Stand Firm

Stand Firm and Tall



          The air is cool, but still, and the flag hangs limply against the pole. Nothing of consequence challenges it; nothing lifts it out of the doldrums of mere existence. The colors and shape of the fabric seem to melt into an indistinct, purposeless blob. It seems drained of energy and purpose. It looks tired and insignificant.


          The people it represents, for the seeming lack of anything more important, quibble over tax rebates and tax increases, budget surpluses and shortfalls, granting and refusing of oil drilling rights, and whether or not prayer should be offered in public. They are all discussions that will go on and on and on. The career of a congressman is destroyed over rumors and innuendo, not knowing and maybe not caring, about the facts, and almost forgetting the young woman whose disappearance started it all.


And then the winds come.


          The winds lift the flag, challenge it, attempt to destroy it, to carry it away into oblivion; and yet it remains. The red, white, and blue banner takes on shape and distinction. It stands out from the pole stiff and straight, proud and purposeful. The winds whip it, the sun bleaches it, the rain and the ice may cause it to tear, but still it remains. It flies damaged, dirty, and torn above the carnage, but proud and firmly anchored in its history, its constitution, and most solidly in its people.


          And the people it represents are changed. Old concerns remain, but the perspective is different. All the people are threatened. Others want to destroy them. Rather than be defeated, they rise up, united, strong, proud. Rather than be cowed by fear, they stand firm. Prayer is offered in public without shame, without question. Many volunteer their very lives for the benefit of all – and some will die. But the challenges do not destroy; the threats do not discourage. Instead, they strengthen the resolve, the nerve, and the very character of the people.


When struggles come, whether for the nation, or for you individually, whether from some outside, unknown source, or from within your own family or circle of friends, stand firm. God is still there. Your faith is still there. Your character, your values, the things that make you who you are, is still there. Use the challenges to make you, as they have this nation, stronger, taller, and more capable. Draw on the strength and the compassion of others. Remain anchored in your faith, your character, and your purpose. After the storm, when the calm returns, your flag may hang limp, faded, worn and frazzled, but having survived, you will be able to retire it to a place of honored, treasured memory and replace it with a new flag of brilliant color, heavier fabric and stronger seams. You, like a new flag, will fly with greater strength, greater sense of purpose, greater confidence, greater honor, greater respect for yourself, and greater respect for and from others.


And one other thing, when your neighbor’s flag is worn and tired and frayed and frazzled, help him lift it up, help him mend it and get it flying again.


Larry Meissner (written shortly after the events of September 11, 2001)


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