Some years ago, early in the second term of Barack Obama, I was sitting at a picnic table during a country gathering of old friends and others when the conversation between two of my table mates turned to the president.
"I just don't know how we can take two more years of that man," said one, a Nazarene preacher from another state. His brother-in-law nodded and the conversation between the two continued briefly as the affronts they'd endured under his administration were considered.
These included the fact "perverts" could now serve openly in the U.S. military and marry and that such advances occasionally were celebrated publicly by Mr. Obama.
These gentlemen of course had no way of knowing that they were sharing a table on a beautiful Iowa afternoon with one of those perverts and, because my mama raised me to have good manners, I wasn't about to tell them. That would have risked upsetting a gathering carefully planned and executed by people who just love everyone, no matter what. So I ate my baked beans, excused myself and moved shortly thereafter to a less contentious table.
This sort of thing still happens in rural Iowa, where nearly everyone is white and, the general assumption is, straight, Christian and quite likely a Republican, too. Such gay people as there are, quite unfairly, look and behave for the most part just like everyone else. Perhaps I should have worn my rainbow flag lapel pin.
That insignificant incident popped into my head last night while watching the president's farewell address in Chicago --- thinking about how much hope he's given during the last eight years to so many people --- people like me; to people of rainbow colors, too; to the differently abled; to people of differing faith traditions (and no religion at all) and to millions of others who have never quite fitted into Mayberry.
This is a man who led by example in terms of personal morality and political honesty, who exemplified absolutely the best in "family values" in relation to his beautiful wife and daughters --- and to everyone else. I'll miss him.