A very disturbing poll was recorded
this December from CNN. It compared the expectations of those peering into the
future at the dawn of 2000 with those of people looking forward into
2010. The survey reported that in 1999, 85 percent of Americans were
hopeful for their own future and 68 percent were hopeful for the world. Today,
however, people surveyed said that only 69 percent were hopeful for their
personal future, while only 51 percent had hope for the world.
There was something almost mystical
about the nation’s entry into the 2nd millennium after the birth of Christ.
I remember all the TV shows that speculated about massive technology
changes along with the fear that everyone’s computer could mysteriously crash –
resulting in a national crisis.
Some religious leaders advocated
storing food and creating bomb shelters. Other spiritual leaders believed that
the earth would experience the “rapture”, as described in Dr. Tim LaHaye and
Dr. Jerry Jenkins’ blockbuster Left Behind series. Surprisingly the
dramatic calendar milestone caused everyday people to think in big picture,
visionary terms. From the boardroom to the janitor’s storage closest and
everywhere in between, we all expressed confidence in our technology, our
business acumen and our American spirit.
We began the new millennium as though
we were opening the Wild West or exploring outer space. We all had a sense of
invincibility and a feeling that we could rise to any challenge. Since 2000, a
lot has changed. We have experienced a few setbacks. Things like the Sept. 11
terror attack, hurricane Katrina, endless political scandals, the bank
bailouts, the American auto industry bailouts and double digit unemployment
have all challenged our national self concept.
It’s obvious that the delicate balance
of government, business interests and our educational system must be
recalibrated. In 2009, we are looking at real problems that need to be
addressed by all sectors of our society. Further, rigid ideological approaches
to our problems are just fueling vitriol and blame shifting. Our focus
today is much more mundane and personal than the global or generational
perspective ten years ago. We are concerned about how to keep our jobs, pay the
mortgage and survive the economic downswing. The pressures of the times have
caused a reopening of two age-old American divisions of class and race.
Recent studies show that we currently
do not have the hopeful feeling we had just a year ago in terms of solving the
race problem in the nation. In addition, a lot of folks are developing a
growing resentment against both Wall Street and the major business engines of
the nation. Our focus today should return to the very core values that
have made America great: personal vision and achievement; a commitment to both
freedom and justice and the belief that the best man or woman will be received
and celebrated in business, politics and the professions.
Let me take a minute to address the
issue of how you and I personally change our world.
Sandra Bullock is quoted as saying that
she had finally met a Christian who “walks the walk”, when she met Leigh Anne
Tuohy, the subject of The Blind Side, the new blockbuster movie. Tuohy’s
desire for the movie is not fame and fortune but that the story might inspire
more people to begin to make a difference.
She acknowledges that many people cannot bring a child into their home
as she did, but people can find something they can do well and change the world
Another person who made a difference is Fannie Lou Hamer.
In 1962 this African-American woman went to the courthouse in Montgomery
County, Mississippi to demand her constitutional right to vote. She, and the
others with her, were jailed and beaten by the police. This defiant act of
civil disobedience resulted in Hamer being thrown off of her sharecropper
job on a local farm. She received numerous death threats culminating in someone
actually shooting at her. Hamer, however, refused to be
Fannie Lou worked at voter registration
all across her county and eventually the nation. In 1964, she challenged the
Democratic Party by demanding that an all-white Mississippi delegation should
not be allowed. She urged the party to include African-Americans. As a result, two African-American delegates
were given speaking rights at the national convention. This spotlighted more
than ever before the problem of illegal tests, taxes and intimidation of black
How did this lady get started at such
an impacting mission? She is reputed to be originator of the phrase, “I
got tired of being sick and tired.” How did she arrive at such an epiphany? Her
personal history sounds almost mythic. The granddaughter of slaves, and
sharecropper parents, Hamer was the youngest of 19 brothers and sisters. To say
that she was born poor would have been an understatement. At 44-years old, she
attended a voter registration meeting. When she learned that African-Americans
had a constitutional right to vote, she decided to take action. She decided to protest
and action nonviolently to change her world. Years later she reflected,
“The only thing they could do to me was to kill me, and it seemed like
they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could
Is there something that you feel has
been killing you for a long time? It’s time for you to follow the advice of
Pastor Miles McPherson, Do Something!
The statement is title of his new book, which I have just started to
read. Pastor McPherson leads The Rock Church whose congregation committed
600,000 “Do Something” hours of volunteer service during 2009. Over 100,000 of
those hours were given to the city of San Diego, alone.
There is certainly a lot of work for all of us to do. Find what it is
that you can do well and help keep hope alive!