The Way of BeautyThe House We Live In

New York by Jason Briscoe New York by Jason Briscoe via Unsplash.com (CC BY 2.0)

The photos tell heartrending stories of a nation and a world in great pain.  In America, racial division and violence; elsewhere, religious persecution, economic chaos, political intrigue—you cannot read about or listen to the daily reportage without thinking for a moment: "The world is a mess." For a template of this unrest, one need only look to the Mideast—whether in Lebanon, Syria, or Israel. Powder kegs are ready to explode at any given moment—anywhere. No one should be surprised at our collective anxiety and heightened alertness.

One Body

We are all members of the Body of Christ, the metaphor used by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. We are all members of the same Body with different ministries to build up the Body; when one member hurts, we all hurt.  No greater harm can be done than to hate or harm another member of the Body. Similarly, no greater support can be given than to fulfill the precept of patient love for every member. How many times have we listened to these words in Sunday sermons?

One House

In 1945, Frank Sinatra made famous the song, “The House I Live In,” an image of the American dream.  Originally intended to combat racial prejudice and anti-Semitism at the end of World War II, the song pays tribute to all Americans.  The lyrics for “The House I Live In” were written two years before by Abel Meeropol who used the pseudonym, Lewis Allen.  The music was composed by Earl Robinson.  Sadly in this very same house, it is easy to learn hatred of others through fear.  Last week, so much blood was spilled, and we are “blind with weeping,” to quote Shakespeare.

The original lyrics of “The House I Live In” are printed below. Given the events of the past week, they are particularly poignant and worthy of reflection.

“The House I Live In”

(Introduction) What is America to me?  A name, a map, the flag I see,

A certain word, “Democracy.” What is America to me?

The house I live in, the friends that I have found,

The folks beyond the railroad and the people all around,

The worker and the farmer, the sailor on the sea,

The men who built this country, that’s America to me.

The house I live in, my neighbors white and black,

The people who just came here, or from generations back

More in The Way of Beauty

The Town Hall and the soap box, the torch of Liberty,

A place to speak my mind out, that’s America to me.

(Bridge section) The words of old Abe Lincoln, of Jefferson and Paine,

Of Washington and Douglas, and the task that still remains,

The little bridge at Concord where Freedom’s fight began,

Our Gettysburg and Midway, and the story of Bataan.

(Column continues below)

The house I live in, the goodness everywhere,

A land of wealth and beauty with enough for all to share,

A house that we call Freedom, the home of Liberty,

And the promise for tomorrow, that’s America to me.

The town I live in, the street, the house, the room

The pavement of the city or the garden all in bloom

The church, the school, the clubhouse, the million lights I see

But especially the people, that’s America to me.…

(Additional stanzas)

(Bridge section) The things I see about me, the big things and the small, 

the little corner newsstand and the house a mile tall.  

The wedding and the churchyard, the laughter and the tears, 

and the dream that’s been a-growing for a hundred-fifty years.

The place I work in, the worker at my side, 

the little house or city where my people lived and died, 

the howdy and the hand-shake, the air and feeling free, 

and the right to speak my mind out, that’s America to me.

The town I live in, the street, the house, the room, 

the pavement of the city and the garden all in bloom, 

the church, the school, the clubhouse, the million lights I see, 

but especially the people, but especially the people,

That’s America to me.

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