Freedom, Used Not Abused

Visiting the State Farmers Market in Raleigh is one of my favorite trips. The carnival-like family-friendly adventure atmosphere with people of all ages wandering the campus of indoor and outdoor specialty shops, with the best fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood and products harvested, displayed, canned, prepared and delivered by farmers and crafters from across the state for sampling and selling is life-giving and a beautiful portrait of community at its best. The interaction between vendors and people walking through the covered areas filled with colorful products and people greeting each other with smiles is relaxing and allows for interacting with people at their best, especially when you are sipping a big cup of freshly squeezed orangeade or lemonade over crushed ice. 

Lisa and I made a trip to Raleigh a couple of weeks ago as we are all beginning to venture out a little after getting our Covid-19 vaccinations and stopped by the Farmers Market for lunch at the restaurant that serves the best biscuits you have ever put in your mouth. It was one of the first times we had been inside of a restaurant in over a year. The room was full of people. The activity among the servers, dressed in their overalls, was fast-paced but extremely friendly, as usual. The sound of conversation, shared laughter, an occasional squeal from a baby or child in a highchair, the click-click-click of a elder using a walking stick, and the call to an old friend was a delight to our ears. The echoing noise of employees busily cleaning dirty dishes and silverware off empty tables as they scrambled around sanitizing tables for the next guests waiting in line was a welcome sound of life returning to pre-Covid endeavor. Then it happened.

I was seated near the entrance/exit with my back to the door when a loud voice that eclipsed every other sound in the room came from just behind me. “Hey!” and the rest of the room went silent. “I have two things to say!” the voice shouted. I dropped my piece of chicken and spun around to see a large man dressed in military fatigues blocking the doorway. Everyone’s attention was directed to the man immediately. My first thought was that something bad was about to happen, but I realized the man was unarmed, as did law enforcement officers that were seated nearby. The man shouted the two things that were on his mind. “First! We live in the greatest country in the world! Second! God bless America!” The man exited the room to a round of applause from some of the guests while others of us took a deep breath of relief. To say it was unnerving is a gross understatement.

I agree that we live in the greatest country in the world but the way this young man expressed his thoughts and the venue he choose to express them was inappropriate. One of our greatest rights as Americans is the right to freedom of speech, but one of the biggest misconceptions nowadays is that our freedom of speech not only can be exercised, but should be exercised AND have others listen to it no matter what that might do to the feelings of others.

Community is strongest when we realize the enormous blessing that we have to be children of God, and that we have others around us from whom we can draw strength, encourage, comfort, celebrate, forgive, love, pray, agree, disagree, share….. 

As we draw near to the day that we celebrate our freedom as Americans, give thanks to God for the freedom we have in Christ. Thank God for the many blessings God has gifted us and the people with whom God surrounds us. Take time to reflect upon the goodness of the community in which, and with whom we live. Remember, “To whom those that much is given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48). 

By: Dr. Jim Everette, Associate Pastor Connection & Care

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