grounds for offense...but instead, choices were made to respect each other, get to know each other, allow stereotypes to be shattered and walls torn down.

296- The last to present, a boy from the Republic of Georgia who proudly shared about his country, and then he asked if he could share something else with us. He grabbed another board he had been hiding and showed us what he made. A very simple, rough drawing that spoke volumes- the Twin Towers and the letters 9-11 at the top. A hushness gripped the room for several seconds as eyes filled with tears...the silence was broken as people in the audience began saying 'thank you' to the Georgian boy for acknowledging the day. He turned the board around and revealed simple words he had scribbled out: "Make peace, not war". He said the words out loud, and said that was his wish for all of us. At that moment, I was aware that everyone in the room truly stood on the same page, silent prayers and wishes being made that this would become a truth in all of our nations.

297- Starting the day at church and in worship. Listening and agreeing with the prayers prayed from passionate hearts for our government, our military, and our future as a nation. And then ending the day with these same fantastic people...thankful that they came to help rearrange furniture and boxes into and out of storage places...and then dinner together, laughing and sharing stories...and I looked around and made a mental note of how truly blessed I am

298- Despite my overall feelings about my own country...knowing I am blessed to be born and raised here during this time in history. I am truly thankful for the men and women who have fought and given their lives for this nation and these freedoms in which we know. I don't want to take the freedoms I have been freely given for granted...ever.