It’s an interesting time to live in Arizona. We are complex mixture of people and philosophies. Recently there have been some prominent events that have caught the attention of the world. Gabby Gifford, congresswoman from Tucson, is an optimistic gentle soul. By all accounts she was popular with the district she represented and liked to plan events in her area where she could interact with her constituents and listen to their concerns. She did this frequently and attracted a large crowd each time. In January of 2011 she also attracted a mentally wounded man. He shot her and killed six other people in a Safeway shopping center. There were many heroes that day that managed to stop him before he could take more lives. Gabby was shot in her head and the bullet went through the left side of her skull. She received wonderful medical care and has spent the past year rehabbing from that tragic moment. Brain trauma is very serious and the work she had to do to recover her speech and movement is ongoing. In light of this reality she made a difficult decision.
She loved her work. She loved representing Tucson in Congress. She loved her colleagues. She loved her Republican colleagues too. She was known by all as fair, honest and willing to reach across the aisle to compromise. She stood for integrity and loved her job. Last week she resigned. It was an unforgettable scene to witness. All the news channels covered it because of her high profile tragedy as a member of congress who was nearly assassinated.
One of theirs was attached. One of theirs was critically wounded. They looked at her thinking it could have been me. In light of that reality their humanity came through. I saw human beings coming together in Congress. What a refreshing sight. They praised her, honored her, hugged her and cried. Democrats and Republicans, who on a good day seem to merely tolerate each other, came together this day as one heart. They radiated love. In that moment there was peace. In that remarkable session they actually unanimously passed Congresswoman Gifford’s last bill through. It doesn’t matter what the bill was about. What struck me so profoundly was the CIVILITY that was apparent that day.
In her five years of service Gabby Gifford got a lot done with a mixture of pragmatism and bipartisanship. Her legacy will be how she inspired Americans with her remarkable recovery, her determination, courage and dignity. Gabby had not recovered enough of her speech so her colleague read her final remarks to those gathered in the House of Representatives. “From my first steps and first words after being shot to my current physical and speech therapy, I have given all of myself to being able to walk back into the House floor this year to represent my district. However I know this is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office. I will recover and will return and we will work together again for all Americans”. Then she walked, with assistance up to the podium where the speaker stood. I am sure they clashed in the past. I’m sure they argued with each other. I’m sure they butted heads in their five years together but not this day. She slowly walked towards him with support and stumbled slightly in her attempts to get up the step and handed in her letter of resignation. He hugged her with tears streaming down his cheeks. In that moment we saw politicians being people with gentle hearts. It was powerful and profound to witness this amazing display of love.
I am holding the possibility that Gabrielle Gifford’s true legacy will be that moment when politicians remembered what was really important in life; an open heart willing to listen and embrace differences. Hurry back Gabby. Arizona needs a reasonable, strong, courageous representative who is ready, willing and able to listen and compromise for the greater good.
It’s hard to imagine the opportunity in such a trauma. Yet we clearly witnessed, in that display of support and tributes from the House of Representatives, an amazing heart opening. We witnessed consensus. We were given hope. I hold the possibility that they will retain a measure of the civility they exhibited that day. It could happen. God indeed works in mysterious ways……