I don’t know about you, but I love patriotic songs. I often puff up with pride and even tear up a bit when I hear a good rendition of “God Bless America” – whether at a 4th of July celebration or the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game. (And in case you haven’t noticed…its baseball season over here in KC! GO ROYALS!!!)
“…From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam…”
And then there’s the purple mountains majesty, the amber waves of grain and the shining seas in “America the Beautiful.” Perhaps these songs particularly catch my heart because we have called the mountains in Colorado and New Mexico, the sea in California, and now the plains of Kansas our home over the past four years. Put a military figure – those very heroes who “more than self their country loved” – behind the microphone, and I really have to hold myself together. But beyond the lyrics describing the aesthetic beauty of our country, there are a couple of lines that get lost in the middle of “America the Beautiful.” I believe they are the true crux of the song.
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.”
I believe that the very best of our country isn’t found in the beauty of the mountains or on the most stunning beaches of our coast. The writer of “America the Beautiful” recognized that the good of our country is crowned by brotherhood. Relationships. Community.
In each of the seven states I’ve lived in, there are plenty of people who believe they live in the best place in the world. They would never move away. You certainly can’t easily convince a Bostonian to move to California or a Kansan to move to Texas. When it comes down to it, most of these people love where they live – not because of geography – but because of their people. Geography doesn’t hurt, but it’s really all about community.
So how do we ‘crown thy good with brotherhood?’ What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? How can we truly embrace and serve our communities? These are the questions I’m asking myself as we approach the holiday season.
Our best patriotic songs are more than just pride reserved for national holidays and ballgames. These songs call us to do our part to add to the beauty. We are called to crown our beautiful country (and our world) with love and compassion in our immediate circles and greater communities. What does that look like? To crown our good with brotherhood is a call to be fruitful and productive with the talents and gifts God has given us. It’s a call to look for ways to serve those around us – near and far, daily and long term.
As we appreciate the bounty of fall and approach Thanksgiving this year, will you take a challenge with me? Not just to be thankful – but to actively add to the beauty. Start small. You might just make a big impact.
Sarah Grove’s words in her song, “Add to the Beauty” recently struck me:
“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out our best
And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside”
True, America is beautiful. May God give us the grace to add to the beauty.