Presidents' Day Devotion

Beloved Daily Guideposts author Brian Doyle reflects on the single greatest American story ever told.

by - Posted on Feb 14, 2018

Abraham Lincoln

The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. . . . —Isaiah 61:1 (NAS)

A while ago I was standing in the gymnasium at a high school in Australia, and I had finished my ranting to the students, and the burly teacher next to me had glared down the hubbub of happiness now that the shaggy American was finally finished with his interminable nasal burble about how every moment is pregnant with miracles and how we are made of the stories we seize from the slew of natter and how defiant grace and courage are prevalent everywhere and in everyone if we look hard enough, and there was a silent instant.

Then a lanky boy in the back row said, “Sir, you are going on and on about stories. What’s the single greatest American story ever?”

For once I said exactly the right thing at the right moment, and even now I wonder if some holy spark in me was waiting merrily for this moment. For I said, with startling passion, “The day the sixteenth president of my country said that as of January 1, 1863, no people could be sold in America anymore, no brown children sold in the market, no weeping mothers sold away from their children, no roaring husbands torn from their wives, no more, done, the end. And he got shot in the head for it, and I think he knew he would be murdered for it, and he did it anyway because he knew it was right. And that’s the greatest American story of all: that a tall skinny guy from Kentucky did the right thing even when he knew he would get a bullet for it. Does that answer your question?”

There was a long silence and then they roared too, a tide of applause; not for me, not at all for me, but for a guy who did the right thing, no matter what. We can do that, every moment. Happy Presidents’ Day.

Lord, thanks for the tall skinny guy from Kentucky. Thank You for his wry sinewy courage, to which we Americans can turn when we hesitate to do the right thing.

Editor's Note: Sadly, beloved Daily Guideposts contributor Brian Doyle passed away on May 27, 2017. We are forever grateful for the many gifts he shared with us. 

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