Our trip to Italy is one I will long remember. It was filled with many wonderful memory-building events, amazing food, sites, sounds and smells. During our short time there we took in the Vatican Museums by night, marveled at the Colosseum, climbed the Spanish Steps, gazed in wonder at the Sistine Chapel, and stood in silent awe at the grandeur of a Sicilian sunrise.
It certainly is not hard to consider the idea of history and legacy when in a place like Italy. Reminders of a once grand civilization stand at every corner in the form of broken columns and shattered sculptures. The Romans were a powerful presence in their day. In the height of their glory they built armies that marched across the continent. Of course, now every soldier is long dead and buried. The Romans formed a government that would be a standard of greatness for centuries. But ego and madness resulted in its fall to ruffians and barbarians. They erected magnificent structures to honor their heroes. However, few remain standing as anything more than tourist destinations and rubble.
We went to Italy accomplish more than site-seeing. We went to learn about the refugee crisis happening in the Mediterranean and we learned so much more.
Millions of displaced people are fleeing war, famine, civil unrest. They seek a place of hope and peace. They seek lives of meaning. Young men and women leave everything they own. They leave family and friends. They leave home and country. They travel thousands of miles, traverse the Sahara Desert, board crafts that are generously called boats, travel 300 miles in open seas, in search of a better life; a life of peace. A life of meaning. Desperate men and women do the unthinkable in order to survive.
In a place known for its history, we were challenged by our own legacy. In the face of this global crisis the question is obvious, “What will we do?” What action will we take? Our children’s children’s children will look at this time in history and judge us, not by armies mobilized, policies enacted or monuments built, as each of these turn to dust and fall from memory.
There is no good ending to this story if we do not act. And while our nation ponders a reality show election, while our leaders practice their narcissistic aggrandizement, in truth, while our country sleeps, the world is imploding all around.
We have the opportunity to make our mark in history by leaving a testimony to merciful action, love and compassion to nations scattered, people hurting, a world broken. Will our ancestors live in a world changed by a powerful proclamation of peace or will they shake their heads in wonder at our self-absorption and inaction, and the failure of this generation to change the course of history?