The flowers outside our window are a hodgepodge of colors, seemingly clashing yet somehow blending together in a heart lifting way. Ours is not a carefully crafted garden, rather a thrown together collection of potted and planted, native and imported, “weeds” and cultivated, shrub and flower. Orange, pink, red, yellow, tangerine, white, purple, green, each bought or planted, often on impulse. Some were gifts, some transplants, some brilliant, some subtle, some vibrant, some muted, some large, some small, yet somehow together they create a harmonious whole, especially when viewed through the eyes of memory and gratitude. I think of the banner hanging in our church that reads: “where else but here can weeds become flowers.”

Some may still yearn for that illusionary perfect past of illusionary racial purity and white superiority, but God in His infinite wisdom created us all hybrids, some of us cross pollinated, some transplanted weeds, some of carefully grafted, some intentionally seeded, but none of us truly pure. Our very survival as a species is dependent on intermingling our racial and ethnic genes, DNA, geographic adaptations. Our strength comes from the blending of our strongest traits. While we are all different, all unique, we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator. Now it is up to us to see each other not through the eyes of competition and fear, but of a loving God who loves and cherishes all of creation.

I am grateful for our racially mixed nuclear and extended family that gathered this summer to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. I am grateful we live in a melting pot nation. I am grateful, when walking the streets of our small town, I hear other languages, see folks in ethnic or faith based garb, can shop in ethnic food stores, eat in ethnic restaurants, profit from the services of immigrant business and eat fruit harvested by many who speak Spanish. Our nation’s varied backgrounds, faiths, cultures and languages may seem to complicate life at times, but they also enrich and stretch us, making us better, stronger, more creative and innovative.

The older I get the more I find myself looking past our nation’s many flaws and failures, past our painful political divide, past our many fears and misunderstandings to the potential dwelling within each of us as individuals, communities, and country. I am grateful for the potential open to us as we come together as legal and illegal, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, neighbor and stranger, racially varied, culturally enriched. I choose to not participate in people bashing or fear mongering but gratefully choose to focus on the many strengths our differences bring us. I gratefully choose to see the best in the worst of us and the worst in the best of us. When I can do that, when we can do that, I am, we are empowered to stand tall together as equals, working together as equals for the common good.

This past July 4 I looked up the words on the base of the Statue of Liberty to remind myself of who we truly can become as an accepting freedom loving people:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.

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