When I worked at The Wherehouse many ages ago, there was once a new hire employee who did not speak English. She spoke a little English maybe and tried her best to fake it. But she didn’t understand most of what was said. While it was a good idea to incorporate a Spanish speaking employee to assist our Spanish speaking customers, it probably would have helped if she could speak with us. And really, that was the second problem.
See, the first problem was that her name was America. No…. that’s not right. Her first problem was that she worked with me, and her name was America. Because when I was 24, I wasn’t the refined gentleman you now see before you. You can stop laughing now. Let me rephrase that- look at me today, and then subtract 19 years of wisdom, experience, and charisma. That’s me at 24.
When I worked with America, I would show up to work each morning and as I walked up to her I would sing, “Good morning America, how are ya’?” And since this was from an Arlo Guthrie song, I sang it with all the nasally joy I could muster. And I would sing it with a good amount of volume- not a mumbled whisper. This was a hearty, “Good morning America, how are ya’?”
If I stopped there, she would have been properly traumatized. After the first line I could see that look in her eyes. That look that says “this guys pretty bizarre”. Someone signing your name as “Good morning” would traumatize even the most steadfast of souls, and if I stopped there my task would be complete.
I couldn’t stop there though. The next line is so beautiful. It’s so patriotic. Stopping there would be like leaving the last crumb of pie on the Thanksgiving dinner plate. It’s got the rhythm and cadence of a good ol’ fashioned southern song, and you can’t do the call without the response. You just can’t.
So I’d sing to her every morning, “Good morning America how are ya’? Don’t you know me, I’m your native son”…..and walk away. Didn’t say anything else. Didn’t talk to her the rest of the day. She didn’t understand much English and I was too busy trying to describe the difference between Van Halen and Van Morrison to my English speaking compadres. I’d sing my two lines and walk away.
Maybe I should have continued singing so that she knew that I was a train called The City of New Orleans. Maybe she needed to know that I’d be gone 500 miles when the day is done. Maybe I should have played the song for her. Maybe I should have done so much more.
She quit. After a couple weeks of “good mornings”, America was gone. And typing this next line makes me saddest of all- America left me and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I had a dream that I would spend the rest of my career saying every morning that simple refrain of salutation. But alas, as we all find out at some point in our lives, there was to be no America dream.
The reason I share this with you is because someday you may be walking along and meet someone named America. They may be a colleague, they may a church goer, they may be a clerk at a retail establishment. They may serve you food, drive your bus, watch your kids. They could be your boss, your banker, or your real estate broker. They may be shy and quiet or the may be weird as all get out. And when that day comes and you meet America, there’s one thing you need to do. You have a duty- an obligation- to all that is good and righteous in the world. You have an obligation of liberty and freedom. Because deep down, you are a native son. You have a civic duty as a proud citizen of the Rockin’ States on America to stand up proud, look America right in the eyes- right in the eyes- and sing….