I wasn’t quite used to darkness coming by 5 p.m., as the clocks had just been set back a few days before election day. So as I emerged from my car and took a walk in the dark toward the polling place, I was struck by the contrast between the night outside and the radiant brightness inside the Wisdom Lane Middle School gym.
The brightness wasn’t just physical. The place was alive with people exercising one of our most cherished rights—the right to vote for our national, state and local leaders. And I was most impressed with the number of children there. Whether it was a recently-baptized baby who greeted me with his dad, or elementary-aged girls and boys, the children accompanied their parents and were witnesses to what we do as citizens. There was an atmosphere of pride and even joy as our community gathered to elect a president and choose our representatives.
The next morning, Father Patrick, the priest from Nigeria who lives with us at St. Bernard’s as he ministers as a chaplain at Nassau University Medical Center, congratulated me on the election. He wasn’t particularly congratulating me because of who was elected, but that he was witness to another bloodless transition from one president to another. You see, that isn’t the experience in his home country.
In fact, Father Patrick was amazed all during the campaign at the critical comments made by candidates—not amazed that we’re capable of saying nasty things, but that people aren’t jailed here for speaking freely. This reminds me that in so many parts of the world, free speech is not the law of the land and people in the opposition party get arrested, “disappeared,” and even killed for their speeches.
And most amazing to Father Patrick was that after all the vitriol in the debates and campaign speeches, our country just picks up where it left off and there will be a peaceful transfer to the next president. There were a few fires in some city streets and protests against the outcome of the election, but no widespread bloodshed or oppression.
For all that is broken in our country, this is one of the things we do right. I was thrilled to be part of another election and invite all my readers to join me in praying for our nation, state and county and the new leaders, as well as our re-elected leaders.
As for the broken things, as usual the “fixes” begin at home by how we speak to our children and grandchildren. If they grow up hearing us hate, that is likely their destiny. When they see us have compassion for those who differ from us—whether politically or socially—they will grow into an equally caring generation. There can be more brightness ahead.