I grew up in the Midwest, and something we expect — something we look forward to every year is the changing of the fall colors.The brilliant oranges and reds and yellows glistening in the golden, slightly overcast sun make the world appear as if it were burning right before our eyes. Children scurry around collecting leaves for art projects and each path is a red carpet, making you feel like a queen just for stepping outside.
Jules, it’s November, and the Midwest has already gotten snow — why are are you talking about fall colors today?
I no longer live in Michigan. I live in South Carolina. And when the leaves in my home state began their yearly metamorphosis, we were still experiencing 90 degree humid heat. The leaves here in SC just started to change en masse about a week ago. Around here that means you have one week to gather your fall leaf art projects; one week to take those glowing golden photos; one week to hear the leaves crunch under your feet on a red-carpet-walk.
This year, however, that week was tainted. First, because not only did the world look like it was burning, but it was actually burning.
A week ago Friday I walked out of my office (that’s in a basement, my only window has a view of trees and not sky) to find the sky glowing orange and a haze settled over the entire campus, and a smell of campfire in the air. It was around sundown, so the orange made sense, but that much haze? I couldn’t make it out.
The next day I woke up, and the haze was still there. Now there were air quality warnings on the news. My weather app didn’t say “sunny” or “rain,” it said “smoke.” Well, it turns out that the Southeast has had a particularly dry year, and the forests of the mountains in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia have begun to burn. So much so that their smoke has spread to cities (like mine) that are miles and miles away. It’s an utterly new and bizarre experience for me — to see and smell all evidence of fire, but to know that it is in fact, hours away.
The second reason that week was on fire was because not only did the world look like it was burning, and not only were there actual fires happening, but the people in our country were also burning in their hearts.
This year there’s been so much commentary on our government that I’ve seen about a tenth of the “Look at this gorgeous fall day!” posts that I usually see come November.
There’s been so much focus on all the things that are wrong that we forgot it’s the month of Thanksgiving.
There’s been so much focus on the fiery hateful speech of some, that few have noticed the crisis of actual fires in the eastern mountains.
In his 2016 Presidential Elections signoff, Stephen Colbert made the comment that “we overdosed” on politics. That the people of this country used to only think about politics every four years, and “that’s good… because it left room in our lives for other things and other people.”
Folks, we need to be concerned about the government, sure. But perhaps we could treat it a little bit more like a real fire, one that’s miles and miles away. We can smell the smoke, we can see the results, and we pay taxes to provide tools to people who can stop it. But we can’t stop it ourselves. So now that our votes have been cast and decisions have been made, I think we all need to step back. Take a breather. Remember that people are not evil because they voted differently than you.
And remember, we chose this for ourselves: we are not a democracy, we are a democratic republic. That means our founding fathers thought it best to let people who know how to run government, run it. And we have the freedom to choose the government runners. The system was designed for us to be able to live our lives apart from constant politics. Can we be thankful for that rather than whining that the system is not perfect?
This Thanksgiving week, I’d like to close with ten things I’m thankful for:
- Fall colors
- Cool weather
- Sweet potato cheesecake
- Friends to share my sweet potato cheesecake with
- Family: especially the giggles of my 5 nieces and nephews
- My Bible study group (we’re reading The Battle Plan for Prayer)
- My 3 best friends (yup there’s a new one!)
- Days off of work
- A cozy apartment
- A car that runs