Saturday, February 12, 2011
Happy Birthday, Mr. President!
Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. He was born this day in 1809, not far from Hodgenville, Kentucky, on a place called Sinking Spring Farm. He was an average kid who loved hunting, fishing, and playing. He learned a dislike of slavery from his parents who, when he was seven years old, moved from Kentucky across the state line into Indiana, in large part because of the slavery issue. When Abraham (he didn't like to be called Abe) was 8 years old his mother died from milk sickness. Before she died, she told her children, "be good and kind to your father, to one another and to the world." He never talked about her death except many years later in a letter to a child whose mother had recently died, when he said, "In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares...I have had experience enough to know what I say."
What a beginning for this much beloved man! Was this beginning preparing him for the huge challenge that lay ahead of him? Was God, in His own way, setting the stage for the man who would take the helm of our country in it's greatest time of turmoil and despair? Only He knows for sure, but I like to believe that beginnings (or middles) like these show us that we can face tremendously difficult times and find our way through them, as long as we allow God to hold us in His hand and guide us.
My son and I were fortunate to visit Springfield, Illinois several years ago. We visited Lincoln's library and his home. For its time, it was very nice. It was not what you would expect for a president of the United States. We had just visited Mount Vernon. It was spectacular! The Lincoln home was a home, like any other. As I stood there in the foyer, listening for the sounds of the Lincoln children and Mary, looking at Abe's chair in the living room, I tried to imagine what he must have been thinking when he left there to become our president. We all know now, that he had always had a foreboding that something terrible would happen to him. Was he prepared for the challenges ahead? How do you prepare for something like that?
I just know that standing in his home I could feel the strength of his character, his love of his family and his love for his country. I can't really tell you why, but I got choked up standing there. I can't answer the questions that I've posed here. What I can do is to be grateful he was here. I can be grateful that he was the one in the right place, at the right time.
Was it his beginnings that made it all possible? Do our beginnings determine where we go and what we accomplish in this life? I believe that they do-good or bad. What comes from them is determined by our faith in God and the choices we make. For my part, I'm glad Mr. Lincoln made the choices he did. I thank you, Mr. President, and Happy Birthday!