Thursday, January 20, 2011

new year inspiration

Ask not what your [country] can do for you,
but what you can do for your [country]!

JFK, Jan 20, 1961

I was in junior high when JFK made this powerful speech. My father was particularly moved by this line. He was one of that "new generation." Dad quoted this line about service five years later when he decided to leave his work as a high school principal in peaceful rural Iowa to join the Teacher Corps.

In June of 1966, when I headed for college, he went to a summer training in Indiana. In the fall he and the rest of my family, mom and three younger siblings, packed up and moved to Indiana.

This took him to work in South Chicago and Gary in the late 60's and early 70's, years that cities were burning with civil unrest. He was the only administrator in his teacher corps training program. He became a peace maker in vicinity high schools - moving in when there was trouble, listening and responding to resolve the issues.

This particular job was not for everyone to do. It was his to do. It was the right choice for him. A choice he recognized and enthusiastically said yes to.

Now, 50 years after JFK's challenge, let us begin the new year with his challenge. The challenge may not be a government program. It is likely to be something right in front of you that needs to be done for the good of society and other human beings. Something you are drawn to do, even inspired to do.

We have gifts to offer. Let us share them. Quoting or at least paraphrasing Joanna Macy, "We are the people we are looking for."

What is for me to do? What is for you to do? Just because a task is noble does not mean it is mine or yours. We only need to be faithful to our own sense of integrity. We don't do something noble. A great noble gesture is more likely to be grandiose, and not really helpful at all.

Instead we do simply what needs to be done. What needs to be done now. What needs to be done by us. That is true nobility, true integrity. And individual integrity is just what our world needs.

May it be so.