I am often amazed by the way song lyrics hit so close to home. Early this morning, it was the Allman Brothers who came along for the ride. I got the call at 12:40 A.M. and twenty minutes later I was on my way to pick up a fifteen year old who was moving again. I picked the kid up in Topeka at 2:15 and headed back to KC. We spent the first half hour getting to know each other and his story was just too sad to repeat. Trust me, you don’t want to know. As we pulled into the parking lot at his next placement, Greg Allman was singing, “Some times it feels, like I’ve been tied to the whipping post, Good Lord it feels like I’m dying.” Then the boy said something that will haunt me forever, “That’s my life, every day.”
It was all I could do not to break down right in front of him but I knew that wouldn’t help. Instead, I gave him an extra copy of that CD because he said he really liked the blues. It might have been his one good memory of his father, who liked the Allman Brothers too. Even abusive parents have some fond memories for these kids.
After I got my paperwork signed, I took a few minutes to collect myself in the car and when the CD started playing again, the next song was, “Not my cross to bear.” As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make myself buy into that premise. If it’s not my cross to bear whose is it? I can’t turn off the pain and just let the memories of these kids go. That’s when I remembered this quote from Abraham Heschel. It definitely sums up what America is going through right now, some of us are guilty but all of us are responsible.
We can all try to avoid responsibility by hiding under the security blanket of selfishness but that doesn’t change the world we live in. When bad things happen, like the killings in Paris or San Bernardino, that blanket gets torn off and we are left shivering in fear. It doesn’t have to be that way but selfishness is not a good defense mechanism for anything. We all have to bear the cross, whether it be metaphorical or otherwise. Even if we struggle with the concept of a higher power, we still owe it to the rest of humanity to try to make this life better for everybody.
America is a free society because we, the people, share all the responsibilities that come with liberty. If we want a better world without hatred and violent extremism then we must reach out to those who would hate us with a giving heart and good intentions. We must not turn our backs on anyone because of the color of their skin or the language that they speak. We must act out our freedom with deeds that define us as decent human beings who deserve an equal opportunity for life, liberty and happiness. We can and we will overcome our innate fears when we freely come together to help each other. That’s what makes freedom so important and the reason we exist as a nation.
I hope I get to see that boy again, some time soon. I have another great song I want to share with him. It’s Me and Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson. Let’s all take it to heart when he sings, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
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