Yesterday I flew to California for the retirement ceremony of a friend and Navy Captain who was bringing to a close almost four decades as a SEAL. After arriving I took the airport shuttle to the rental car center and since they were out of “normal” cars (as usual for Southern California) they offered me a free upgrade to either a BMW or an Audi. Now I really hate Beemer drivers, 99% of whom desperately need their licenses permanently revoked. (I know, I need to repent of this prejudice) ;so I reluctantly took the Audi.
I say reluctantly because car thieves seem to love the Audi brand.
OK. I’m weird. I get it. But this morning out of concern that my car had vanished, I went down to check and at least make sure I’d locked it.
As I walked to the car (which had of course not vanished) I passed a young woman standing by her car and talking on her mobile phone.
Now this hotel is across from a beautiful marina and very close to the airport. And as I finished checking the car, a jetliner passed almost overhead. And you know how the sound of the engines drown out every other sound for a minute or two.
But as the jets roar ebbed, I picked up the most unexpected sound in its place. It was the strains of the National Anthem, clear and soft. The unmistakable chords came out of nowhere as if performed by an orchestra – booming bass, lilting woodwinds and clarion brass. The sound wafted across the marina.
I had no idea where it was coming from, but as I considered the mystery, I thought “it must be 0800”. “It’s Morning Colors”. So I knew what to do. I turned toward the music and stood at attention. I did what I had done for decades in the military- I offered my respect to my flag and to my one nation under God, indivisible with Liberty and justice for all.
In that unexpected moment, I paused in remembrance. I was briefly caught up again in the memories of the blood I’ve seen spilled in defense of this land. Images of combat I cannot forget, nor try to forget. I paused to remember the ideals which we have seemingly abandoned in angry frustration over the pervasive oppression and injustice that plague us.
And as The strains of the Star Spangled Banner drifted away like the mist on the marina, I had another unexpected moment. I saw out of the corner of my eye the young woman who had been talking on her phone a few cars down from mine. She had done the same thing.
In that unexpected yet needed moment, two strangers in a hotel parking lot in San Diego on Thursday morning April 28th took pause to respect the National ideals that we dearly hold, that we tragically fall from, (if indeed we have ever attained them) and that we hopefully will pick ourselves up from the mire to try again. Whoever played the National Anthem for all to hear this morning, thank you.
As much as we fail to attain One nation under God indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All, may the God who established our country give us also the grace to never, never quit trying.