Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inauguration

How was it? What was it like?



Everyone wants to know.

It's similar to describing my whole summer in Africa.
There's no way to explain to someone in three words an experience that soaked into you so deeply your bones still feel it. That pervaded your senses, your brain, your soul.

For Africa, I said, "It was hot!"
For D.C., I say, "It was cold."

It's what I remember, sure. Africa was hot. But it was so much more than that. It was red sand and sticky sweat. It was cold showers and tile floors, and grasshoppers in my bedet. And it was nausea, sickness, malnutrition, poverty, and want. And laughter, and songs, and children, and flies. And boredom, and hardship. And it was intimacy with God.

Still, I've only scratched the surface. So take these next thoughts with a grain of salt, and call me up for coffee if you want to talk about it for real.


Aside from just basking in the glow of North Parkers, the best part of the bus ride was waking up to Will.i.am's (don't judge) "New Day" and staring out the foggy window to a blazing New England sunrise. Then dancing in the aisle to the Obamareggae.


As for the Mall, it was the most people I had ever seen in one place. Standing parallel to the screen, we had to push and push our way over just to get a glimpse of the jumbotron, since we were too late to even make it onto the mall. There were so many people pressing in one one another that if I had decided to take my feet off the ground and just hang there, elbows pushing into my neighbors' thick coats, I would have been fine. I was praising God for the cold January air that gave us the chance to gasp for breath -- something fresh just above the stale air of leather and down; the wind that comes with change. But not everyone was tall enough to breath in that air. Some folks had to push their way out, on the verge of fainting from claustrophobia. None of us felt on the top of our game.

But we weren't there to be on the top of our game. We were there, as so many have said, to witness a peaceful transition of power in our nation for the 44th time. To see change happen. To tell our grandkids and great-grandkids that we stood (or rather, leaned, as it were) on ground only yards from the first African American president.

The first Black president of the United States.

The first Black president.

That is something to remember. But it's not the only thing. Because Barack Obama is not only Black. He's actually half White. He's also Kenyan, and has some Indonesian leanings. And he's not just the first Black president. He's not 'a credit to his race'. He's the best person for the job.

So this is what I remember: Feeling full of hope. People. Lots and lots of people. Faces. Different colors. His face and name everywhere. Dancing. Being chilly. Trash, everywhere. Tromping over gardens and through the streets. Feeling slightly like I was at the site of a national disaster, or on the set of the Dennis Quade movie about the day the world ended. Helicopters and sirens. News crews. Waiting in lines. Standing in the cold, waiting for the bus.

And being overwhelmed that he is my president, that this is my country, and that I no longer have to be ashamed of saying I am an American when I go abroad. I actually feel like I have a place here. Obama is the first president I have voted for, and having him come from Chicago -- to know people who know him -- it feels more like I belong. Like he belongs to us.

I left with a desire and a responsibility to serve. My country, our people, and our world. To be diligent; to work hard.

And to pray for him. And us.

"It's a new day" said Will.I.Am.

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