Well, Maybe He’ll Grow Into It….

When Harry Truman ascended to the Presidency, amid one of the most threatening and dark times in global history, he declared himself “too small for this job.”

That declaration, for all its noble humility, would prove right and wrong at once. When he said it, he just hadn’t grown fully into his relationships. Truman was man enough to admit he needed help to meet the high calling of the man he would become. The people he knew, would know, the enemies he would befriend, had yet to grow him.

So it is with all of us, in the calling we all hear.

Truman was, it’s true, a small man from a tiny piece of Missouri. Yet he would prove himself a giant among leaders.

Early in his Presidency, Europe was literally starving in the rubble of WW-II — people in Hungary literally reduced to eating acorns to survive. Somebody had to do something.

Truman did. He anointed one of his most bitter rivals to get it done.

He and Herbert Hoover agreed on virtually nothing. The wiring of their minds and hearts and backgrounds was crossed and hot. It sparked with antipathy for one another. If it were socially acceptable, the two men could have turned a 5 minute political chat into the dust and gore of a raving fist fight.

But they did not. Instead, they buried their hatchets square in the forehead of global despair.

Hoover had already helped keep many from starvation after WW-I. Truman knew this. He dared asked his enemy to do the same again, even though he did not adore him. Not yet.

These two men proved a world literally gets saved by humility, and the leadership of flawed men who decide to transcend their flaws and allow what feels like a senseless form of love to rule their hearts. Instead of hating on each other, they loved on many. They loved, and led, through one another.

It was right. And it worked. Millions were saved from the indignity of openly starving to death.

I write this just to think out loud on how relationships matter. Our friends, and all who love us, sustain us. They cover our ground, keep the frost of heartbreak and lonesomeness off us. We grow under their warmth and light, and they under ours.

This grows more radically true when a sworn enemy turns to friend.

The men and women who built our republic are flawed souls. Yet the fabric in which they’ve enwrapped the world — slubs, tears and all — spreads a warm and healing weave. They acquited themselves as giants after all, in large measure because they refused to stand alone. They prove the power of even a singular courageous friend to restore the blush of life to a man or woman who seems, and feels, too weak and small for what’s at hand.

Just the thought of them reminds us that the WW-II generation — wet with the dew of youth not so long ago, really — thrived through times far more ominous than our own. Their generation refused to lose heart. Even from their graves, they manage to shout this out to you and me.

We are not born for despair and victimhood. We are, instead, born to light the dark of another soul whose times are far worse than our own. Living up to this inspired de Tocqueville to call America great because America is good. He was right when he said it. Even from his grave, all these years hence, he still is.

In the coming year, amid all the despair-speak and the hell raised through the cables on our TV’s, through all the right fighting that grabs at us us day and night, may we remind ourselves that we are called to become a one-man/woman solution. We’re wired for leadership, original thought and radical love, even when our wires cross with someone we enjoy despising.

To feel too small to change the world is natural. To admit it and ask for help is heroic. Lyndon Johnson did it after the Kennedy assassination. Truman did it to call a dying Europe to life. Truth is, if we drill into their history, we’re bound to find this is a hallmark of the American Presidency. Around the world the pinnacles of leadership can become the most lonesome of places. The great dare not stand on them alone.

Which tells us plenty about ourselves. Ours is a life made for addition, not subtraction. May we add friends who look like enemies and make them feel like family. May people walk away from just a chance meeting with us saying, “I am made better by him. She improved me. This very moment, I am changed for the far greater.”

In this we write our history. We sustain ourselves by this extended family we harvest. Living this way, history will be kind to us.

We will have grown ourselves deep into this hard, good, beautifully wild humanity. Especially when the times get hard, we’ll prove nothing fits a soul with quite so much elan as the unstoppable love of a friend.


2 Responses to “Well, Maybe He’ll Grow Into It….”

  1. I love this Michael.

  2. Mark Hildebrandt Says:

    This is a great passage!

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