A REFLECTION BY JAN GONDER: January 1961 was full of hope for many of us seniors at Fresno High School. We watched John Kennedy’s inauguration, we talked about joining the Peace Corps (a few from my class did), and discussed Martin Luther King’s brave stance for justice and peace, Maya Angelou recited a poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” and over time, many of us committed to her hopeful vision. .
Sadly: many of us remember as well the day we heard the president had been shot in Dallas, and later – my dad, a vice principal at the school, announcing Kennedy’s death. .
What I remember most was knowing my dad was crying, and not hiding it, for the first time in my life. He was not alone. .
Fast forward to 2019, and we see a country reeling with shock – whether for or against the current administration, we find ourselves watching news of everything from possible treason to sexual misconduct to bribery, to school shootings, and quid pro quo – well, we know what we see on TV and social media. How on earth do we navigate these muddy waters and come out clean and healthy in mind, body, and spirit – and yes, even excited about the possibility of a world full of goodness? .
It seems to me we have examples that come from ancient Hebrew texts – Isaiah promises us an entirely new creation, where the old, harmful practices won’t even linger in our collective memory. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Those who grew up with abuse, crushing poverty, horrible diseases and disabilities; among judgmental enemies posing as friends – all free from their crushing burdens. So while we know this isn’t exactly a new idea, we learn the tough lesson that everything has to be taught anew to each generation. .
We’ve entered into a time of sermons that urge us to look up. We can take that literally – the full moon last week stopped me in my tracks as I set the trash can down and basked in the light. Or we can take that as a personal mission, to look beyond the grudges, the differences, and the issues that divide us and — ? .
All right, what do we do? You can relax knowing I’m not going to pontificate about the solution – enough people in the world figure that if everyone lived and thought like them, it would be a Utopia on Earth. But the changes in our own church seem to point to a direction I can commit to as time goes on. .
Here at Westwood, changes have happened since 1984: Reconciling congregation, food ministries, The Loft, for example – and yet, the core of the church has remained the same. We come to hear the message that times may change, but God does not. “Come,” our Creator says, “hear the news of a glad new world. Then leave on the path that helps bring it to pass.” .
May it always be so!
Jan Gonder is a retired educator who spent her professional life in Los Angeles as teacher, English-as-a-Second-Language coordinator, and a district level adviser. She has been a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary society for key women educators, since 1984 — the same year she joined Westwood UMC and participated in choir. Now retired, she’s spent time in various offices for DKG and the choir, along with writing and hoping to get back to cooking for PATH.