When the Greatest Generation returned from defeating the Axis powers to build anew this country they had an unspoken “why?” or “how will we know” written on their collective consciousness.
They had liberated camps in Europe where Jews, Gypsies and problematic Christians were industrially disappeared. They found mass graves of Poles of incomprehensible numbers. They liberated our own men from Bataan, and Korean and Chinese girls and women from Imperial Army brothels. They uncovered experiments on humans. They whispered and collected the memories. They returned home.
“Home” was racially divided, patriarchal, and had a thousand challenges and somewhere, or in a thousand somewheres someone or a few hundred someones were sitting in churches and synagogues and university student unions in overwhelming numbers and they saw people like Michael, friends’ babies like Michael and knew that Michael represented a baseline for care. Not only that, but people began to talk about, demonstrate, petition representatives and insurance agencies, schools, city governments on behalf of Michael and friends.
The question was, “What about Michael?” or “What about all of the Michaels?” Those questions set us researching a hundred trails of cures, and that pushed watches, walks, runs, pink ribbons, pink JFL jerseys, food investigations, bad meds, pollution and so on. Those answers made us a great country. They are making of us a better country.
But it all began with that nagging question Jesus put front and center, “What of the least of these? What will you do with the least of these?”
And it wasn’t just governmental and research responses. Basketball players got to come to Michael’s birthday parties. Students knew when Michael was working and if they were mature, they talked to him and Teresa and others as they cleaned their tables. Amy and Peter grew up taking it for granted they would care for you after mom and dad could no longer do so. That made them taller and stronger, for you. You reminded all of us at church that Jesus said you were thunderously important. You reminded us that conversation is always important, on whatever level we can conduct it. You advertised that people who argued for abortion if a baby might be problematic missed you.
You reminded us that a great nation, like any real church IS great when it answers well, “What do we do with the least of these?”
Have we written the final, best answer to that question? No, Michael, we have not, but we promise to keep working on whatever the front page or back pages of the newspaper says is another place to answer, “How have I learned to appreciate and help the least of these?”
Do we miss you? More than we could have known.
Thank you. I was blessed to know you and your family. Hey, if when we get to heaven you have a cool mansion, and I am sweeping streets, can we do sleep overs at your place?