With the annual holiday honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hovering, I am called to create my own dream of a time in the future, a time that holds out hope, a time that promises to be different from today. Here goes.
I have a dream that takes me beyond the day I hug my grandchildren again (and my sons) or go to a movie or eat INSIDE a restaurant.
In my dream everyone we care about and their families have congregated around our pond on a warm summer day. The picnic tables are set up; we’ll eat later. Some are swimming, cavorting in the water. There is laughter. Oh how I’ve missed the laughter, I hear myself say out loud.
How good it is to see you, we all say, to everyone. We can’t stop smiling. We smile even at the few we don’t know that well, for we’re glad they’re here too. But we’re especially glad that we can see those smiles again.
We all share our CoVid stories, especially the ones that can’t be contained any longer and pour forth. You know those stories.
Just before we start to eat, we remember those lost during this pandemic. Then, as we eat, we chatter, remembering that we are indeed still friends — in some ways better friends than before CoVid came, for we’ve shared an unforgettable ordeal. And we’ve missed each other.
I hear the hum of conversation and remember how much I’ve missed that. I hadn’t realized how much I loved that sound until I began to miss it. And so l send up a quiet thank you to the CoVid lemonade gods. (You know, the ones that help us take those lemons and discover the lemonade.)
The pull of camaraderie is alive, and it is strong. Someone’s brought a play list and Whitney Houston is loudly reminding us we too, “Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Can you hear it?
And then a small group of us settle into comfy lawn chairs and talk about our country.
We talk about the man “whose name shall not be mentioned,” how he has finally been arraigned and will go to trial soon. We mention the many others already serving their time, some were sitting Congresspeople who flagrantly abetted the coup that almost was. And we debate whether we really want to make January 6th a national holiday, a day of remembering when we almost lost our democracy. Our debate is civil, even fun, the way we always knew debates could be.
We talk about how ICE has been defunded and how the many asylum seekers still coming to our land are now dealt with humanly and legally. We celebrate the fact that the detention centers no longer keep anyone for more than two weeks, time enough to check their stories, stabilize them medically, and find accommodations for them. And we are proud that these centers are now run and regulated by states and no longer by private companies looking to make a profit from the desperation of so many.
Resettlement has become relatively easy. Communities across the land have opened their homes to help these traumatized families reunite and rebuild their lives. Here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where most of us live, we are particularly pleased to have them, for we have grown old over the past few decades and need new young families to settle here.
I look up at that point, and into the faces of the ones we’ve helped: young men now with good jobs or enrolled in training programs, families reunited with their children and looking to us to reestablish their sense of trust. We have a dozen of these asylum seekers celebrating with us in my dream and we celebrate the diversity they bring to a community that missed it.
Their need for available housing has spurred that sector into a new and very welcome growth. Our local schools are offering classes beginning in second grade on diversity, cultural engagement, and prejudice. Yes, our children must learn the power of prejudice, how to recognize it and what to do about it. We all know this now.
And as we celebrate how far we’ve come, we also know we must not settle back into apathy. We need to continue to talk to those who had different yard signs, continue to build on the understanding and empathy we’ve just begun to share. We know we are not doing this for us, but to help make certain our grandchildren. in their adulthood. will not go through a year like we have just experienced. We want to make their world worth celebrating.
And then we pass the hat around for those among us who have decided to run for local office, for that is where it must begin — in our own backyard.
How about you. What is your dream?