I attended the funeral of a good friend's father this past weekend and learned something there that I won't soon forget. My friend's father, and his widow, are pillars of the community in what used to be a small town south of Sacramento. The whole family are among the most caring, generous, and charitable people I've ever had the good fortune to meet. They spend every Thanksgiving serving others at local soup kitchens and cater tirelessly year round to those less fortunate and those with disabilities in our community.
His funeral started with a horse drawn procession from the community park named after him and his wife to a small cemetery about a mile down the road. As we followed slowly walking in the procession of few hundred people along the narrow maintenance road skirting the park we glanced to our left at the Cal Ripken baseball field at the other side of the park where a game was being played. Both teams and their coaches were on one knee facing the procession, hats removed, heads bowed. Their fans as well were standing with hats over their hearts. The kids on the adjoining soccer field were also standing with hands over their hearts as we passed.
While the sadness of the occasion, and hearing the words of my friend and his brothers at their father's celebration of life the next day, brought tears to our eyes, the gesture shown by these 9-10 year old players and their families moved all of us in that procession. Few of those kids or their families likely knew who the procession was for, or that they were playing on the field donated by and named after the man resting in the back of that horse drawn carriage, but they put their lives on hold to show respect for the loss of others. I looked around at others in the procession and saw the tears welled up in their eyes, like mine, and I thought to myself, now THIS is the America that doesn't make the front page news. A community, people of all races and ethnicity coming together and grieving the loss of one of their own. THIS is the America that gets drowned out by those who see and sensationalize only hatred and division. THIS is the America for which men and women have fought and died. THIS is the America that should be shown to the rest of the world instead of the crusty vitriolic fringes that permeate our government and the media. THIS is MY America, OUR America, and I have never been prouder to be part of this community.