Someone came out of church yesterday and said, “I love America.”
People have always made interesting comments to me when they leave worship and shake my hand. I keep thinking I should collect and publish them – as a sequel to my best-selling “I Heard It at the Potluck.” (If I had had a better literary agent, I could have retired many years ago.)
I invited a seminary president to preach for me one time several years ago, and the sermon was clear if not exactly inspiring. Afterward at the door a Midwesterner, who was desperately searching for something polite to say, whispered in my ear, “She had such good diction!” Which is my all-time favorite after-church comment.
In the U.S., that “I love America” comment would have been unremarkable – a little odd immediately following worship, maybe, but understandable coming from an American citizen. The rest of the world finds this sort of reflexive patriotism endearing, but puzzling. To most ears it sounds insipid, kind of like “I love sunshine!”
The person who made the comment, however, was not an American.
What she meant was, “In spite of what everyone else says – and I don’t really need to go into all of that, do I? – I want you to know that I have mostly positive feelings for the country whose passport you carry.”
I was taken aback. I thought, “You really felt as though you needed to say that?” And of course the answer to that question was yes. She really did.
My “passport country,” as an expat friend refers to it, has an interesting and complicated reputation around the world. “Love” is usually not the first word to come to mind. “Grudging admiration” is sometimes the best we can hope for, and even that’s been slipping lately.
I came to Switzerland to learn about a culture other than my own, and I am slowly doing that, but I am also unexpectedly learning something about the culture I came from.
And in many ways that’s just as interesting. I love sunshine.
(Photo: Hard to believe, but that’s the size of Switzerland set against 48 of the 50 states that comprise the U.S.)