Editor’s Note: Several years ago I spoke at the war memorial in Portland at the invite of our blog friend Roger Fuchs. Afterwards, I met Donna Tallman, one of the attendees at the Memorial Day event. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and I’m proud to share Donna’s writing with you today. You can find Donna other days on her blog site.
By Donna Tallman
Yesterday, I went with a friend and her three kids to tour the Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs. The spectacular Cadet Chapel is the crown jewel of the Academy grounds in my mind, and one of my favorite places on earth. On our way home, we stopped at a red light at Union Blvd. Elizabeth, age 8, was having trouble reading the road sign.
“What does U-N-I-O-N spell?” Elizabeth asked.
“Un-yun,” I answered.
“It does not,” Elizabeth protested. “It’s union.”
Yes, it’s union, but I’m in an un-yun state of mind at the moment. Lately, American politics has warped me un-happy making me feel “oniony.”
Most of my friends love onions. I wish I did, but often they make me ill. My cousin, David, is from Birmingham, Alabama. He told me there are people down there who eat peanut butter sandwiches with Vidalia onions, so I assumed he was recommending them. He wasn’t, but I didn’t learn that little tidbit of information until after I made one for myself just to see if they were any good. Not a wise idea, I was sick all evening.
My friend, Chris, uses onions subversively. When Chris can’t think of anything to make for dinner, she throws an onion into a hot oven to buy herself more time. Brilliant woman! As the aroma wafts through the house, so does her family’s false hope that another one of her amazing dinners is just seconds away – if they only knew.
President Obama’s State of the Union speech is coming up on January 24th, and bitter factions have divided my nation. Most discouraging has been that there doesn’t seem to be a clear and resonating message coming out of the American electorate other than, “We don’t like what exists now, but we don’t like the change being offered either.”
No. Not. Can’t. Didn’t. Won’t. Dis. Un. They are words and prefixes that already define defeat.
This political season is barely off the ground and it already feels “oniony” to me.
I’d really like to like onions, but they just make it so difficult for me. I’d also really like to like politics too because I love America. Sadly, politicians are making it impossible. They are exaggerating the “uns” of the nation’s challenges and are making me feel “un-iony.”
Politics makes me think of un-accountable, un-relenting, un-acceptable, and un-yielding – characteristics I really don’t care for and traits that are rendering legislative bodies across this country un-productive. The polarization in our political system has left its bad taste in my mouth and a stench on everyone’s breath. Just like the onion and peanut butter sandwich.
I will not allow my spirit to sauté in the oil of discouragement for long. I’m actually an optimist at heart. I want to believe the best about people, and that the best years still lay ahead for us – like President Reagan did. I especially want to believe the best about my leaders. I know, I know; you may think me naïve, but I truly want the best for my city, my state, and my nation. I believe the “best” starts with an intentional change of my mind, not the minds of others. It starts by converting my “uns” to “yous.” It begins with my commitment to you – my commitment to putting you first – my commitment to our unity (you-nity).
For me that change of focus begins in Philippians, Chapter 2.
“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:2-4 (NASB)
I don’t have to hold an elected office to meet the needs of others in my community. I don’t need a title, a nameplate on a desk, or an address in Washington, D.C. I don’t even need a budget or an allotment of money to meet needs. To dismantle an undermining “can’t do” attitude, I need to value others’ needs as I do my own. Then I will be able to move to the place of effecting change for individuals personally, and ultimately, within my community at large.
What is the state of my “you-nions – the unions that exist in my world? Do I focus on your need? Do I even know you have a need? I’m afraid I have allowed my own self-absorption to define how I operate within my sphere of influence.
Well, not any more! Not this year. This year I want to intentionally pursue the needs of others.
So, in the spirit of Philippians 2, I want to start asking some questions. Questions like, “Are you all right,” “What do you need,” and “How may I help you?” I’m incredibly resourceful when it comes to meeting my own needs – I just need to apply that same ingenuity to yours.
I have found it’s really easy to dump the ills of the entire nation at the feet of one leader, one legislative body, or one political party, but that’s not particularly productive. My mother used to say, “Assessing the blame does nothing to solve the problem.” Well, she’s right; blame has no forward momentum to it. Personal responsibility for my own corner of the world, however, has lots of forward momentum and gives me a great place to start.
So, I’m going to start this year with the question, “How can I be a conduit of encouragement for you?”
* * * * *
As we rolled through the intersection of Union Blvd. yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about the deliverance we need as a nation. We are a people under siege. Discouragement and despair threaten to obliterate the “can do” spirit that is America – the same spirit that built this nation. Deliverance will come through our unity, and our unity will come when I value and respect your needs just as I do my own.
President Obama’s State of the Union speech approaches. Will I offer up an instant rebuttal to the President’s proposals and criticize his efforts, or will I ask: “How can I be a conduit of encouragement for my leaders as they begin this new session of Congress?” The road to our deliverance runs through our union with one another.
As the “aroma” of the President’s plan fills the House chamber on Tuesday evening, it is my hope and my fervent prayer that all of our leaders – be they Independent, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Tea Party, will resist the urge to do the equivalent of putting an onion in the oven just to make us think something’s cooking. We are a people in pain and we need real solutions to our crises, not just a fleeting vapor of empty promises and false hope.
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.