Charlie came to us from the streets of China at age one. Just a puppy, really. He was adopted and returned months later for being an overly exuberant adolescent. With time and training, he would have grown into a well-behaved and loved family member instead of finding himself homeless again. (He is homeless no more.)
A garden that is not tended can easily fall back into disrepair.
All hard work and effort will be lost – swallowed up in nature’s challenge: survival of the fittest.
You have to cherish and care for the things you love.
You have to protect the things you value.
Not just dogs and gardens – but ideals and principles.
Dogs don’t raise themselves. They learn boundaries and how to live well with humans from us.
Gardens don’t tend themselves. Without attention, they return to their wild and lawless ways.
And our democratic values, freedoms and national treasures don’t defend themselves – they depend upon our vigilance to ensure their survival.
Apathy and inaction are the enemy. I don’t care which side of the aisle you are on – there are certain ideals and norms that must bind us if we are to succeed in this great experiment. And even as I write this, I wonder if it is still possible.
I attended the memorial service of my neighbor recently – the human father of a special dog named Rush. You may remember his story.
As I listened to the tales recounted, I learned that this man I knew only as a good neighbor was a fifth generation Californian, a former cowboy, a Horatio Alger story, a community pillar, and to my surprise – a staunch conservative. We would have had real differences of opinion in our politics – had we ever discussed them. But we did not. The things that united us were greater than those divides: concern for family and community, a belief that people should look out for each other, and – of course – our love of dogs. Common values. Common decency. Common bonds.
I know that our country has been tested over time. We have made many mistakes and suffered dark times. But we have endured and, hopefully, learned from our failings. From this, I find strength. I also know that this endurance did not come from standing on the sidelines, but from standing up for the things we revere: truth, decency, civility, and compromise.
A good man passed yesterday. A leader named McCain. Someone I frequently disagreed with, but someone who embodied our values and stood up for them. In fact, I found myself writing to thank him on numerous occasions when he dared to stand for those ideals.
The enemy is not without; it is within.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Tend the garden.
Teach and love the dog.
Guard the principles we share.