Last night, after dinner in the dining room, our family did something we almost never do. In fact, it’s so rare, I can’t think back to the last time it happened.
We sat down as a family to watch live television. It won’t take a psychic to figure out what we were watching. It was the same thing on every single channel. We were watching the map of the United States of America change colors from grey and black to blue and red. We were watching the results of the 2008 election.
Not turning on the TV until almost 8:45 Chicago time meant that we had missed the slow part of the evening and enjoyed a peaceful quiet family night. We tuned in just as things got pretty exciting. I had my laptop humming along next to me, keeping track of incoming data and twitter while the family flipped channels on the tube. I would report to them and they would report to me. We would see how close mainstream TV and and the web were keeping up with each other. ( not too bad last night, I think.) It was fun.
Then, California and the west coast closed their polling places and everything hit the fan at once and Obama was immediately declared the winner before anyone could turn the lights out in the polling locations.
California, with Zero percent of the vote in had declared him the winner! IN AN INSTANT!
What an amazing world….
How fun was that! ?!?!
We let the kids stay up late, way past their bedtimes as we were all glued to the TV watching our political process in action. My youngest ones at home are 11 and 14. We all sat huddled together with the two dogs as John McCain came out and gave a very gracious and generous speech congratulating Senator, now President Elect Obama, on his victory. I felt proud of him once again, proud of his service, proud of him as an American and grateful for the olive branch that he extended across party lines to begin the process of uniting this country for the huge tasks ahead.
Then, Obama, President-elect Obama, entering the stage with Michelle, his two beautiful girls, (who my daughter referred to as the future “angels of the white house” ,) and the crowd of supporters, spanning out as far out into the distance as the cameras could reach.
It felt like we were witnessing a miracle. And as we listened, and as he spoke, weaving his words with the magic of hope, promise and vision, I saw in my children’s eyes a look that I remember from my own childhood so very long ago.
A recognition, that no matter what you you thought or believed hours ago, if you were a part of last night, you witnessed a life-shifting moment in our culture that changes everything. There was a ripple that began to spread and grow until it became a wave and then a tsunami and eventually was felt as a tremor the entire world over last night. You could feel it in the air, you could see it on the faces of those watching, in the posture of those listening, in the hearts of those believing.
A new day dawned this morning. A new day, with a new type of faith. People woke up feeling like they belong. Like they have a voice, like they matter. Like there is a banner shining brightly that says YES YOU CAN to their hopes, dreams, ambitions and needs that will not put them down, trample them to the ground or tell them no you can’t, you have no hope.
Was it always there? Probably yes. It just took a man with the belief in himself to show us the way.
My children will never forget last night. Neither will I. Before they went to bed, we talked about how some moments in history are just so special that they stay with you forever.
They asked me what the closest thing to this was for me in my childhood.
My answer was instant.
I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon.
I was nine years old. I sat huddled in front of an old snowy black and white TV screen with my entire family and several of our neighbors, all pressed close together to hear the garbled, scratchy sound. I remember the tight constricted feeling in my chest as he hovered over the spacecraft steps, the burning in my lungs as I finally gasped when he took that first step and I realized I had been holding my breath…maybe unknowingly terrified as a child that there WOULD be Martians or that he would spontaneously combust on impact with the ground. Then he took another step and touched ground and we witnessed that floaty anti-gravity walk that has become so famous now but that when seeing it for the very first time was nothing short of miraculous.
Then the words…ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT STEP FOR MANKIND…
I remember that moment, feeling as if I could burst from the pride of being an American. Burst from the exhilaration of the MIRACLE that was occurring before my very eyes. To think that …A KABILLION miles a way..a man was STEPPING and TALKING on the moon and it was coming to us LIVE on a snowy black and white TV in our living room was BEYOND any comprehension my nine year old brain could fathom.
Frankly, my almost fifty year old brain still struggles with it as well. But…we as a world are a little more jaded with our miracles these days…
Last night…was one of those moments again. One of those nights that in the somewhere distant future you will say…”I remember exactly where I was and exactly how I felt and…it was amazing.”
I could almost hear Neil Armstrong whispering in the background.