2013-07-03 / Front Page

Heart Treasures

What America Means To Me...
by Joanne J. Hannon

Our flags are flying; plans are in the works for a cookout on the 4th, with thoughts once again turning to our Independence Day and what that means to us:

Some children coming down the aisle after the Children’s sermon this morning, carrying flags which the leader had given to them. They don’t appreciate yet what the flags mean, nor even the words delivered during the children’s sermon, but to them the flag is special for some reason and they have the right to carry it. That’s what America means to me.

Adults and children gathered in parks in both Spencer and Southport, Indiana, to properly dispose of old, worn American flags. The proper way for “throwing out” an old flag is to incinerate it, and fortunately there are folks who take the time, and make the plans to hold a ceremony, and reverently dispose of the flags. It’s a time of patriotism, and is meaningful to me and many others. That’s what America means to me.

The house I live in. Hubby and I rented a number of places in our early years, and owned a small “first house.” That house became more than a first one; it raised our family, and held us even through college and a couple of grandchildren. It took us a long time to pay for that little house, which became the home place. We moved on to another in Owen County, and now are in our “last” one here in Indianapolis. We love our house and feel so fortunate to have such a nice, though modest, home. That’s what America means to me.

A young man, a Husband and Father, died suddenly two weeks ago; suffering a fatal heart attack while on the golf course with his wife in Florida. The pain was felt by so many; the shock reverberated over the Internet, through the phone lines, heart to heart. One man’s life lost and people cared. We went to the calling at the funeral home and people were lined up outside to pay their respects. The following morning, the church sanctuary was filled with folks whose hearts needed healing. One life; it mattered. That’s what America means to me.

Not so nice people are on every block in America, gang members set out to get even for an offense, or perceived one, from a member of another gang. Often this results in one or more deaths. Police are called to a home for what is called a domestic disturbance, often resulting in one or more persons being hurt or killed, sometimes even the police person answering the call. This is a hurtful thing; it hurts my heart and I struggle to understand it, but these folks are also part of America. This is what America means to me.

The Statue of Liberty; I’ve heard so many stories relating to it, or about it, though I have yet to see or touch it. Emma Lazarus spoke now famous words, regarding the immigration of folks from northern, eastern, and southern Europe; going on from Ellis Island to make homes throughout the United States. We are all familiar with these words, and have felt deeply touched by them:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That’s one of the things America means to me.

Will we ever see such a message welcoming immigrants to our country again? Will we be able to welcome those who go to death defying lengths to reach our “shores?” Can we count on our leaders to be able to come to a fair, compassionate, and yet realistic decision regarding immigration? It is a different day; we are a fearful people, afraid that we won’t have room for everybody, and how that affects us. We go about our lives, living much as we always have, and yet we’ve lost some of our faith in our leaders. But that, too, is what America means to me.

A little girl, joining the crowd of people in her small town, banging on a pan, with a wooden spoon, both from her mother’s kitchen. She didn’t understand, but she laughed and yelled and banged on that pan with all the enthusiasm her little body could muster; the war had ended; that’s all she knew, but her small mind picked up on the idea that it was a happy time. That’s also what America means to me.

The people, in the apartment building where I grew up, were angry at the Japanese and even said really bad things about them. Yet when a soldier brought home a Japanese bride, there was a time of adjustment, but hands outstretched with food and help with the language from other folks in our building. Still were angry at the Japanese, but to the individual, love was extended, even though they might not have called it love. I do, and that’s what America means to me.

A girl from a small town, with no money, heading off to college with a family who had offered room and board. An opportunity to further her education and to find a life that has been filled with ups and downs and a whole lot of adventure and love. Not always easy, not always hard, but always worth living. That’s what America means to me.

Homeless people, way too many homeless people. Hungry people, way too many hungry people. Not just in large cities, but in small towns and rural communities. And yet America means to me that there will always be people who reach out to help. Food pantries struggle to keep enough food on hand, but folks keep on finding ways to fill them. Are all the people who come, deserving? We don’t ask; we help.

My grandmother, watching and waiting for letters from her boys in the service. There was not email then, and phone calls cost too much, so she waited and waited for those letters. That memory is also what America means to me.

America means Love; it means hurt, pain, sadness, and misunderstanding; it means sanctity of life. America means reaching out, it sometimes means losing something valuable because someone else decided he/she had a right to it. America means asking, “How will we ever be able to help those folks who’ve been hit by disasters, some by weather, some at the hand of other people? “There are so many, we say”, how can we help them all? We’ve been the country that keeps on giving, and that causes fear in us.

America means criticizing and making judgments about people and things, knowing that as Americans we have the right. In America a racial slur is not acceptable; done publicly, it can cause great personal loss. America means accepting and living with Supreme Court decisions that we are not sure about. It doesn’t happen quickly, sometimes.

America means freedom of religion; my ancestors came here for that right. Doesn’t mean I think we understand or are always tolerant of another’s faith, but as Americans we will not go to prison for worshipping the God we choose. That’s a loss I would never want to experience as one living in America or anywhere else.

Happy Independence Day!

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