No 604



In my closet there hangs a heavy, black leather jacket. I mean real heavy, the kind you only put on when it is bitterly cold. This jacket was given to me as a gift by the family of the late Dowell Maxey soon after he passed away a few years ago. Dowell was a good friend and a fellow Lion. Because of our relationship, his family wanted me to have his jacket. They had asked me to say a few words at his funeral, and I was honored to do so. I didn’t feel worthy to accept this special gift, but I knew it was important to them, and to be honest, I had never owned a jacket of this quality before in my life.
Lion Dowell was a wonderful gentleman, loved by all and a true patriot. While rummaging through my files the other day I ran across an e-mail from Dowell that was dated Oct. 3, 2001. This was only three weeks after the terrorists had struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and there was a somber yet resolute mood that swept across our nation. We had been attacked, and we knew that we had to come together as a people. What soon followed was the greatest display of patriotism and resolve that I have ever seen during my lifetime. In spite of our differences, at this point we were all Americans.
What the late Dowell Maxey had sent me was an editorial that appeared in a newspaper in Romania. It is titled, “An Ode to America,” and as you read it I believe it will bring back memories of that awful tragedy that united us as perhaps nothing else could.
It begins: “Why are Americans so united? They don’t resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one another and in matters of religious beliefs, and not even God can count how many they are.
"Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret services that they were only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets to gape about. The Americans volunteered to donate blood and give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag.
"They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: 'God Bless America.' Silent as a rock, I watched the charity concert broadcast on Saturday twice, three times, on different TV channels. There was Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts, Cassius Clay, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stalone, James Wood, and many others whom no film or producers could ever bring together.
"The Americans' solidarity spirit turned them into a choir. I don’t know how it happened that all this obsessive singing of America didn’t sound croaky, nationalist, or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren’t able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous, or suspected of who-knows-what mean interests. … Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes.
"What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases which risk of sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion. Only freedom can work such miracles.”
While tragic things are happening in the world today, we all need to be reminded that freedom is never free.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)