Sunday, January 18, 2009

a tear on marble

While I had seen pictures of it for years, it was not until my first senior year in college, that I had the chance to visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. As a Lincolnphile, I had always thought of it as holy ground, and when we went up the steps towards where he was sitting, I was tempted to take off my shoes. But it was the end of December, and my mother raised me to be smarter than that!

What I discovered was an image no photograph could adequately convey. What I heard was the echo of the voice speaking those words carved into marble. What I felt was standing in a presence which easily transcended a statue. What I found was one of those 'thin places' where a person feels closer to the divine than in all the everyday places we live. And what surrounded me was that silence which comes when people realize that words cannot begin to express what they are experiencing.

As I stood there, in awe and wonder and silence, I thought of all those people who had come up those steps to gaze into that lined and weary face which had gazed into the very depths of war and hell, and had wept over the deaths of brothers from both North and South in battle after battle, but had not blinked in his determination to end that inhuman horror called slavery. I wondered about all the children who had memorized the Gettysburg Address in their classrooms, and now saw those words alive on that hallowed ground. I saw once again Dr. King standing in the shadow of the one who lived the belief that all people are equal, and telling the world of that dream which would not die.

And today, they will come. Celebrities like Bono and Beyonce; common people like your neighbor, and the little girl who waves at you each morning from the school bus; the rich and powerful, the homeless and the struggling. And they will stand and sing, cheer and weep, as they join hands and hearts and hopes, as the joyous festivities to inaugurate the first African-American as President of the United States begin.

And in that thin place, that hallowed ground, that sanctuary of freedom, don't be at all surprised if you see a tear rolling down that marble face.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

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