It is 5:54 a.m. on the first day of the new year and I write this first blog posting with hope.

The following thoughts came to me last night as I lay in a warm bath reading beautiful poetry by Mary Oliver. I was thinking how a countries traits, values and behaviors mimic those of its people. Perhaps they could (or do) serve as a guidepost for what a country is, and maybe more importantly, what it could be.

My maternal grandmother and my former father-in-law have been the two people I’ve most admired. My grandmother, a mother to eleven children and a grandmother to countless others, was an amazing person. I don’t use the word amazing in the casual way it’s thrown around today. She was amazing. She lived to be 103 years old, quite a feat on its own. What made my granny amazing, was who she was, not what she had. She was kind, patient and accepting of everyone. She had little in the way of money or possessions, yet she was generous beyond measure. She knew love was an endless treasure she could freely give with no fear of running out. I never heard her utter a negative word about anyone. Never, not one word. I believe she never wanted for anything she didn’t already possess. Her life lived in simplicity was a blessing in her mind. Her name was Annie.

My father-in-law was a gentle man in the truest sense of the term. Soft spoken (in all the five languages he spoke fluently), he knew how to listen and not pass judgement on what he heard or the person who said it. A pharmacist by training, was an immigrant to this country. His daughter once mistook a customer (who was Japanese) for being Chinese. After the customer was out of the store, he gave this gentle reprimand to his daughter. “Never out of ignorance stand on another man’s neck to make yourself taller.” He, like my grandmother took pleasure in simple matters. I recall him saying when he’d come home after midnight, from his long day at the pharmacy–“I sit and pet Babar before I go to bed, because he enjoys it, and so do I.” Babar was our dog that he and my mother-in-law cared for when we were out of town. A simple gesture of kindness to an animal. My youngest son proudly carries on his name – Gregory.

I could go on endlessly about Annie and Gregory.

          Now we enter a new decade. What shall we do as a country during the next ten years? Will our past national behavior, our current national behavior reflect what we’ve been, or what we could be? The President of this country ran on a slogan of Make America Great Again. Now the slogan is Keep America Great. So, I ask for a clearer answer. Were we not great? What has changed? Is this country now what we want it to be?

          I believe a country is great because of what it does, not what it says. There is little purpose in re-calling the prejudice and greed that brought genocide to a people who first inhabited this country. Not if we today, honestly work to ensure genocide never occurs anywhere in the world. There is no need to recall the slavery of three million people in this country, if we never again allow slavery to occur anywhere in the world. There is no reason to question business and profit if we work to ensure everyone has what they need. Can we honestly say we love nature and animals, while we refuse to do anything to stop the destruction of our planet, the extinction of thousands of species? Can we hate war and still carry it on for twenty years?

          Who do you admire most? Who would you most trust to care for your children and grandchildren? What qualities do they show you every day? Do you admire them because they are rich? Because they are arrogant? Do they demean others, or do they respect others? Are they grateful and generous with what they have, or do they hoard their riches and only strive for more? Do they love, or do they lust?

          My grandmother Annie and my father-in-law Gregory are my heroes. They lived their lives on their own terms. They lived lives of gratitude, compassion, love and gentleness. They lived their lives like I want to live mine.

“I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God, than be in church thinking about the mountains.” John Muir

I recently saw this quote and again fell in love with the wisdom of Muir.

I wish all a safe and gentle New Year. Go well, David