There is the story of the young lad who was an incurable optimist. No amount of misfortune seemed ever to dim his effervescence. This was of course a mixed blessing for his parents, who, though gladdened by his sunny outlook, over time began to worry that he was headed for a profound disappointment one day, the kind that might sour him for the rest of his life. So they resolved to teach him a lesson in a controlled environment. For Christmas of his eighth year they betook themselves to the local stable, where they filled a half-dozen burlap sacks full of manure. Scattering it all over the tree, fouling the floor, the carpet, the ornaments, even his stockings, they bethought themselves that by giving him an unalloyed disappointment, he might learn a more realistic view of life itself.
Dawned the Christmas morning, Mom and Dad waited nervously for their beloved only son to come down to the living room where the fetid disaster awaited. The look on his face as he beheld this most-awful Christmas surprise turned from slack-jawed wonder to sheer delight. He dove into the manure, scooping away great hunks with his bare hands — exclaiming, “Oh thank you Santa, with all this manure there must surely be a pony hidden in here somewhere!”
This season has indeed brought many of us several sackfuls of the stuff, hasn’t it? And yet, and yet. I just returned from Denver where I visited my newest granddaughter — Callie Marie Morgan. So sweet, so precious, so full of innocent promise at the onset of life’s fabulous journey. If you dig long enough through that poopie diaper there surely lies a child of God, destined for wonderful things, a life full to the brim with as-yet unrealized excitement, wonder and adventure, triumph and tragedy, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Nearby my two-year old grandson harried his mom and dad with the irrepressible sparkle of the terrible-twos, deviling them with that emphatic obduracy that his mother refuses to believe she ever exhibited. She did.
Days earlier I had watched the commissioning of the latest (and last) Nimitz-class nuclear carrier, the George H. W. Bush. Her namesake was himself present, speaking to the ship’s plank-owner company of his longing for those days, so long ago, when he was a 19-year-old naval aviator, flying the Grumman Avenger torpedo-bomber from the newly-commissioned San Jacinto light carrier. Sixty-six years later the George H. W. Bush gleamed with promise, emblematic of the strength, steadiness, and resolution of our nation, crewed with young Americans who answered the call that all of us once answered too-long ago.
A three-ship of F/A-18 Hornets flew overhead followed by, mirabile dictu, a restored TBF-3 torpedo bomber, just like the one George the Elder flew for 58 combat missions in the Pacific. It was a stirring moment, made more so by the authenticity of Bush 41’s wistful aside to these sailors and aviators–“I wish I were sitting with you on the deck, and not here on the dais.” There was no mistaking that he meant it. Few of us in service haven’t felt that twinge of longing that recalls with fondness the limitless expanse of our future that beckoned with the award of those butter bars.
The market may tank, your candidate may get shellacked, your favorite local eatery may shutter up. Plenty of reason to feel sorry for ourselves. Yet for all the hard-times, economic vortices, and pitiless enemies that face them and us, these young sailors and aviators I saw waiting to breathe life into this ship were quiet assurance that our nation and all it stands for endures. Theirs is the promise that the United States offers to the rest of the world — this shining city on the hill, where sailors yet-unborn will one day man this ship in defense of freedom, self-determination and human dignity in some far-off conflict yet unnamed and unthought. They and their children and even their grandchildren will answer the call of this mighty ship, and will serve with the same unspoken pride and sense of destiny as we.
So steady-on, America, we are blessed beyond measure And sleep well tonight, Callie, Bronson, Brianna, and my as-yet unnamed grandchild of June. You’re Americans, with the best yet to come.