I am confused. I have been watching all the brouhaha over the pledge of allegiance and loyalty, or disloyalty, to our country. I know there is much that needs to be fixed and there are things that people need to protest. That is our right and our responsibility. But, our founding fathers and mothers had a great vision for this country. They saw the ideal as being: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. But the ideal has been stalled, it seems. Even the attempts to rise to the idea has bogged down.
It reminds me of a story I was often read as a child. The story was about the “Little Engine That Could,” by Wally Piper.
In the story there was a train filled with good things that was on its way to the people on the other side of the mountain. But it broke down and was unable to get where it was going. Maybe you will indulge me and allow me to retell the story.
There was a small train. It was named Liberty and Justice For All. It was a small train but it was filled with great ideas, great hopes and spectacular dreams. It was headed for the people but there was a mountain to overcome. The mountain was called Prejudice. On this mountain there were peaks called: Hate, Greed, and Self-indulgence.
As our little train approached the mountain it broke down. People worked and worked at getting it moving again but each time they restarted it, it only went a few feet and stalled again. “What are we going to do?” the people cried. “Oh, wait,” someone yelled. “There is a Shiny New Engine coming. They cried out to the Shiny New Engine, “Please help us. You are surely our salvation. You are so shiny and new; you must be able to help us.”
But the Shiny New Engine snorted: “I pull you? I am a passenger train. I am filled with important people doing important things. I have no time for such a small train with such trivial ideas.” It huffed off to do important things, leaving our little train in the siding.
Ah ha! In a very short time they saw another engine coming down the track. It was the Big Strong Engine. The people shouted out in hope, “Big Strong Engine will you save us? You are big and strong and have the resources and financial power to carry us over the mountain.”
“Get out of my way,” The Big engine shouted, “I have costly machines and products to deliver. There is an economy to consider. I won’t carry the likes of you!” And it rolled on leaving the ideas, hopes and dreams standing still.
“Is all lost?” the people wailed. But, lo and behold, another engine appeared on the horizon. It was the Trusty Old Rusty Engine. “Stop,” the people stood on the tracks. “Will you help us, Rusty Old Engine?”
“Oh, I am so tired. I must rest my weary wheels. I cannot pull even so little a train as yours over the mountain. I can not. I can not. I can not.” And it sputtered and clanked off down the track.
“Oh, whatever are we going to do?” the people moaned. Then, like out of nowhere, a small engine appeared. It wasn’t big, or shiny, or filled with self-importance. It was little but it was filled with love, compassion and respect. It was powered by the idea that there was a creator who created all men equal. It had a banner flying on it that said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Will you, can you, help us?” they asked hopefully. “Yes, I think I can,” said the little engine. It hooked up the stalled train and began to pull. It wasn’t easy, there was so much resistance. But it began to chug up the steep hill. It was exciting. The news organizations came out. “Ha, that will never work,” they printed, “we need power and money and influence to get over this. Such a simple message will never carry the day. Might as well give up now.”
But the little engine continued pulling and tugging up the hill. “Can you do it, little engine?” everyone yelled. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” coughed the little engine. And it heaved and strained. Slowly but persistently it began to pick up momentum. Little by little, foot by foot, it moved up over the dreaded mountain until at last it crested the summit and cruised on toward the waiting masses below. “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could,” the proud little engine wheezed as it rolled down the hill.
Can one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all, ever prevail? It can. But in my humble opinion it will not be the shiny new political strategies, big business, or the old rusty politicians that are going to get us there. It is up to us, We The People, to break down the walls of prejudice and bigotry. But, as the Big Book in AA says, “we cannot do it alone – we need a Power greater than ourselves.”
So pray for our country, pray for ourselves, and love each and every person you meet as much as we love ourselves. Scripture says, “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
See you in church…
Ross Holtz writes from The Summit in Enumclaw.