So a few days ago my mother and I were having our daily morning conversation (snuck in between me leaving the house, hitting Dunkin Donuts and arriving at work; hands-free talking, of course) and bemoaning what was going on in the world. There had been yet another random terrorist attack on a beach, innocent people slain for no apparent reason. Two dangerous men were still on the loose as they had been for nearly 3 weeks with no one being able to track them down. Another hate crime was being reported. Yet another angry man with a gun had killed people in a house of worship.
And I told her what I always do, that it pains me to know my great kid is growing up in a world like this. When I grew up – in a galaxy long ago and far away – everyone kept an eye out for each other. During the summer, you went outside after breakfast and – except for a lunch and dinner break – stayed out until it got dark. And that’s how you knew when it was time to go home. The street lights came on and it was like magic. Kids raced off to their homes (which were really apartments or railroad flats in the neighborhood I grew up in) and, if we were lucky, we got to watch a little television. Life was simpler, we didn’t have fears, we trusted and knew our neighbors, we didn’t worry because we didn’t have to. Nothing bad ever happened.
When you have children, you hope that their world, their life, their future will be better than yours. And all that changed on September 11, 2001, at least for my great kid and me. Did you ever feel truly safe again after that? Do you worry that something bad is always lurking around the corner? Did you ever think this is the future my kids, and their kids, have in front of them? That they’ll never have a truly safe childhood has always pained me.
But there are days when I am still optimistic about this world, our country, my great kid’s future being better. And two of those days happened this past week.
I once had great health care through my former employer and it was pretty affordable. And then I didn’t (a long and tedious tale about how much a company values your contributions to their bottom line until they don’t any more). Until the Affordable Care Act came along, I struggled every year trying to balance good coverage with affordable costs. But after the ACA became law, I was able to get very good health insurance at a price I could truly afford. I was grateful, so grateful that our lawmakers recognized that everyone is entitled to be able to get good health care.
And then the challenges to the law started and – without revisiting history because most of them are brought by people who’ve never had to worry a moment about being able to afford their health care coverage – they finally got resolved once and for all this week when our nation’s highest court upheld the law. And I knew that my son – who will also lose his health care this year when his father stops covering him – will be able to get health care on his own. I won’t have to worry for either one of us that we’ll be bankrupted by medical costs because we don’t have medical insurance or that we’ll be forced to make a decision about paying for health care as opposed to giving it up. It was a good day for America. That was Day One.
The very next day, the Supreme Court declared that gay marriage is legal. I am a religious person, deeply so, and I understand people being unhappy with this based on religious reasons, I truly do. But my God is a loving God who embraces all people and loves them regardless of who they are or who they love. And since it doesn’t affect my life one little bit who someone marries (except for my own ill-advised marriage, which affected me a whole lot), I don’t know why it matters to any of these angry people who would rather spew hate than embrace love. What I do know, though, is that when my son said to me that night that he had never been more proud to be an American, I rejoiced because it meant he knew that when our founding fathers said that we’re all created equal, they didn’t intend to exclude people.
So for the first time in a very long time, I have optimism that the future my son – and your kids and your grandkids – will face will be better. Because more people have been included in our country instead of being excluded or marginalized. Because we all are better served when we all have access to the same benefits and rights that others have always had. Because we’re the greatest country on earth and we should all want each other to succeed and thrive. Because it’s time to live and let live and love and let love. Our time here is limited and we only pass this way once but this past week our future, our kids’ future just got brighter. Embrace life, embrace freedom, embrace love. It’s easier than you think.