News-Star: Opinion

We shouldn’t forget who we are

It was a typical Saturday evening in the late spring of 1946. My mother had filled the No. 10 wash tub with warm water and placed it on the screened-in back porch. It was my bath time in preparation for Sunday morning church.

We were poor folks in those post-World War II days. Dad was the pastor of the Missionary Baptist church in the small community of Risco, Mo. The parsonage was without indoor plumbing. In the kitchen sink was a metal pump that supplied us with our water.

Out back was a wooden shed known as our outhouse. We were grateful for the old Sears catalogs given us by others and placed there for their obvious use.

Roots, our story, tell us who we really are.

The roots of my Baptist preacher father went back to Ireland, the great potato famine and his great-grandfather fleeing to the shores of the United States seeking a better life.

My mother’s roots trailed back to England and her ancestors fleeing to the shores of a land that promised religious freedom.

I am a product of all their stories, their roots, their struggles and dreams. To ignore such, to forget these trails of struggle and to boast that where I stand today I did all on my own, is nothing short of blasphemy against one’s own story.

Roots, our story, tell us who we really are.

As with an individual’s roots, the same is true with the roots of a nation, its story, and its struggles. I fear we have become a nation of people who do not know their true roots, their story.

We have become a nation of people absorbed with our day-to-day lives, overwhelmed by commercialization and consumerism. What we have is never enough. More has become essential.

We have forgotten from whence we came.

We live in neighborhoods that have forgotten how to neighbor, how to share, how to care for each other, even sacrifice for the good of all even if it means we do without.

We seem to run toward politicians who reinforce our worst selves, our fears, our latent prejudices rather than our better angels of compassion and a willingness to leave our comfort zones and experience the beauty of our nation’s diversity.

Your roots, my roots, are one of immigrants who fled their native lands for a wide spectrum of reasons. Remember this. Embrace this.

Our nation’s roots are deep in the soil of persons and entire families fleeing poverty, war and persecution. It is our story. Know it. Celebrate it. Keep it alive for those whose souls burn to live free in this great land our forefathers forged for you and me. These are our roots.

The writer lives in Princeton.