So often these days I find myself wishing we could find a way to make our politics and our public life reflect who we Americans really are.
One of my son’s close friends suffered a horrible accident a few days ago. This young man now battles for his life. He suffered a spinal cord injury, so the path to recovery for him will be long and hard.
He is a young man with an exuberant spirit. The radiance of his smile could light entire city blocks.
He and my son were part of a tight band of friends. They played sports together in school — and gathered for pickup games when school wasn’t in session.
They’re all in college now. When they were younger, they spent one night every weekend gathered at someone’s house, swapping jokes, playing games and watching videos into the wee hours.
Whenever they camped in our basement, I enjoyed hearing their laughter float up the stairs. Their joy in their friendship was contagious.
When they scattered to campuses all around the country, they remained tight. They talked. They texted. They played video games together. They gathered when they came home.
When the young man had his accident, this group of friends — my son included — dropped everything to scramble back to his side.
In this era of pandemic, they weren’t allowed to see him in the hospital. Only the young man’s parents were.
But the young man’s parents, who were — understandably — overwhelmed with fear, sorrow and exhaustion, were buoyed by this outpouring of affection and support for their son.
The young man slept many of those early hours in the hospital. When he woke briefly for a Facetime with my son and his buddies, he saw his friends gathered to help him and his family and told them that he loved them all.
People organized a system of delivering meals to the family and providing other kinds of help. My son’s buddies and other friends of the family organized a GoFundMe campaign to help the family with medical and rehabilitation expenses.
My son and his friends pushed the message out on social media and asked everyone in their extended circle of acquaintances to do the same.
Within the first 24 hours, nearly 200 people made donations. Almost $25,000 had been raised.
The young man’s friends and their friends’ families made contributions, of course.
But the thing that touched me the most when I looked at the list of contributors was seeing the names of some of my son’s college buddies — guys who never had even met the young man who had been injured. They made gifts just because they knew my son was hurting and they wanted to show him they care.
They did it because that’s what friends do.
The young men and their families who rallied to help this injured friend of my son’s are of varied backgrounds. They come from different places. They don’t all pray the same way. They don’t all vote for the same party.
But there are things that unite them.
When someone’s in trouble, they don’t waste time looking for someone to blame. They don’t spend endless hours arguing about the best way to help — or whether helping is even the right thing to do.
They just look for whatever way they can help, and they do it because the help is needed.
Because a neighbor is a neighbor.
And a friend is a friend.
That’s the America I know.
That’s the America I believe in.
That’s the America I love.
It would be one thing if my son’s friend’s story were something rare and isolated. But it isn’t.
All across this country, people who worship, vote, love and live differently put aside those differences in times of sorrow and hardship and just look for ways to help.
Because neighbors are neighbors.
And friends are friends.
That’s who we are when we’re just living our lives.
Why can’t we make our politics and our public life reflect that?