She was the checker at the grocery store and I was her next customer. Glancing at her name tag, I was stunned to see her first name: “America.” I smiled, “You are surely the most popular person in this store. After all, everyone loves America!” (Looking back, I realize she has heard every bad pun regarding her name and I shouldn’t have bored her with another.)
She said, “Unfortunately, not everyone.” I had to agree.
A couple of minutes later, as I was leaving, my arms loaded down with bags, I made eye contact and said, “God bless America.” She smiled, “Thank you.”
I walked out of the store thinking this was surely the first time I’ve ever had someone thank me for saying “God bless America.”
She is America; I have just blessed her.
Two days later — lessons have a hard time penetrating my cranium — it occurred to me that I am America, too. That you are and that guy is and the woman over there, she’s America, too. We’re all America.
And the best way to bless America is by blessing her and him and that one.
The courageous people who stood up and insisted that this country tear down all those “colored” drinking fountains and remove the signs from the buses which demanded that the races be divided, those heroes blessed America.
The whistle-blower who decided the corrupt practices of a corporate big-shot had damaged enough lives and told the feds, in so doing, she blessed America.
The judge who refused to cave in to threats or be enticed by bribes, but who stood his ground and held the wrong-doers accountable and removed them from our neighborhoods and sent them away for a long time, he blessed America.
The Sunday School teacher who saw the moving van down the street and met the new family and invited them to his church and next Sunday stopped by to pick them up, then later took them to lunch, this man blessed America.
The schoolteacher who bought supplies out of her own funds and slipped a notebook and pens to the promising but needy student on the back row of her third-period class, she blessed America.
The teenager who spotted a cop behind him in the drive-through, and using money earned from cutting yards, paid for the policeman’s order and drove away before he could be thanked, he blessed America.
The medical student who was tempted to cut short her study time to watch a favorite television show, but was determined to learn this particular detail of anatomy because one never knows what she will encounter once she begins her medical practice, she blessed America.
The boy who was pushing his lawnmower home, but noticed the overgrown lawn in front of the elderly couple’s home, then stopped and cut it, that child blessed America.
The couple who volunteered at the ministry center on the river and welcomed the five crewmembers from a Norwegian freighter docked a half-mile away, who fed them and showed them how to send e-mails back home, then prayed for them and presented them “Jesus” videos as they left for their ships, that couple blessed America.
The old gentleman who calls the church and gets the names of the hospitalized and visits them as well as the residents of the local nursing home, bringing a little cheer into their bland days, he blessed America.
The pastor who stands in the pulpit on the Sunday before July 4 and calls God’s people to pray for their leaders, to be responsible citizens, and to “work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray on its behalf” (Jeremiah 29:7), that pastor is blessing America.
The name on my tag is immaterial. The racial background or color of my pigmentation is irrelevant. I am an American and so are you. It’s a high privilege, but a blessing quickly eroded without the ongoing blessings of Heaven and the faithful labors of its citizens as we take care of one another.
Each of us is part of the solution, part of America’s strength, or another of its problems.
It’s so easy to bless America. It takes the slightest effort.
Yesterday, I saw a man crossing the parking lot headed into the super market. He moved an errant shopping cart from a parking space where a customer had abandoned it and slid it into the bin designated for carts, then picked up a piece of trash and deposited it into a trash can by the front door. As far as he knew, no one saw and few cared. But I saw and I care.
I saw that man blessing America.