The Common Good

Remembering Sen. Edward Kennedy

I woke up this morning planning an essay for God's Politics about love and fear. It will be another essay in support of health-care reform. This issue has commandeered my pen.

I woke up this morning to the news of the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy. Now another subject compels my pen. I remember Edward Kennedy personally. I was in the same room with him twice in my life. Once, on a field trip to the Congress, when we visited the Senate chamber, with surprisingly few senators present, Kennedy came into the room briefly. It was little more than a celebrity sighting.

I also heard him speak at Temple University in the 1990s. He spoke of his brothers. He spoke of public service. He spoke of living life with a purpose. Our education, work, and lives ought to aim for a goal larger than ourselves, our reach ought to exceed our grasp and shape a better world.

Today as we face his death and the reality of death itself that will claim us all, we are reminded of the mystery that is life and death. We become a discreet individual when we emerge from our mother's womb, born from water and blood. Someone cuts the cord that connects us to her. We begin to breathe on our own, the breath, the spirit comes into us and the is-ness of us is a singular self. For the rest of our lives we live the ethical ambiguity of our moral responsibility to our individual self and our responsibilities to God, humanity, nature and creation. That tension walks with us day by day.

A healthy balance is often difficult to maintain. Sometimes we err on the side of our own pleasures. There are times we err when we give too much of ourselves to the world, forgetting to take care of ourselves and the people who are closest to us. Edward Kennedy lived this ambiguity, for good and for ill, in full view of a nation.

Few of us will have the impact on the world that Ted Kennedy had. He was thrown into a large family with a large fortune and large ambitions. These ambitions included a passion for justice for minorities, women, the poor, those living with mental challenges, the environment. History, through two assassins , dropped the responsibility of leading a large family on his shoulders. As far as I could see, he carried this burden of love with dignity, grace, and humor.

We do not all have to carry such a load, but we all live the mystery of life and love, we all have the responsibility to make an impact for the good on the small portion of the world that we inhabit and influence. In his speech last year before the Democratic convention, Kennedy spoke of health-care reform as the issue of his life and a new hope "that every American

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