I recently made my annual visit to the ophthalmologist. After the dreaded dilation drops had been put in, I was ushered into the dimly lit room where other squinty-eyed patients were waiting. I settled into my chair. I tried to read, but the words on the page soon became blurry. I tried to watch the TV, which was turned to the Weather Channel. Sunny weather everywhere. Good but boring.
I stared at the wall in front of me for a while. Looking for adventure, my gaze began to wander toward another wall. On the way, I caught sight of a framed photograph hanging in the hall, just beyond the doorway. Wonderful! Something to focus on. At first, I could not make out what I was seeing. Gradually, I realized I was looking at a photograph. Then, I realized I was looking at a photograph of the magnificent seated statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial. In this dramatic photo, our 16th President is bathed in sunlight, his solemn countenance revealing the strength of his resolve and character, preserved for the ages in stone. I have not visited the Lincoln Memorial since I was a kid. Even then, I was struck by the way his gaze seemed to focused on us who stood before him.
So it was at the eye doctor’s office that I sat before Lincoln wondering:
How would he see and judge us today, a country in which concern for the common good has been been labeled as an out-of-date idea?
What would he, who healed a deeply divided nation, say about the divisions that cut across America today?
What values, what ideals would he hear reflected in the political rhetoric that has turned so ugly in recent weeks?
Then, I let myself imagine what might happen if you and I, in honor of our nation’s greatest visionary leader, signed on for a little vision adjustment. In anticipation of Election Day, here is what came into my range of vision:
We will be motivated more by expectation than by anxiety. Yes, lots of things are wrong with America, but so much, so very much is right. That which is broken can be fixed. That which is divided can be united. That which is not yet can surely come to be.
We will trade myopia in for a long range vision. Climate change is going to be the most important issue for human society in the 21st century. Who will best lead us, both locally and nationally, when it comes to the well being of the planet God has entrusted to our care?
We will adjust our moral bifocals. The growing number of Americans living in poverty has hardly been mentioned by anyone this election year, but that does not make it right. In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, ”If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
We will not see devil’s horns on the heads of those with whom we vigorously disagree. This is hard when our passions run so high, but demonizing anybody is degrading and destructive to everybody.
If we need further vision help, we could do no better than to follow the Rx of Micah, the ancient prophet of Israel:
The Lord has told you, o mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before your Lord?
– Joanna M. Adams