Today I watched the Inauguration while holding my 11 month old daughter (and trying to keep the 2 year old one quiet in her room).

Rick Warren, an Evangelical like me, prayed at the beginning of the ceremony. I prayed with him; in fact, I prayed harder than I have in a long time.

I was nervous about the ceremony. I felt vulnerable. So many terrible acts have happened in public gatherings in recent history. So mostly I was hoping that everyone at the Inauguration would be safe.

And that led me to think again about how my perception of safety has changed through my adult life. I used to just hike up to the store or through a bad town or wherever, whenever I wanted. I didn’t consider that I might be assaulted or something stolen from me. In 2002, a friend of mine was carjacked and murdered at a Dunkin Donuts not far from where I live. Don’t think that didn’t change my perception

But before that, almost one year to the day actually, September 11th happened. Remember how that felt? I remember being glued to the news, so scared I would miss something. I remember a burning need to do something, to reach out. I remember how in stores and restaurants, people were meeting each other’s eyes, trying more than I’d ever seen to make connections.

I felt that connectivity tonight. I saw an elderly man in Walmart wearing an Obama hat. He was beaming. I beamed back at him. He asked me how I was; we exchanged those simple pleasantries and went about our business. I didn’t have the kids with me; usually, when I am alone, very few people want to make small talk.

When I got back in the car, someone on the radio was talking about President Bush, about how during a final interview, he talked about the things presidents do that nobody really sees or understands.

I can’t really imagine what today must be like for him. I voted for him twice. I have no regrets about that. I am thankful for his leadership in the scariest time of my life. I am grateful that he remained a man who prayed and sought counsel and found courage to make difficult decisions even when they were unpopular. I know that he made mistakes, I am sure he has regrets, but I am thankful because I believe he gave his best and always had the best interests of our country as his priority.

I plan to have that same kind of loyalty and respect for President Obama. I didn’t vote for him, but I do believe he has the same core strengths: the desire to see America rise to greatness, the desire to keep us safe. I am glad that the obnoxious and disrespectful anti-Bush bumper stickers and whatnot can finally go away. I hope that history will look more objectively and kindly on the last eight years. Who would envy being the leader of our country during these times? Who can honestly say he/she would have know what to do to make everything better than it’s been?

I am also grateful for the historic nature of today. I heard one black lady in the audience say she was so happy that her grandchildren were able to see this particular breakthrough being made, and she only wished her grandparents could see it, too. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own rich heritage: grandparents who came over from Ireland with nothing, another set of grandparents who rose from poverty to become homeowners and whose family grew to include seven grandchildren who graduated from college and 10 and counting great grandchildren. I am grateful I grew up in a place where I could have friends of all different colors and backgrounds. I am glad I was taught black literature in my college coursework so that I could appreciate paths different from mine. I am glad to know that so many of the students I taught and my own children can now look at the oval office and dream bigger and hopefully get it that they don’t have to be limited by what they come from or what the world tells them they are.

I hope that people will start to see and believe that we really are all equal.

And speaking of hope, I understand so deeply why President Obama’s message of hope is so appealing. We were created with a longing for it, with an emptiness that can only be fulfilled by the acceptance of one eternal Message of hope. It’s not a new message, though. Check this out:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:13

We have been given a call to action by our new President. I hope in carrying it out – in caring for others, taking responsibility for ourselves, and dusting off our defeats- we will all find the Great Hope that lies before us to grasp.

May God bless our new president, his family, and yours.