Transforming America – one smile at a time


Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The other day I commented that our country was won because our founding fathers

pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” to bring it about.

I remember John Kennedy’s inaugural address nearly fifty years ago in which he said,

“Ask not what your country can do for you,

but what you can do for your country.”

The first thing we can do for our country  is to start at our front door.

I have heard a couple of people say that the only time they talk to their neighbors is  during a hurricane and people are out of their homes because it’s too hot inside and they have to  cook on grilles.

Let’s change that isolation.  We can wave at our neighbor across the street when we put little Suzie in the car seat.  We can thus spread a little positive, um (pardon the word loving energy around.  And maybe Mr. Alinsky will send a bit back to you to make our day as well.

That’s how it could work, you know.  Us making each others’ lives a bit easier and they doing the same for us.

I know what a pick-me-up it is when someone acknowledges me, when a young black dude with dreadlocks gives me a nod.

A wise friend of mine has commented that since World War II Americans have become more and more isolated.  We’re into our own little worlds.  My vision for transforming America is that we join together and help each other. This year is going to be rough on many of us, if not most of us.

We can smile at people who are different from us.  We can acknowledge the person behind us in the line at the 7/11.   A friendly word may be just the lift they need.

Let’s just spread a little positive energy around all day long instead of rushing around oblivious to our surroundings.  Instead of responding to Sartre’s “Hell is other people” perhaps we can try Jesus, “Love your neighbor.”

I take time every day to stop and notice the many positive lessons, simple messages of God’s love (or the exuberance of the universe all around you, if you prefer not to speak of God.)  When I walk Shivvy I often stop to admire a little wild flower emerging from a crack in a sidewalk  He’s got guts and determination.  The message this little guy gives me is an important one:  “Hope springs eternal.”

Let’s not live in the hateful, angry, grasping  thoughts in your head.  See the beauty around you.

Now that’s how we will transform America, one smile, one kind word at a time.

We don’t have to scowl at homeless people.  You’d be surprised how a smile or a kind word can give them the lift they need to get through their difficult day.  If you lose your home and/or your job you might be joining them.

The awesome young man in the picture above I met in St. Augustine last spring.  His name is Joshua.  He was — and maybe still is  — in difficult circumstances but look at the light and joy in his face and eyes.  I admire homeless people who can still love and care and stay positive in difficult circumstances. That afternoon he cheered me up and takes care of his homeless friends.  If he can do it, so can we!

By spreading  the loving energy that is ours to give. And receive even from a lowly wild flower. It doesn’t cost us anything to smile or say good morning.  But it could be worth the price of a $240 for a 50 minute therapy session.


Bob Traupman

priest / writer

january 13, 2009 / one week before the inauguration of President Obama


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