Tim and I have been in New England for the past several days, visiting our friends Charlie and Ann-Marie Harootunian.
Specifically, we have been in Walpole, Mass., which is a lovely community halfway between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.
I first met Charlie in a trailer (naturally) during my first visit to the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Charlie is a veteran and a Wall volunteer. What we call one of those Yellow Hatters.
Charlie & Ann-Marie’s children (grown) know Tim and me as Konnie and Shelby’s (also grown) mom and dad. That’s because our children have been here to visit, while this is our very first visit to New England.
Charlie comes from a big Armenian family. Ann-Marie from a big Italian family. Together they made a big loving family.
Charlie and Ann met in his family’s grocery store in their hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, when the young Ann returned a bad head of lettuce and Charlie told her she could pick out another one, no problem.
When Ann’s father found out that she was going out with Charlie Harootunian, he told her: “Be nice, that boy is from a good family.”
The thing was Ann & Charlie came from different heritages, different faith traditions. It’s not like Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife, Alice, who met at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church where they both taught Sunday School.
It seems odd now, doesn’t it? The notion that someone’s faith tradition might keep them from marrying a person of another faith tradition. Especially given that all those people who came to the new land, came in search of religious freedom.
But they didn’t really mean religious freedom in the true sense, because, after all, these were the same people who wasted no time in persecuting others who didn’t hold to their narrowly expressed idea of a Christian faith.
When people talk about the faith of our forefathers, I wonder if they have any idea what they are talking about. Roger Williams, anyone?
Turns out Westboro Baptist Church isn’t the only freakish religious sect to root itself in New World soil. We can claim separation of church and state all we want, the truth is this very nation exists because of its entanglement with religion.
Our nation’s finest universities
bear tribute to a history of religious ties that bind.
Persecution was something both Charlie and Ann’s faith traditions shared.
Ann waited stateside for Charlie’s safe return from Vietnam, pregnant with the daughter that was born while Charlie was still in-country.
We talk often about our veterans, Charlie and I do, about how they are faring these days.
Charlie says he knows he’s one of the lucky ones.
He’s not talking solely about surviving one war, or his forefather’s fight for freedom, although all that really does matter, and should continue to matter for generations to come.
Charlie says over and over again that marrying Ann was the best thing he ever did.
I know he is right. Ann is a woman of prayer.
Learning how to navigate life together requires a lot of prayer.
Standing in Boston, among all that history, one can’t help but marvel over the challenges this country has faced.
Continues to face.
How have we managed to survive?
But then you remember that survival depends in a large part on the friends we surround ourselves with and the example of faith they set before us.
Throughout our 35 years together, Tim and I have been blessed with the friendships of kind and honorable people.
The kind of people who see God best in the beauty in us all.
People like Charlie and Ann.
Do you have friends like that?
Are you a friend like that?