By sister alies.
Our friends in Canada just celebrated their 150th birthday this last week and we, of course, celebrated yesterday! Fireworks, food, friends, family, remembrance of Service, a memorial to those who gave their lives, July 4, is the usual marker for parades and picnics in our rich national history, and also a good place, in our hotting up summer, to be reminded of our role as Citizen.
Citizen does not just mean ‘party member’. Citizen goes far beyond all that to the moral and ethical implications of being an American. As someone who lived and worked abroad, as many of you have, others views of our country is not what you might expect, feeling as most do that we are the biggest and the best! I remember a person complain that “the USA is like a spoiled teen with keys to a hot red car and no thought about responsibility for safety or concern for walkers or folks on bicycles.” So many countries are so very much older than we are. My first trip to Europe reminded me of that. The Church of England church in my little village in Norfolk, UK, was dated 643AD! There were services two or three times a week and of course, funerals in a cemetery that went way back. Shall we check our Native American sisters and brother for their heritages going back much further than the arrival of Europeans or Africans?
Citizen means both rights and responsibilities. We know that from our civic and US history classes (do we still have those?) anyway, my rights are often touted first and then my responsibilities. I’d like to shift that and suggest that my responsibility is for the common good…and in that my rights are met. My responsibilities are for the weakest and most vulnerable, giving voice where it has been silenced. My rights are met in that.
Citizen means I can serve. Citizen means I can be served. Citizen means that all the complicated problems any human community faces might be dealt with, with civility and respect. Citizen means I can offer hope to the disenfranchised and all those ‘poor longing to be free’ as written on the Statue of Liberty, without worrying about what I might lose in the process. Citizen means I can worship, speak, vote and create. Citizen means that I can be an instrument of peace, a conduit of joy, and a solver of problems. Citizen means I can be unafraid of change that serves the common good and citizen means I can hold this fragile nation in my prayers, all her elected officials and all who serve her. This, of course, includes our alderpersons and supervisors. Think global, act local. How can we make our own county and cities even better for all citizens and friends?
Citizen does not mean I can do whatever I want. Citizen does not mean I can ride roughshod and dictate in disrespectful ways. Citizen does not mean I can think only of my family first or only of myself.
Citizen means cooperation with others to afford the greatest good for all. I am proud to be a Citizen. I understand how difficult it is to ‘work things out’. Let’s try mercy-ing one another. Let’s try including rather than excluding. Let’s try living with love at the center of our communities, large or small. Let’s step up and be sure our children learn and know what it means to be a Citizen. That’s our responsibility.