I confess – though I don’t think of myself as a “cryer”, I find myself weeping at odd moments of my day, with no apparent trigger or reason, just silent tears or uncontrollable sobs – I cannot tell you why, dear readers.
It could be so many things. Months of missing people that I used to see on a daily basis, perhaps. Sadness over what is happening in our country. Missing “the assembling of ourselves together.” After all, we are a nation of assemblers. It is who we are. It is in our constitution and in our DNA. That knowledge definitely helps us to understand why the past three months have been so hard for all of us.
Growing up in southern Indiana with the second largest high school gym in the state, (actually now the largest high school gym in the country) where basketball was king, Friday nights meant a packed house with standing room only, as we screamed our heads off rooting for our team. We didn’t do it alone, we didn’t do it as a high school, we did it as a town, a whole town.
So football and basketball at a big ten college didn’t seem any different to me. The stadium would be full of fans cheering on the team, watching the half time show, supporting each other in victory or in defeat, one collective celebration or wake depending on the outcome of the game.
yes, we are a nation of assemblers – but sports are not the only thing we turn out for in mass. Anyone who has ever stood in line for concert tickets for hours on end can attest to that. The Indy 500 draws a huge crowd every year. It seems from auto racing to opera, venues are packed with people who want to witness their preferred passion first hand and do so in the presence of others who also share their passion.
This affinity for assembling starts at a young age. I remember the excitement of an all school assembly and how special they were. Probably the fact that they didn’t happen very often and that it meant we got out of class, contributed to my anticipation of said event. Still they were fun, whether a pep rally, talent show, band or choir performance or a speaker, it was a shared experience for us to talk about and critique for days afterwards.
Have you ever been in a movie theater where everyone cheered at the end or collectively gasped or laughed at appropriate moments in the movie? I have. It’s that sharing of an experience collectively, that lends it meaning and memory. We participate in this power of assembly in so many different ways – like when we fall silent while watching the extra point being kicked after the touch down, then we collectively moan or cheer depending on the outcome.
People find themselves holding their breath as the last notes of the opera hang in the air, then find themselves on their feet applauding in appreciation along with everyone else in a standing ovation. Have you ever watched world cup soccer fans? There’s power in that assembly. Billy Graham used to pack stadiums and other large venues. People assembled in mass to hear his message in person along with thousands of other people also seeking after something, hoping to hear words that would answer questions they had long carried in their hearts.
We assemble to mourn as well as to celebrate. Lines are long to pay respects and funeral processions full, as people come to share their collective grief. Funerals such as John F. Kennedy’s and Princess Diana’s attracted extremely large crowds as people grieved collectively over the loss of these public figures.
The same goes for celebrations. We have parades to celebrate so many occasions, such as the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, New Year’s Day parades, St. Patrick’s Day parades, Mardi Gras and Fourth of July parades to name a few. These events become traditions for families over the years. Nothing like the pageantry of a parade as a shared experience to make a lasting memory.
We are a nation of assemblers. Have you seen Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Or a super bowl? or been to South by South West in Austin, Texas or to Lollapalooza in Chicago? These annual gatherings attract huge crowds of people who come together to share the experience.
We are a nation of assemblers. From county fairs to country music, on summer nights, we assemble. Every Sunday in the fall, fans flock to football stadiums all over America while simultaneously hundreds head to houses of worship in every city and town to assemble together for praise and prayer.
We are a nation of assemblers, guaranteed our right to peaceably assemble by the first Amendment of our Constitution. We have exercised and enjoyed that right for many years, until the last three months. Things have been shut down, closed and cancelled across the board, across our country during this time because of the COVID-19 threat.
And as law abiding citizens we have forsaken the assembling of ourselves together in both our public and our private lives. No more public gatherings, no more private gatherings such as weddings, birthday parties, funerals etc., except for a few recent protests by citizens wanting to reopen their businesses and return to work. But those protests didn’t even last one whole day. The protesters were quickly publicly condemned as uncaring murderers prioritizing money over peoples’ lives and told they were in violation of the law.
And that was that until these past three weeks in which we have watched non-stop, day and night BLM protests and riots across our country. I guess our first amendment right to peaceably assemble has been reinstated. It must have been because these protests/riots have continued with huge numbers of people packing the streets in multiple cities for multiple days.
The media has not suggested that these protesters shouldn’t be out in mass numbers but restaurants here during the same time have been allowed only twenty-five percent capacity for their customers and churches, if open, could only admit a limited number of people so that social distancing could be practiced. I guess only the protesters have the freedom to assemble without the rules and the restrictions that would limit their numbers (to under 50) and their actions. (to require social distancing at all times, as well as temperatures taken and masks worn)
It doesn’t seem a very equitable situation at present, now does it? Some citizens are allowed to assemble in large numbers while businesses and other citizens still face many restrictions if they want to open or get together at all. If you don’t want to have to cut the guest list for your wedding, why not just call it a protest? Then you can have as many people as you want present.
So what is it about this innate need of ours to experience life and to live life in the context of community? Where did this come from? In pioneer days they harvested crops together, had barn raisings and quilting bees. Maybe that was more about survival than socializing but it fulfilled both needs simultaneously.
We have the same need today to share life and experience it within a larger context than just that of ourselves alone. We are like marathon runners, who enter these large races. They run alone and yet share that experience with thousands of others who are running the same marathon, running the same race. (53,000 plus runners in the last New York City marathon)
We are all running the same race of living life and many of our paths will intersect. In fact we are a nation of assemblers precisely to ensure that that intersection, that shared experience will take place. Deprived of it, we do not do well. Deprived of our usual venues of assembly, we will create our own. Is it any wonder the protests are continuing? (they don’t have to be at work, there are no other events to attend)
We were created to be assemblers. How do I know this? Because it is our eternal destiny.
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ ” (Revelation 7:9-10)
An eternal, peaceful assembly. One of joy, not strife. One of celebration, not mourning. One of peace, not violence. One of reconciliation, not revenge. One of healing, not hurt. An assembly of life, not death. An assembly where every voice is known and every voice is heard. An assembly where every voice matters. An assembly where every life matters.
an assembly where every life was purchased with the blood of Jesus – (Revelation 5:9-10)
“because You (Jesus) were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
an assembly where all lives matter,
sincerely, Grace Day