January 20, 1993, Inauguration Day
The temperature outside was below freezing, but inside my temperature rose above 101 degrees. All the planning with friends and colleagues to celebrate at the Capitol was for naught. I was huddled in my bathrobe instead, celebrating only that this day I could lift my head long enough to watch TV.
The man from Hope was offering new hope to the country. Never mind his baggage. Don’t we all have some? Young and idealistic, those friends, colleagues, and I hoped for relief from a malaise that had engulfed so many.
The first Gulf War. I still remember how blue mailboxes outside the Pentagon Metro were removed overnight for fear of bombs. I and several others had been unemployed in the 1990-1991 recession, and we worried about how to repay our student loans. We noticed the shifts of a Have/Have-Not Society revealing itself everywhere, to anyone else who looked.
According to some economists, that recession was not so bad. But many who took a hit in 1987 felt the blow again. Barely recovered, some teetered from one job, if they could find one, to another. I was fortunate. I found a new job, and had sick leave and Inauguration Day off to heal myself. Others were not so blessed.
And while I sipped chicken soup with rice at my dining room table in Annandale, Virginia, I watched Maya Angelou, in all her majesty, recite “On the Pulse of Morning.” She invited us to awaken to a new day and to one another, her words more prophetic now, as if we had so many chances we failed to take.
2020 was supposed to give us clear sight, the perfect vision to see ahead. Instead it revealed the fissures and fragments of an unhealed past, like a window shattered at the center and cracking to its edges.
The temperature, both within our nation and within ourselves, has run from hot to cold and back again. So many backs have carried burdens, sometimes willingly, in the name of hope. Waiting, working, struggling, that others might see. Striving for the universal awakening, that as Angelou says, “may give birth again / to the dream.”
I might be called partisan; but I worked with too many different administrations and people along all kinds of aisles to categorize. Each hoping to create meaningful, lasting change. Some of us short-sighted. Some of us in the dark. Dreamers. Idealists. Standing on the poet’s rock, trying to glimpse the future. Seeking to understand that “history, despite its wrenching pain / cannot be unlived, but if faced / with courage, need not be lived again.”
So, here we arrive once more, at another beginning, a new morning. To replace the broken glass. To adjust the temperature to a new normal. To transform our pain into promise. To birth a brighter future, so we need never relive the past.
I am less idealistic than I once was, a gift of age perhaps. But still, I hope. Looking, as the poet says, into my “sister’s eyes” and my “brother’s face.” And saying, “Good morning. I see you. Namaste.”
© 2021 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks – All rights reserved.