It feels like every flag I pass has been at half-mast for at least a decade.
First 9/11, then we went to war, and we have been at war for a very long time. We’ve had shootings and bombings and other unmentionable horrors and that flag just stays mid-rise to remind us of so many tragedies.
It’s one way to look at things.
Here’s another: in-between the terrible moments are moments of exact silence. Times when people come together and lean on the shoulder of a stranger on the sidewalk because both of their tears taste the same.
Tragedies terrorize us and humanize us, too, they bring us together in ways that we never expect, create connections across miles, across ethnicities, across communities and we become close by the very nature of what makes us all human.
When bad things happen, good people unite.
So in all the years that our flag hasn’t flown at its highest height, we could focus on the reasons for its half-mast. Or we could focus on the moments in-between, all the many moments when we’ve looked each other in our sky-blue eyes, and recognize the similarities, the sameness, the yearning for good and not for evil. We’ve noticed how we all love our children the same, how we put on our clothes the same, how we go to work the same and come home the same.
Yesterday, I spoke at Access, a Dearborn, Michigan non-profit to help immigrants and refugees get on their feet. The event planner, Michael, and I shared our own personal stories and found that while he is Palestinian and I am Jewish, we basically are the same. In fact, our fathers seemed to be identical personalities who would very likely become friends.
We could focus on what divides us and all the problems in the world.
Or we could base our lives on sameness, on the fact that each of us has a heart beating in our chests and a swell of compassion that drives our days.
I know which one I’m choosing.