Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grandma is Walking Right Beside Me

Earlier today, awed by what I’d watched on television at high noon, I changed my Facebook status to read, “Jane is this the greatest country in the world, or what?!”

A while ago, a friend commented on my status: “Truly amazing – I wonder what our Bubbes would think of the events of the day – I am in awe.”

To which I responded: “Didn't you hear him mention our Bubbes? He said, "For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.”

He continued, “Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. This is the journey we continue today.”

And not just President Obama (wow, I like the sound of that!), but every single speaker today evoked the memory of my grandparents and the wonderful, rich legacy that is their gift to me.

Rick Warren did it when he launched his invocation with the Sh’ma, the watchword of the Jewish people: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one.”

Elizabeth Alexander did it with pieces of her Praise song for the day: “We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, ‘I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road.’”

And later, with this: “Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.” That is precisely where, in my mind, my grandmother would reassure that “everything would piece itself out.”

And in closing, the Reverend Joseph Lowery did it too, imploring us “to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.”

And so it is that with the powerful eloquence of President Barack Obama, Pastor Rick Warren, poet Elizabeth Alexander and the Reverend Joseph Lowery, I was able to “mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.” Indeed, it is our journey to continue, but thanks to all of them, I was reminded yet again of those who are walking right beside me, today and every day.