As I have heard tributes and read articles on the life of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, I am struck by how his gentleness and ability to accept the person in front of him for who he/she was. Yet, there was this presence of knowing what he was here to do. It was an unwavering commitment to social justice for all. He showed up. His presence in Congress was strong and consistent. Being described as the ‘conscience’ of Congress, he repeatedly made stands that reflected this. For me, his actions came from a place of love.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, in this Wikimedia Commons photo from early July 2020, a few weeks before he died.

Qualities of an amazing human being

John Lewis came from humble beginnings. Being able to attend Bible college, he stayed focused and learned with an earnest thirst. He was mentored in this setting which he never forgot. In a 2013 interview with Krista Tippett on her podcast “On Being,” Lewis shared how the one teacher marked up his paper. He was grateful this person sought to teach him. He walked in many marches and sit-ins throughout his life. He participated in life. One of his goals was to be a role model for others. I know that he succeeded, even if he did not think you.  Ava DuVernay shared that when he came onto the movie set for the filming of “Selma,” he gave her advice to “To do everything” when asked what she should do. Ava is still pondering the advice to this day.

The power of forgiveness

In interview with John Lewis and Jon Batiste on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Lewis shared how he graciously accepted the asking of forgiveness of the officer who had beat him up during the Freedom March in 1963 ten years after it happened. There was no anger or animosity toward this person. He simply accepted what was offered. The officer brought his son and shared how what he had done was wrong.

A life of commitment to life affirming, life giving ideals

Watching his last journey across the bridge where John Lewis almost died at age 25, it feels that his life was filled with a commitment to create a better place for all people who have been diminished or dismissed in our culture. His approach was to be present and do the work. Each day. He has left a legacy that we can all aspire to in our own daily walk.

What journey are you on in your life?

I ask myself and you as we are faced with these unprecedented times, what steps have you taken to make those small, daily steps to have life affirming, life giving choices to connect with the ideals you once aspired to in your youth. For me, I know, that I am committed to sharing the importance of preventive health care and universal health care for each and every one of us. Heath disparities can then be addressed. From this place, better mental, physical and spiritual health and well-being are possible. 

How can each of us be present and do the work? Each day. Just as John Lewis did.

In good health

Judith

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