I sang the National Anthem frequently around town while growing up. I sang a lot, and this was by far the most intimidating song in my repertoire. Everyone knows it. My vocal teachers would debate me on this next comment, but you can kind of fudge the lyrics if they are in, say, Latin or German, but you cannot fudge the lyrics to the National Anthem. They are magnificent. The end of the sung verse is my favorite; such power.
“And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
I was asked to sing it before a basketball game at my high school. It was thrilling and terribly nerve wracking. I started fine, but soon forgot the words. I pulled out my pitch pipe, reset my nerves and started again. I forgot the words in the SAME spot. I stood in the middle of the basketball court, frozen. I truly had no idea what to do. A kind human in the stands started singing and many people joined her. They bailed me out. It put me back on track and I finished it. I left the court as quickly as possible and sobbed downstairs for the first part of the game. I knew that the longer I hid, the worse it would be, so I put my game face on and went back to the game and cheered along with my friends. There were MANY jokes the following week, but that was to be expected. It was just part of life and I moved on easily.
I have been thinking so much about this great country lately. I love the pledge of allegiance. I cry almost every time the National Anthem is played at my beloved gymnastics meets. Participating in a USA chant for an Olympic trial was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. It hurts my soul to see how splintered our country is right now. The blatant racism, the lack of help in areas that need it after natural disasters, different groups separating in cries of injustice and how divided we all are over what is right and wrong. There is so much anger and hurt. I have been trying to sort out what I believe. I, too, have been angry. I have been angry that subsidies for some are so high, yet my family pays an enormous fee for ok health coverage. I have been angry that taxes are high and spent on programs I don’t agree with. I have been angry over this. I have been angry over that. Things have felt unfair toward ME and MY family when we have worked so hard to have a good life within our means. It has eaten at me. I value kindness toward others as the highest priority, yet deep down, I haven’t always felt kindness toward others. I have been too busy being angry and feeling self-righteous over how we take care of ourselves while others didn’t. I have been preaching one thing to my children, but feeling something else inside.
Then, while running, I started thinking about what needed to be done. I am not so presumptuous to believe I can fix things I know little of, but I wanted to think about what I believed. Forgiveness and letting go of what has been done in the past was the only thing I could come up with, but it has stuck with me and I have been thinking about it continuously. Apologize for the wrong, and give forgiveness and acceptance to others no matter where they are in their journey. It needs to start with the people who have the most, who have emotional bank accounts that are full. It needs to start with people who have what they need in life. It needs to start with me. I grew up surrounded by models of success, and more importantly, models of extreme work ethic. I grew up supported by 2 parents who loved and believed in me unconditionally. I grew up with hope for the future as part of my life. I believed I could do anything I wanted. I never had to worry about a basic need and I never once worried that my parents would be anything but my loving parents, together, for me. I received a parental bailout when I needed one and they threw me in the air to fly when they knew I was ready. Because of that, in my case, there was no way I was going to fail if I gave it my all. I fell many times, but my confidence from my upbringing pulled me back to my feet. Who would I be without it? What if I had grown up without seeing happiness and success in front of me? Who would I be if I never felt safe at home? What if my parents thought I wasn’t enough just in being me? What about those who were told over and over that life isn’t good or that there was no point in trying because you were going to fail? How can I expect them to give up their hurt before I give up my frustration? I need to be the one who extends the first hand. I need to say hello and ask how you are, first.
I can only imagine the nerves it took for that wonderful woman to start singing from the stands. I have sung in public forever, and that idea scares me. But she did it. In doing so, other people sang with her and lifted me up when I needed it. She didn’t know me, but she wanted to help me. It was the National Anthem. We all know it. She knew how to help and did it. I promise to return the favor. I am working on letting go of my anger over political fairness. I may agree or disagree, but I am not going to be angry anymore. I am going to be more interested in being a fellow human who says hello and focus on our shared humanity, flawed and beautiful.