My sister marched downtown on Jan. 21, while my sister-in-law marched in Washington. I found it inspiring to see marchers from Forest Park streaming off the Blue Line. I didn’t march but found meaning in the movement the next day at church.
I attend a conservative Protestant church, not exactly a bastion of liberalism. The march wasn’t mentioned but the spirit of the message made me think of all the marchers worldwide. The pastor preached on The Book of Ruth.
Ruth wasn’t a disciple, a prophet, or a miracle worker. She was an ordinary woman who displayed extraordinary kindness.
Ruth was a Moabite, a minority, looked down upon by the Israelites. When famine struck Israel, though, Naomi and her family fled to Moab. Naomi’s son married Ruth but died 10 years later. Now Ruth had three strikes against her: female, minority and widowed. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. She urged Ruth to return to her mother and re-marry. Ruth answered her with one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible:
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.”
The reading was followed by a song: “We are here to help each other, Walk the mile and bear the load, I will share your joy and sorrow, Till we’ve seen this journey through.” Another song was about “sisters walking together, no longer strangers.” It brought to mind the pink-hatted masses who flooded the Loop that glorious Saturday.
In modern terms, The Book of Ruth celebrates the relationship between strong and resourceful women. It champions outcasts and oppressed people. The spirit of Ruth is expressed by the Hebrew word “hesed.” It stands for strength, steadfastness and love. It also means faithful love in action. That’s what we saw expressed on every continent that Saturday.
Besides quoting the Bible, the pastor talked of the importance of Inauguration addresses. He quoted from John F. Kennedy’s soaring speech. Kennedy’s words had a spirit of reconciliation toward all nations. They were also a call to action: “Ask not what the country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Kennedy warned: “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” He ended the address with: “Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
The pastor concluded by calling upon us to display “courageous kindness” like Ruth had done. We all know of people who display courageous kindness. There’s a woman in our discussion group, who is donating a kidney to a woman she barely knows. A woman from Forest Park donated hers to her brother on dialysis.
That’s life-saving, but I’ll settle for everyday kindness, like the kind that was displayed in the Loop that day. I hope this spirit doesn’t die and that the movement goes forward and continues to grow in strength. I’ll do my part by focusing on the strong, kind women who are leaders in Forest Park.
Oh, I almost forgot another highlight of the church service: The organist pounding out the intro to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” before launching into “This Little Light of Mine.” Even that had meaning.
Iron Butterfly’s hit is gibberish for “In the Garden of Eden.”
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.