The Tuesday morning business referrals group discussion at our Warrenville pancake house took an unexpected turn this morning. Instead of reminding each other who our ideal customer would be, which had been the announced topic, every one of us found — and said — we had been remembering where we were, and who we were with, ten years ago. A much more vivid — and human — discussion than occurs in the usual grind of suspects, prospects, referrals, and sales. Feeling safe only when outside the O’Hare terminals after flying back. Or only when the house door closed behind you. Or never. We all agreed the world had changed.
Change and memory may be the important things to think about this week. We may be in the same houses (whose worth may now only be about what it was ten years ago). Or the same jobs, though ten years may or may not have produced the savings — or wisdom — we expected to accumulate. Six foreign wars and a trillion dollars brought down some dictators, but have not brought security to our country. Our neighborhoods are full of foreclosed homes, and many of the neighbors who are left are on disability, or are going back to work when they thought they could retire, or are part of the one-third of all US workers who are consultants or other solo workers without a corporate home, not counted in the unemployment statistics.
Whatever our troubles, though, we know those of our returning veterans have been much worse. We know the people in the countries where they’ve been are still much less secure than we are. We know that there are wars and rumors of war … and hunger, and disease, and death, stalking the world again in ways not thought about since the “End of History,” when the Cold War was over, and we thought the troubles of our time had been vanquished.
The proper response to all of this cannot be further triumphalism, but should also not be despair. The city of West Chicago, Illinois, will sound church bells at 6:00 P.M. on 9/11, and call all citizens to prayer and remembrance. This, or something like it, may be worth thinking about for the rest of us. When Abraham Lincoln was a war president, he proclaimed a national day of prayer and humiliation:
I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.