Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Middle America

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the bug to write. I generally flow forth with inspirational and insightful commentary only when faced with an obstacle or some sort of stress. Today I read a note posted on Facebook by a dear friend of mine. His name is Nathan. He is originally from the Northwest Ohio area but now lives in Ft. Lauderdale. This past weekend he came home to visit and while I didn’t have a chance to see him and spend time with him as I would’ve liked, I did read something he wrote about his home. About his roots. His passion and conviction with which he expressed his pride and admiration for his upbringing and heritage moved me literally to tears. I’m very thankful I know this young man. With his permission, I am going to share his writing. I could not express in any better terms how both he and I feel regarding the lands from which we came.

From Nathaniel A. Brunner:

I am home…These are my thoughts. They are a little jumbled and I pay little regard to being grammatically correct. For the sake of saying important I let them flow out as if I were speaking them.

Jason recently made the comment, “We may be living in South Florida, but we are only here on loan. We are and will always be Midwest boys.”

Many of you know that I flew home a few days ago to celebrate my birthday and Memorial Day with my family. Little known at the time that I was packing my bags and dealing with the shattered glass of my car that was broken into did I realize how desperately I needed this trip. I needed to come home to be reminded of where I come from, who I am, where I am going…and why I need to remember my past. This place is so beautiful. Not because it has sweeping mountain vistas or jungle foliage. Not because of beautiful cityscapes or sandy beaches. This place is beautiful because it simply is what it is. Its unpretentiously, unlavishly (I made up that word), unsoiled middle America. The people that inhabit these green plains aren’t seeking fame or fortune…they simply exist to be who they are. To go to work to build a fulfilling life for themselves and their families. They are unwaveringly loyal to their country and their community and while they fight amongst themselves they are fiercely protective of what they have built together. They are my community.

Since I’ve been home I’ve gotten to enjoy the subtle reminders of why I love the place I come from. There is something special about watching a community come together to remember and honor those who fought and sacrificed for their nation. There is something to be said for the pride that wells up inside me as I listen to my mom give a speech…watch the heads of my young niece and nephew bow as they flinch to the barrage of the 21 gun salute…for the chills that run up and down your spine when you hear taps being played. There is something special about realizing that you don’t care about the sour notes of the band because the band isn’t important. What is important is that schools still value the need for memorializing its heroes so much that the send their student bands all over the country side to play over and over and over for services for fallen soldiers. There is something said to be from a place that when the marching band and honor guard walk back to their drop site at a local parking lot…all the cars stop and the people in Burger King stand and put their hands over their hearts.

The other night I went for a walk with my mom…we went to pay our respects at the family plot and then walked around and remembered all of our friends and family that lay entombed there. I took off my shoes and felt the cool damp grass under my feet. I haven’t done that for years. In 5 days I’ve taken over 200 pictures in a vain attempt to take this time and place home with me to Florida. While I sit here waiting for the clock to say its time to leave for the airport I know deep down inside it will be hard to leave. Since I’ve been home I’ve shared lunch with a publisher (he does my mom’s stuff) who was so passionate about literature and shares insight and conversation about this place and these people, faith, religion, journeys. Last night I sat with my mom and another friend who, to most, would seem “so out there” but who has an energy that literally grabs you by the shirt collar and drags you along whether you want to or not. I’ve gone drinking with friends that I’ve known for a few years…and sat around a campfire with “family” I’ve known for a lifetime. We didn’t have a theme for our party or order catering…we had hot dogs and pudgy pies over the fire…and laughed about kids and life. We had uncomplicatedly uncomplicated fellowship. I got in the car and just drove…and drove…and drove.

I learned about all that is going on here. The struggles as the people here trying to hold on to their lives…while political policies and economic changes try to rip them apart. I’ve heard horror stories of companies closing…and listened to stories shared about who got laid off last week and fear that they might be next. The victims of a world that forgets that just mere survival is not a game, but a life match against odds. I came home to see my precious middle America full of these wonderful people trying to keep trudging forward despite the black eye and broken limbs that recession has dealt them. These people, however, move forward together as a community that isn’t giving up, because they know that wealth is not measured in a Bentley or Rolls Royce in the front yard, but rather my their ability to hold on to one another. I came home to be reminded that the odds will never out weight human spirit.

I come from a place where the last time a police officer was killed in the line of duty was over a century ago…and the community is coming together to make sure that he is remembered the with the respect he should be. Local businesses and struggling individuals (and a prodigal son) coming together to donate money to make sure his gravesite is protected. I stood and spoke with a women who’s daughter was killed in a horrific fire, but her ability to smile and move forward was amazing. She was doing her best to accept the loss and find a way to make other people’s lives better…in her I understand God. In her I understood that the human spirit is an amazing thing and that its stronger than we think.

Tonight I fly back to Fort Lauderdale. Jason will pick me up and tomorrow I’ll go back to work. The freshness will wear off and before I know it I will be back to my routine. Maybe that’s how its supposed to be. It makes me remember why this is home and how important it is to return here often. To lend my support spiritually and emotionally to these people because this is my tribe.

I am…after all…only on loan.

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