- by Rob Lee -
I had the wonderful privilege of attending the Inauguration this past weekend. When it came time for my friend and I to leave Washington, it was one of the most horrendous experiences getting on the train and being able to get out of town, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
You see our train was completely packed, and it came time for dinner, so we headed to the dining car. The waitress informed me that we would be seated with a complete stranger. I was expecting a private dinner with my friend, so this caused more grumbling. As we sat down I struck up a conversation with our dinner guest, who must have been in his 80’s. I didn’t notice until later that he had a bomber jacket with an insignia on it that I had only seen in the movies.
This man was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the segregated group of African American Air Force pilots from World War II. He had come to witness history, as we continue the journey towards equality. We talked about his history, his love of country and the troubles that encountered because of that love. He became an instant celebrity on our train once people figured out who he was. The man was an unsung purveyor of equality and justice.
That got me thinking, what about all the people that have worked for equality who we will never know. How can we honor them in our hearts and minds? There’s a wonderful hymn in our hymnbook entitled, ‘How Can We Name a Love’ (UMHNo. 111) and part of the hymn goes like this, “Within our daily world, in every human face, love's echoes sound and God is found, hid in the commonplace.” How is love echoing in your life? How is God bringing about God’s equality and justice in your life and the lives of those surrounding you?
Ultimately, this man changed the course of history by being present and willing to work in his calling to create a better world. As President Obama mentioned in his speech, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
In the United Methodist Church, I feel that many of us will go down in history as members of a movement. Our names might not be mentioned directly, the fame of social change may not be given to our children or grandchildren. However it is my hope that when it comes time for us to move on and another generation to take over, one day they can sit on a train and hear stories of how flash mobs and witnesses at General Conference and organizations like Reconciling Ministries Network changed the tide of time. Let’s make this story one that is worthy for our history books and the mouths of our descendants. History is watching.
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Rob Lee, 20, is a lifelong United Methodist and member of Broad Street United Methodist Church in Statesville, North Carolina. Rob is an undergraduate religious studies major at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Rob is an advocate within the church from a General Conference (2012 Delegate) to the local church level. Rob has a weekly column in the Statesville Record and Landmark and other North Carolina papers. Rob is a blogger who blogged and wrote stories for UMCommunications during the 2012 General Conference. Rob has plans to attend seminary, and continue to advocate for justice within the church. Rob enjoys movies, friends and hiking. He lives in Boone with his dog Rusty.